Introduction and Outline of 2 Thessalonians

by John Thomas Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Introduction to 2 Thessalonians
AUTHOR: The apostle Paul, joined in his salutation by Silvanus and Timothy (2Th 1:1), referenced his signature at the end of the epistle (2Th 3:17). Early sources in church history that attribute this letter to Paul include Clement of Alexandria (200 A.D.),
THE CITY OF THESSALONICA: It was the capital and largest city of the Roman province of Macedonia. Located on the Egnatian Way, a major road from Rome to the eastern provinces, the city served as the center of trade and commerce. Today, it is known as Thessaloniki, or Salonica.
THE CHURCH AT THESSALONICA: The establishment of the church is recorded in Ac 17:1-9. Paul and his companions (Silas and Timothy) had just left Philippi and passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia to arrive at Thessalonica on his second missionary journey. As was his custom, Paul immediately located the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews for three Sabbaths concerning Jesus Christ. While some of them were persuaded, including many devout Greeks and leading women, the unbelieving Jews became jealous and created an uproar in the city. Therefore it became necessary to send Paul and Silas away secretly by night to Berea.
A strong church was established in Thessalonica (cf. 2Th 1:2-10). It had already been the recipient of an earlier letter (First Thessalonians). Mostly Gentile (cf. 2Th 1:9), its members included Jason (Ac 17:9), Aristarchus, and Secundus (Ac 20:4).
TIME AND PLACE OF WRITING: Second Thessalonians appears to have been written just a few months, possibly a year, after First Thessalonians. This would place the epistle's writing during Paul's extended stay at Corinth on his second missionary journey (cf. Ac 18:1-11), sometime around 53 A.D.
PURPOSE OF THE EPISTLE: The first epistle to the Thessalonians had been written in response to the news brought back by Timothy, who had made a quick trip there while Paul was in Athens (cf. 1 Th 3:1-3,6). Encouraged by their steadfastness in the face of persecution, Paul had exhorted them to holiness because of the Lord's coming (cf. 1 Th 3:12-13; 5:23).
From the second letter, it appears that they remained strong in the Lord despite persecution (cf. 2Th 1:3-4). However, it is apparent from this letter that misunderstanding about the Lord's coming was present in the church. Some of the members were troubled by false reports (cf. 2Th 2:1-2); others had stopped working, perhaps assuming that the Lord's imminent return meant one did not need to work anymore (cf. 2Th 3:11-12).
Paul's purpose in writing this epistle, therefore, is three-fold:
• To encourage them in their steadfastness under persecution
• To correct their misunderstanding about the imminence of the Lord's return
• To instruct the congregation on what disciplinary action to take toward those who refused to work
THEME OF THE EPISTLE: In correcting their misunderstanding about the return of Christ, Paul explains that the Lord will not come right away (cf. 2Th 2:1-3). Therefore they need to continue with steadfastness and patience for which they had been commended. A suggested theme of this epistle might therefore be:
KEY VERSES: 2 Thessalonians 2:15-17
"Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work."
1. Salutation (2Th 1:1)
2. Greetings (2Th 1:2)
0. Thanking God for their growing faith and abounding love (2Th 1:3)
1. Boasting to others of their patience and faith in all their persecutions (2Th 1:4)
0. Suffering will make them worthy of the kingdom of God (2Th 1:5)
1. God will repay those who trouble them (2Th 1:6)
2. This will occur when Jesus is revealed from heaven (2Th 1:7-10)
B. HIS PRAYER FOR THEM (2Th 1:11-12)
0. That God would count them worthy of their calling (2Th 1:11a)
1. That God would fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power (2Th 1:11b)
2. That the name of Jesus might be glorified in them, and they in Him, according to the grace of God and Christ (2Th 1:12)
. DO NOT BE TROUBLED (2Th 2:1-2)
0. Concerning the coming of the Lord and our gathering to Him (2Th 2:1)
1. By false reports, as though the day had come (2Th 2:2)
0. A falling away must occur, and the man of sin revealed (2Th 2:3-5)
1. The man of sin is being restrained, though the mystery of lawlessness is already at work (2Th 2:6-7)
2. When the lawless one is revealed, the Lord will destroy him with His coming (2Th 2:8)
3. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan and will mislead those who do not have a love for the truth (2Th 2:9-12)
0. Thankful to God for their election through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in truth, having been called by the gospel to obtain glory (2Th 2:13-14)
1. A call to stand fast and hold to the traditions taught by word or epistle (2Th 2:15)
2. Prayer for their comfort and establishment in every good word and work (2Th 2:16-17)
0. Asking them to pray that the word of the Lord might have a free course, and he is delivered from evil men (2Th 3:1-2)
1. Expressions of confidence in the Lord, and in their obedience (2Th 3:3-4)
2. Praying that the Lord will direct their hearts into the love of God and patience of Christ (2Th 3:5)
0. To withdraw from those who do not follow apostolic tradition and example (2Th 3:6-9)
1. Especially those who will not work (2Th 3:10-12)
2. Do not grow weary in doing good, and avoid those who do not obey the words of the epistle (2Th 3:13-15)
1. A prayer that the Lord bless them with His peace and presence (2Th 3:16)
2. A confirmation of his authorship of this epistle (2Th 3:17)
3. A benediction of grace from the Lord Jesus Christ (2Th 3:18)

(2 Thessalonians 1:1), (NIV): Paul, Silas, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
(2 Thessalonians 1:2), (NIV): Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

VERSE 1 Paul identifies himself at the beginning of his letter, as was customary in the first century. He calls himself an apostle of Jesus Christ in several of his letters. However, because he did not have to defend his apostleship to this particular group, Paul omits the term apostle here, for it is likely His readers were confident that God had called Paul to be an apostle. Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy had been with Paul when he preached in Thessalonica (Acts 17:4, 10, 14) and were with him when he wrote 1 Thessalonians. Now, they are with him as he writes 2 Thessalonians. Paul's missionary companion, Silas, had been imprisoned with him at Philippi (Acts 16:19–40). Timothy, from Lystra, was also Paul's missionary companion; His mother was Jewish, but his father was a Gentile. Timothy joined Paul in missions after Paul circumcised him (Acts 16:1–3).

Paul addresses this letter to "the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." The word "church" in the original language is ekklesia, meaning "called out ones" or "assembly." God had called the Thessalonian believers out of the world to be in Him and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as he did Timothy and Silas. When Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:16, it was on behalf of His followers. He stated, "They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world."
VERSE 2, Paul greets the Thessalonian church with a combination of Greek and Hebrew salutations. "Grace," a Greek greeting, conveys a sense of God's favor when used in a Christian context. "Peace," a typical Hebrew salutation, conveys a sense of well-being. Well-being results from God's grace at work in a person's heart.

Significantly, grace precedes peace in Paul's salutation. No one can have true peace without first experiencing God's grace. When a person experiences salvation by grace, he or she enters into peace with God. Romans 5:1 tells us, "therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." All who are saved by grace can enjoy the peace of God in their hearts. Jesus told His followers: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" (John 14:27).

Paul addresses this letter to "the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." The word "church" in the original language is ekklesia, meaning "called out ones" or "assembly." God had called the Thessalonian believers out of the world to be in Him and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as he did Timothy and Silas. When Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:16, it was on behalf of His followers. He stated, "They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world."

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