Last week we looked at the present and the future. We saw that the man of lawlessness is currently restrained, but there will come a day when the restraining influence is removed. He will come with, “All power and signs and false wonders.” The only way to be saved from open rebellion is to embrace the truth that is found in Jesus Christ.
This morning, we’re going to look at Paul’s challenge to us as God’s children.
Grab your Bible and look at 2 Thes. 2:11-14. You can listen to the accompanying podcast here.
The first thing we see is the result. “Those who perish, [perish] because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.” We saw last week that the unpardonable sin was not a specific sin, but a rejection of the truth. Jesus is “full of grace and truth” according to John 1:14. “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17) We are to worship, “In spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24) John 8:32 says, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” That know is know and understand. That means embracing the truth of who Jesus is and what He stands for. The result is that we are free from the dominion of sin.
V. 11 completes this thought. “For this reason.” Because they did not choose the truth. “They will believe what is false” I don’t want you to misunderstand the wording of this verse. “For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false.” This does not mean what you think it means. Don’t blame God because they believed error. Don’t blame God because people are duped into believing something ridiculous. Don’t blame God for the seemingly endless personal, relative doctrines out there. Don’t blame God that people don’t believe the truth when we have so many supposed Christians engaging in the things of the world.
V. 12 goes on to say, “In order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” Judged comes from the word that means to distinguish or decide; to separate or choose. It is those that did not believe the truth that will be judged. Did you notice both ends of the spectrum in this verse? It’s not just that they did not believe the truth, but they delighted in wickedness. Truth has moral implications and makes moral judgments. When you consider all of this, it is not the error that is necessarily bad.
We have guidance for handling error. In Luke 21:15 Jesus said, “I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.” Titus 1:9: “Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” Evil is the root cause of the error. This is really clear teaching, but let me summarize it for you.
- They delight in wickedness.
- They did not believe and love the truth.
- Satan deceives them.
- God gives them over to the lies they believe.
- They are condemned and perish.
That’s the progression. It doesn’t start with the condemnation. It starts with a love for evil. The only way to be protected from this slippery slope of deception is to love and embrace the truth. We are living in a time of restraint, but apostasy or rebellion is coming next. Then the consequences of that rebellion will come when the Lord will defeat and destroy the Antichrist and those that believed what is false – those that believed the lies – will be condemned.
Paul doesn’t stop there, he’s always good for some encouragement. Its an exciting segue. Paul has just talked about those that will perish. They perish because they did not love the truth. They chose to delight in wickedness. Then Paul utters that great word in Scripture. Look at v. 13. Paul is thankful for the Thessalonians. The contrast is between those that perish and those that won’t. He’s thankful that they had been chosen. Don’t be scared by that word. All people have been chosen. John 3:16, “God so loved the world.” 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Eph. 1:4, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” 1 Thes. 4:7, “For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.”
Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Look at the context of the whole verse. “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” The choosing is from the beginning. The two-part method is first through sanctification by the Spirit. Sanctification consists of two things and I often refer to them as two types of sanctification. First, sanctification occurs as a result of salvation. At the moment of conversion, the Holy Spirit enters our life. We are no longer held hostage by death, but are free to live the life God desires for us. So we are sanctified simply because of our standing as lost people saved by grace.
The second side of sanctification is the one that many Christians seem to struggle with and that is learning to do what is right, what is pleasing to God. It doesn’t take long for new Christians to realize that a battle has begun in our lives. Galatians 5:17; “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” Sanctification gives us the ability to please God, to walk in a manner that is worthy of the One we serve. This is the aspect of progressive sanctification. Many times it takes someone to teach us what the Bible says about godly living – discipleship. I encourage you to read Romans; it is the foundational book of our faith and our walk with Christ. Sometimes people speak about how they can’t change or stop a particular behavior. And that’s true, but we can all be changed. “Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.” (Rom. 6:6) Romans 6:11-13 is an incredible passage that tells us that it is the Spirit of God that sanctifies.
The second part of that method is, “We are chosen . . . through faith in the truth.” Look at our final verse. Verse 14 tells us that the Gospel is how all of us have been called. It doesn’t matter if we came to realize the truth of the Gospel through preaching, Bible reading, or a personal testimony.
Paul has one last thought for this verse. We can, “Gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” John 17:22 says, “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one.” God’s glory, not our own. That’s exciting.
We need to recognize Who is doing the work in our lives. The challenge is to allow God to work in us and through us.