Do you have nerves of steel? The Thessalonians did. The opposition to the Christian faith and the gospel in the port city of Thessalonica on the Aegean Sea was severe. For three Sabbath days, Paul preached and there was fierce opposition. He reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer, die, and rise again from the dead. Paul declared, “this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ” (Acts 17:3, KJV). Some Jews were persuaded, along with many God-fearing Greeks, and a number of leading women.
Flourishing in the Trial
Fueled by jealousy, the Jews who did not believe took wicked men from the market place and went to find and attack Paul and Silas. Unable to find them, they instead attacked Jason and some of the other new believers in his house. The riot was only put down when Jason and the others were forced to pay a financial pledge assuring that this disturbance would not happen again. The brethren sent Paul and Silas away. From the safe distance of Athens, Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica to know if they were firmly grounded in the faith. Paul knew Satan would tempt the young flock. Would they stand firm? Would they walk worthy? Was the apostle’s labor in vain?
Paul was energized by the good news from Timothy that they had not been shaken. His labor was not in vain: they had endured and their faith was firm. They had received the Word in much tribulation and were examples to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia (1Thes 1:6-7). Paul, Silas, and Timothy spread the word to others that the new believers proved they had the courage to stand firm under fierce opposition. The Thessalonians were flourishing.
Faltering in Truth
Satan is not easily thwarted. If they weren’t shaken by persecution, then he would shake them concerning the truth they held. It is not clear precisely how the attack came, but it was effective. Perhaps Paul’s enemies sent someone posing as a messenger from the missionaries. Maybe it was a forged letter with Paul’s name on it. In any case, they had received a false message to the effect that the intense affliction they were experiencing was because of the Day of the Lord (2Thes 2:1-3). The Thessalonians’ hope had turned to fear and dread. They were troubled. Thinking perhaps they had missed the Rapture altogether, confusion had set in. It affected some in such a way that they had even stopped working and were living an unruly life (2Thes 3:11). The new believers who once stood firm were now disrupted. Truth had been attacked. The Thessalonians were faltering.
Facing the Failure
Paul wrote to them to correct and comfort them. He begins his second epistle by saying, “and to you who are troubled rest with us” (2Thes 1:7, KJV). Paul had previously taught them concerning the coming of the Lord to the air and the Day of the Lord; they were to be words of comfort and building up, not fear or dread (1Thes 4:18, 5:11). Specifically, he taught them that while the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night for the unbeliever, they, as believers, would not be overtaken. Paul states, “but you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day” (1Thes 5:4-5, NAS). And, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Thes 5:9, NAS). Paul confirms to the believers that the Day of the Lord had not come. He continues to remind them that the Day of the Lord cannot come unless there is a falling away first; then the “restrainer” will be removed, and the man of lawlessness and the son of destruction will be released (2Thes 2:3-8). Then the Lord will be revealed with his holy angels and will take vengeance on the ungodly (2Thes 1:7-9, 2:8).
Paul states, “Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” (2Thes 2:5, NAS). They did not remember. Forgetting truth is costly. That is the point of this article. Satan attacked truth and it was costing them their hope and comfort. The testimony was in jeopardy. Instead of being built up they were being torn down. The Thessalonians had failed to hold fast to the truth.
Firm in the Truth
Paul provides the only solution to Satan’s attack on truth, and that is to “stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2Thess 2:15, KJV). Comfort will come from holding fast to the Word of God. Not only does Paul correct the error they had believed, but commands them that if there was anyone who would not obey the instructions of “this letter,” they were to mark that person and separate themselves from him. They were not to be united with those who were deceived and who walked in an unruly way. They were not to treat him as an enemy, however, but as a brother, that that person might be ashamed and restored. The Thessalonians would be comforted and built up if they held firm to the truth.
The practical application to us is clear. We cannot stand firm if we do not know or remember the truth. Satan will take advantage of us if we are ignorant of his devices (2Cor 2:11). Satan’s great assault on believers today is a moral assault. He continues to ask, “Hath God said?” We have access to the Scriptures and a wealth of resources concerning the Scriptures. May we always measure what we read, hear, and watch by the Word of God. We will stand firm if we hold firm the Word of God.