2 Thessalonians: 1:7-8 (Steadfastness when persecuted, Christian suffering, Part 2; Available Light, Part 1)

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2 Thess 1:7a

(2 Thess. 1:5-8 ESV)  5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering — 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

God’s response to Christian persecution

Verse 6 declares that “God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you.” That is, God will exact vengeance against those who persecute you. Their decision to persecute marks them as people who will be punished by God.

Verse 7 continues the thought: “and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.” Paul promises relief from our afflictions — but the relief is only assured when Jesus returns. Even Paul will have to wait on Jesus. Continue reading

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2 Thessalonians: 1:1-7a (Steadfastness when persecuted, Christian suffering, Part 1)

map of greece2 Thess 1:1-4

(2 Thess. 1:1-4 ESV) Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:  2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.  4 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. 

The salutation is very similar to 1 Thess, and so I’ll avoid repeating materials already covered.

Paul begins with a word of praise, thanking God that the church is growing in faith and in love for each other. Paul says not a word about inviting friends and neighbors to church or doing community service projects — not that he wouldn’t encourage these things. Rather, a close reading shows that Paul is, first and foremost, concerned that the church act like the church among and toward each other. It’s not until we have a loving, faith-filled congregation that the world will find us attractive. They’ll happily accept our well digging and house-painting and enjoy our Easter and Christmas programs, but they won’t put on Jesus until they see us living the love and faith of Jesus toward one another. If we would just do that — by becoming a united, holy community — both congregationally and as the church-universal — the evangelism and social service will go much better. Continue reading

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2 Thessalonians: Deutero-Pauline?

map of greeceI am late to the study of serious theology, and so I’d not heard of the so-called Deutero-Pauline books until the last few years. And then I saw where many fairly conservative scholars distinguish between the undisputed books of Paul and the disputed books.

Many authors argue theology using only the undisputed letters or argue first from the undisputed letters and then add material from the disputed letters as confirmatory or supplemental.

Well, I’ve read the “Deutero” epistles, and they sure read like Paul to me, although I’m not fluent enough in koine Greek to offer a truly scholarly judgment.

Regarding 2 Thessalonians, Wright concludes, Continue reading

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1 Thessalonians: 5:27-28, Part 2

map of greeceThird, where I grew up, oaths and swearing were considered sinful based on the seemingly clear teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. And here we have Paul asking his readers to swear that the letter would be shared with the entire church. How can that be?

This is so problematic that most translations hide the problem by saying something like “I charge you” or “I adjure you.” Therefore, most English readers are unaware of the problem, but the ESV courageously translates the words to say what they mean.

Notice the first person singular, “I charge you.” This is Paul speaking for himself, from his own heart and perhaps, at this point, holding the pen in his own hand (see disc. on 5:28; cf. also 2 Thess. 2:5). The expression is a strong one (enorkizō), “I put you on oath.” He is not swearing by the Lord (cf. Matt. 5:34) but appealing to his readers to act as though, in this matter, they were on oath to the Lord. Almost certainly the Lord is Jesus, as in verses 23 and 28, and that Paul should invoke him in this way is “another indication of the stature of the Lord as Paul saw him” (Morris, Themes, p. 33; see disc. on 3:11 and 2 Thess. 2:16).

David J. Williams, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 105. Continue reading

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1 Thessalonians: 5:27-28, Part 1

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(1 Thess. 5:27-28 ESV) 27 I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

These are the last two verses of the epistle, and they present some interesting challenges.

First, Paul’s instruction to have this letter read to “all the brothers” strongly suggests that the church in Thessalonica met in multiple locations, likely houses, while remaining a single congregation under a single leadership. If they all met together every week, there’d be no other way to read the letter except to everyone. But if they had, say, 10 sites where they met, the letter would have to be passed from hand to hand and read over the course of at least 10 weeks. After all, Xerox wouldn’t invent the photocopier for quite some time yet. Continue reading

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N.T. Wright interviewed by Norsworthy


N. T. Wright has recently published a new book on the atonement, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering Crucifixion. The link will take you to an interview of Wright by Luke Norsworthy, senior minister of the Westover Hills Church in Austin.

If you’re interested in an excellent summary of the book or atonement theology in general, it’s a fascinating interview and well worth your time. I’ve bought my copy of the book and am about halfway through. Very insightful.

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My Health, Part 2

operationHealth. At long last, I’m home from the hospital, with a box full of IV antibiotics that I’m to take the next several weeks. Just finished getting trained by the home healthcare agency on how to push antibiotics through a PICC line (IV line that lasts for months).

I made a good down payment on my sleep deficit last night, but still have a way to go. I’m still pretty tired, but not nearly as tired as when I checked into the hospital. This is the usual hospitalitis — you know, the condition that comes from not being allowed to sleep for two weeks. (I’m pretty sure the Geneva Convention bans treatment of enemies of the state this way.) Continue reading

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