Module 34: Foundational Doctrine Part 3
Module Guide: 1 & 2 Thessalonians - Christ and His Advent
This pre-read guide is taken from the public domain source "The Analysed Bible in 3 Volumes" by G. Campbell Morgan.
1 Thessalonians Introduction
The church at Thessalonica was founded amidst great and active opposition. The apostle being "sent away" by the brethren on account of the state of tumult existing in the city, went to Beraea and Athens, and on to Corinth, from whence this first letter was written. It is evident that the time elapsing between his departure from Thessalonica and the writing of this epistle was very short, for he refers to "being bereaved of you for a season of an hour."
Paul's anxiety concerning the church in the midst of persecution had been so great that he had sent Timothy from Athens to find out their state. His return and report called forth this letter. These facts will help us to understand the nature of the epistle. It is intended to be a message of comfort and instruction to those who are in the midst of persecution. The method is that of stating what the attitudes of Christian life really are, and thereby revealing the secrets of strength under such circumstances. The epistle may thus be analyzed : Introduction (1); the Work of Faith, "Ye turned" (2); the Labour of Love, "To serve" (3:1-4:12); the Patience of Hope, "To wait" (4:13-5:22); Conclusion (5:23-5:28).
In the salutation the apostle associated with himself Silvanus and Timothy, the former having been with him at Thessalonica at the time of the founding of the church; and the latter having been a special messenger to them, upon whose report the letter was based.
He then declared his thankfulness to God concerning them. The reason of this was his remembrance of three facts. These are the foundation-facts of Christian experience. The "work of faith" refers to belief of the Gospel; the "labour of love" refers to the activity of life after belief; the "patience of hope" refers to the attitude of waiting for the return of the Lord. The demonstration of the power of these facts he found in the memory of the way in which the Word came to them; in the fact that as the result of their reception of the Word they became imitators, and an ensample; and that consequently from them the Gospel sounded forth. Having thus declared his thanksgiving, and stated its reason, and given demonstration of the reason, he declared that these results in demonstration followed upon the fact that they "turned ... to serve ... and to wait." The connection between this threefold final statement and the threefold reason of thanksgiving is intimate. The "work of faith" consisted in turning "unto God from idols"; the "labour of love" consists in serving "the living and the true God"; and the "patience of hope" is constituted by waiting "for His Son from heaven." Around this threefold fact of their Christian experience the whole epistle circles. In each division all the facts are recognized, while only one has special treatment.
The Work of Faith
In this first division the apostle laid special emphasis on the "work of faith" which demonstrated his own spiritual authority, referring to their "labour of love" and their "patience of hope."
It is evident that some of the Jews in Thessalonica had been discounting the apostle in his absence. In answer to such detraction he first went back to the days when under great stress he preached to them and they believed, thus claiming that their work of faith, their turning from idols, was the supreme proof of the authority and power of his ministry. Their work of faith was not "in vain." The ministry producing it was characterized by boldness, by faithfulness, by tenderness, and by earnestness.
The demonstration of the apostle's authority was further emphasized by their "labour of love," the fact that they served the living and true God. Having received the Word, and worked the work of faith by the turning, they had treated it as the Word of God, and served even in suffering. Thus they had entered into fellowship with Him, and their fellow-believers in suffering. To serve the living and true God is a labour of love, that is to say, it is obedience to the law of love in the impulse of love, but it ever means more or less of suffering in the midst of those who are antagonistic to the revelation which God has made of His will through the Lord Jesus.
He finally referred to the great subject of the Lord's return, thus encouraging them in that "patience of hope" which consists in waiting for His Son from heaven. Loving them with a great love, earnestly desiring to see them, he was yet hindered by Satan, and for his own comfort and for theirs, he reminded them of that glorious hope of the Churchy the coming of the Lord Jesus, to which he looked forward for the one reward of all his toil, and pain, and suffering. That reward would consist in the presentation of these children of his ministry to Christ in the glory of His advent.
The Labour of Love
In this second division the apostle laid special emphasis upon the "labour of love," illuminating the dark day by reference to the "patience of hope," and exhorting them to continue steadfastly in the "work of faith."
Conscious of the strain under which the saints at Thessalonica were living, the apostle had sent Timothy to see how they fared, and he had brought a comforting report of their "faith" and "love." These words indicate two root-principles of the foundation-facts. Their work of turning from idols was the result of their faith. Their labour of serving the living God was the outcome of love. He thus rejoiced in that labour of love, which demonstrated the continuity of their work of faith.
In view of their loyalty to service in the power of love, the apostle again referred to that great light of hope, the coming Lord. He breathed out an earnest prayer that his way might be directed to them, and that they might abound in love. The purpose of both petitions was that their hearts might be "unblamable in holiness ... at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints." Thus in the midst of their suffering he flashed upon them the light of that glorious moment when character will be perfected, and the strain and stress of the process pass into the perfect satisfaction of the glorious results.
He then turned to exhortation, urging his beloved children to be true to the attitudes of life assumed when they received the Word, and by the work of faith turned to God from idols. The first responsibility is that of personal purity. He charged them that the will of God for them was their sanctification, and that they should be in possession of their own lives in obedience to God, under the dominion of the Holy Spirit. He next indicated the true attitude of the brethren towards each other, as being that of love, charging them to abound more and more therein. Finally, he wrote of their attitude toward those that are without, urging them to live the life of quiet and honest toil, thus creating a testimony to the power of the Gospel to those outside.
The Patience of Hope
In the third division the apostle dealt specifically with the "patience of hope," showing that their relationship to the coming of the Lord was created by the "work of faith" and again urging them to continuance in the "labour of love."
It is evident that some of the Thessalonian Christians had fallen on sleep, and those remaining were afraid that in some sense the departed ones had missed the realization of the glorious hope of the personal advent of Jesus. In order to correct that false impression the apostle dealt with the subject of the second advent in its relation to such as had fallen asleep. He first declared that these will take precedence of such as are alive at the advent, then in stately language he gave the programme of the advent, finally enjoining the sorrowing saints to comfort one another with these words.
It is important to notice that the next section opens with the word "But." When we come to the second epistle we shall see that this message of the apostle was misunderstood and misinterpreted, because a clear distinction was not drawn between things which the apostle treated as separate. Having written to them of the coming of the Lord, he declared that he had no need to write to them of times and seasons, or of the day of the Lord; their work of faith had brought them into the position of "sons of light," and therefore they were to live in watchfulness and sobriety. The day of the Lord is to be a day of wrath. To it the saints are not appointed, but rather to salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus it is seen that the "work of faith," by which they turned from idols, is closely related to the "patience of hope," in which they waited for the Son.
In view of this glorious certainty of hope, he finally urged them to continue in the "labour of love," which consists in serving the living and true God. This they were to do by submission to the spiritual teachers who admonished them in the light of the glorious consummation, also by carefulness concerning mutual relationships through the admonishing of the disorderly, the encouraging of the faint-hearted, the supporting of the weak, and long-suffering toward all. A series of general injunctions ends this section.
In conclusion the apostle made a final declaration of desire and assurance concerning these Thessalonian Christians. His desire was that they might be sanctified wholly by the "God of peace Himself." He evidently had no fear or doubt in his heart as to the issue, for he made the glorious declaration, "Faithful is He that calleth you, Who will also do it."
Words wholly personal follow. Conscious of the difficulties of his position at Corinth, he sought an interest in their prayers. The last words are those of most significant benediction, their faith and love and hope all centred upon the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him grace had been manifested for their salvation. In Him they stood in the grace which conditioned their service and their growth. At His coming the grace of the first epiphany would merge into the glory of the second. Thus the apostle in a benediction including faith and love and hope, committed them to the Lord Jesus Christ.
INTRODUCTION - 1 Thessalonians 1:1-1:10
1. Salutation - 1Thes. 1:1
2. General Thanksgiving - 1Thes. 1:2-1:10
- The Reason of Thanksgiving - 1:2-1:3
- "Work of Faith"
- "Labour of Love"
- "Patience of Hope"
- The Demonstration of the Reason - 1:4-1:9a
- The Reason of the Demonstration - 1:9b-1:10
- "Ye turned"
- "To serve"
- "To wait"
Part A: THE WORK OF FAITH "YE TURNED" - 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2:20
A.1. The Work of Faith "Ye turned" - 1Thes. 2:1-2:12
- "Not vain" - 2:1
- The Ministry producing - 2:2-2:12
A.2. The Labour of Love "To serve" - 1Thes. 2:13-2:16
- Reception of the Word - 2:13
- Service and Suffering - 2:14-2:16
A.3. The Patience of Hope "To wait" - 1Thes. 2:17-2:20
- The Separation - 2:17-2:18
- The Advent - 2:19-2:20
Part B: THE LABOUR OF LOVE "TO SERVE" - 1 Thessalonians 3:1-4:12
B.1. The Labour of Love "To serve" - 1Thes. 3:1-3:10
- The Sending of Timothy - 3:1-3:5
- The Comforting Report - 3:6-3:8
- Thanksgiving and Prayer - 3:9-3:10
B.2. The Patience of Hope "To wait" - 1Thes. 3:11-3:13
- Separation - 3:11-3:12
- The Advent - 3:13
B.3. The Work of Faith "Ye turned" - 1Thes. 4:1-4:12
- The Consequent Walk. Personal - 4:1-4:8
- Love of the Brethren - 4:9-4:10
- Toward them without - 4:11-4:12
Part C: THE PATIENCE OF HOPE "TO WAIT" - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:22
C.1. The Patience of Hope "To wait" - 1Thes. 4:13-4:18
- The "fallen asleep" at His Coming - 4:13-4:15
- The glorious Programme - 4:16-4:17
- The Injunction to comfort - 4:18
C.2. The Work of Faith "Ye turned" - 1Thes. 5:1-5:11
- The Day of the Lord - 5:1-5:3
- "Ye Brethren" - 5:4-5:11
C.3. The Labour of Love "To serve" - 1Thes. 5:12-5:22
- Submission to Teachers - 5:12-5:13a
- Mutual Relationships - 5:13b-5:15
- General Injunctions - 5:16-5:22
CONCLUSION - 1 Thessalonians 5:23-5:28
1. The Final Desire of Assurance - 1Thes. 5:23-5:24
2. Personal Words - 1Thes. 5:25-5:28
2 Thessalonians Introduction
This letter was evidently intended primarily to correct certain mistakes which the Thessalonians were making concerning the second advent; and thereby to strengthen them in the midst of their suffering, and recall some of them to devotion to present duty. Whether these mistakes arose from misinterpretation of his first letter, or from the influence of false teachers, is matter of small moment. In all probability both these elements had contributed to the result. It would almost seem as if some spurious letters, purporting to have come from the apostle, had been used in order to teach views of the second advent which were untrue.
The idea that the great day of the Lord, in which He would take vengeance on evil men, was approaching, was calculated to weaken their patience; and it had already rendered certain of them careless and unsettled in the matter of their daily calling. The letter, therefore, sets their tribulation in the light of the advent, by showing its true relation thereto; corrects mistakes concerning the order of the advent; and urges them to devotion to duty. It may be divided thus: Introduction (1:1-1:5); Consolation (1:6-1:12); Instruction (2;1-2:12); Exhortation (2;13-3:15); Conclusion (3:16-3:18).
Again the apostle associated Silvanus and Timothy with himself in the salutation. From this it would appear probable that the second letter followed the first quickly. The greeting is almost identical with that of the first. There is, however, the addition of the words "from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" which he almost invariably used in subsequent letters.
He announced his thankfulness concerning them, giving a threefold reason - that of their present condition, the fact that they had been an argument for him, and the evidence of their patience. In dealing with their condition he did not refer to their hope. The two foundation facts dealt with in the earlier epistle are recognized, but the third is not mentioned. There is the most intimate inter-relationship between faith, love, and hope. Whenever one of these, from any reason, is weakened, sooner or later the others languish.
In order to the consolation of those who were troubled through misinterpretation of the truth of the second advent, the apostle first dealt with the subject of the revelation of the Lord Jesus, and then told them of his perpetual prayer for them.
In dealing with the subject of the revelation he declared that it is to be for a definite purpose, that of vengeance. The connection of the saints with that apocalypse is, first, rest at the appearing; and finally, that they are to constitute the medium through which all His glory will be manifested and marvelled at in the succeeding ages.
"To that end," that is with such a consummation in view, the apostle prayed that God might count them worthy of such calling, fulfilling every desire and good work; the deepest desire of his heart being that at last in the fulness of inter-relation Christ may be glorified in them, and they in Christ.
The apostle now made a clear statement of the order of events connected with the second advent of Jesus, in order to explain what he had already written, and to deliver them from the confusion of ideas which was threatening to diminish their steadfastness by dimming their hope. He did this in two sections; in the first of which he showed the distinction between the coming, and the day; and in the second the relation between lawlessness and the Lord Jesus.
For "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" they were to wait, for it is to be the occasion of the gathering of the saints to Himself. The day of the Lord is not "just at hand," nor can it come until certain other matters have been accomplished. He warned them against confusing the hope of the parousia of Jesus with the fact of His manifestation to men, whereby shall be ushered in the day of the Lord.
Having thus referred to the day of the Lord, and to that revealing of the man of sin which is to precede it, the apostle described the present condition of affairs, and traced them toward the great crisis. Two forces are in conflict, "the mystery of lawlessness," and the "One that restraineth." The former is at work like leaven, fermenting, corrupting, and the manifestations of its presence are everywhere. The latter, as salt and light, prevents the spread of corruption, and utter darkness. This conflict is for a season. At the coming of Jesus the "One that restraineth" will be taken away, and "the mystery of lawlessness" will reveal itself in a person. In the day of the Lord, by the revelation of Jesus, the lawless one will be destroyed.
The last division is one pre-eminently of exhortation, in which he first described their position, and urged them to stand, then asked their prayer, and finally insisted upon the importance of work.
They were chosen to salvation, that is, ultimately, "to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." He charged them therefore to stand fast, and hold the traditions. Thus he warned them against allowing any part of the foundation-truths at first declared to be forgotten, or to cease to have their proper influence upon their lives.
The appeal to them to pray for him and his work reveals how his heart was burdened and exercised about the work at Corinth and in other cities. Again he affirmed his confidence in them, and expressed hope for their continued patience.
The last section of this division is emphatic to the verge of severity. The apostle was dealing with a material evidence of weakness, and his words ring with authority, and admit of no possible manner of misconstruction. There were some in Thessalonica who were neglecting their lawful earthly calling, and had become chargeable to others, largely through misunderstanding of the doctrine of the second advent. This was wholly wrong, and contrary to the true meaning and intention of the hope of the advent. This the apostle urged upon their attention by the significant fact that, when he ministered the Word to them, he did not withdraw himself from the ordinary avocation of his daily life. The matter was so serious that he charged those who were loyal to withdraw themselves from those who walked disorderly. In further enforcement the apostle laid down a great principle of life. "If any man will not work, neither let him eat." This is drastic and final. Any view of the advent, or, indeed, any view of life, which makes work distasteful, and causes its neglect, ought to, and must stay all food supplies. Again he charged them that, if any man disregarded these injunctions, they were to have no company with him.
The letter closes with words of tender desire on their behalf. He did not forget their troublous circumstances, and supremely desired peace for them. Peace, however, for him, was only associated with the Lordship of Jesus, Whom he here spoke of as "the Lord of Peace," and Whose presence will assure them that blessing.
A personal salutation, and the apostle's declaration that his signature is guarantee of the genuineness of his writing, was for their safeguarding against spurious communications, such as had caused them trouble in the matter of the advent.
There is the addition of one little word to the final benediction as compared with its form in the first epistle. It is the word "all." Does not the apostle here take in the disorderly as well, and so reveal the greatness of his heart and love for them?
INTRODUCTION - 2 Thessalonians 1:1-1:5
1. Salutation - 2Thes. 1:1-1:2
2. Thanksgiving - 2Thes. 1:3-1:5
Part A: CONSOLATION - THE SECOND ADVENT AND THEIR TRIBULATION - 2 Thessalonians 1:6-1:12
A.1. The Revelation of the Lord Jesus - 2Thes. 1:6-1:10
- The Central Fact. Twofold Aspect. Rest to the Saints. Vengeance to the Evil
- The Union of the Saints with Him. The medium of Manifestation
A.2. The Prayer - 2Thes. 1:11-1:12
- Its immediate Desires
- Its ultimate Desire
Part B: INSTRUCTION - THE SECOND ADVENT AS TO ITS ORDER - 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2:12
B.1. The Coming and the Day - 2Thes. 2:1-2:5
- The Distinction
- The Signs of the coming of the Day. A falling away. Manifestation of the man of Sin
B.2. Lawlessness and the Lord Jesus - 2Thes. 2:6-2:12
- The two Forces. Mystery of Lawlessness. One that restraineth
- The two Revealings. The lawless one. The Lord Jesus
Part C: EXHORTATION - THE SECOND ADVENT AND THEIR PRESENT DUTY - 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:15
C.1. Chosen Stand - 2Thes. 2:13-2:17
- Chosen to Salvation
- Stand fast in the Truth
C.2. Pray - Do - 2Thes. 3:1-3:5
- "Pray for us"
- Declaration of his confidence in them
C.3. Work - 2Thes. 3:6-3:15
- The Apostolic example. Some neglecting their calling
- No work, no food! The mistaken one to be admonished as a brother
CONCLUSION - 2 Thessalonians 3:16-3:18
1. Benediction - 2Thes. 3:16
- The Need
- The Lord
2. Salutation - 2Thes. 3:17
3. The Benediction - 2Thes. 3:18
Note: To the best of our knowledge we are of the understanding that the above material, being published in 1907 and freely available elsewhere on the internet in various formats, is in the public domain.