Standing Fast

Believers prepare for the “apostasy” and the “man of lawlessness” by “standing firm” in the Apostolic traditions  2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

Solitude - Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash
Having presented the information on the “apostasy” and the “man of lawlessness,” Paul provides instructions on how the Thessalonians are to avoid the coming deception, and thereby, find themselves standing “blameless” before Jesus when he “arrives with all his holy ones.” Above all, they must “stand fast” in the teachings received from the Apostle - [
Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash].

The conclusion to this discourse on the “apostasy” and the “man of lawlessness” contains verbal and conceptual links to Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. The second letter was written within a few weeks of the first one, or within several months at the most. Moreover, in the second letter, Paul is again addressing questions about the future, especially regarding the “day of the Lord.” This was necessitated by false information that was being propagated in Thessalonica about the imminence of that event.
  • (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17) - “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning for salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth to which he called you through our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, stand fast and hold the traditions that you were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who loved us and gave us everlasting comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
God chose you from the beginning for salvation…for the acquisition (peripoiésis) of the glory of our Lord Jesus.” The clause echoes statements from Paul’s first letter, especially his concluding statement after discussing the “times and seasons” - “God appointed us not for wrath, but for the acquisition (peripoiésisof salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Both statements use the same Greek noun for “acquisition,” peripoiésis (Strong’s – G4047) - (1 Thessalonians 1:3-5, 5:9).

In his first epistle, after bringing up the subject of “times and season,” the stress fell on right conduct and belief, not on knowing “signs” and chronologies. Faithful disciples who remain watchful and live as “sons of the light” will not be overtaken by the sudden arrival of the “day of the Lord.” Likewise, in the present passage, Paul instructs the Thessalonians on how to avoid the coming deception and “apostasy” by “standing firm” in the teachings they had already received.

Stand fast and hold the traditions you were taught.” This is what the Thessalonians must do to persevere through the coming onslaught and avoid the “apostasy.” “Stand fast” translates a Greek verb that means to “remain stationary,” hence, metaphorically, “to persevere.” Paul used this same verb in the first letter, and in a similar context.
  • But when Timothy came even now from you, and brought us glad tidings of your faith and love… for this cause, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our distress and tribulation through your faith: for now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 3:6-8).
The Thessalonians will persevere if they “hold fast” to the teachings received from Paul and his coworkers.

Whether by word or by epistle of ours.” Paul echoes his warning given at the start of this section for believers not to be “shaken from your mind, nor be troubled, either by spirit or by discourse or by epistle as from us.” The words received previously from Paul in person and by letter, were genuine (“of ours”), unlike the false information about the imminent future received by word and letter “as if from us.” The genuine words of the Apostle are trustworthy. Note well how Paul leaves out “whether by spirit” when he refers to his own communications.

Comfort your hearts.” This clause parallels the two admonishments given at the close of Paul’s discussions in his first letter on the “dead in Christ,” and on knowing “signs and seasons.” At the end of both discourses, the Thessalonians were to “comfort one another with these words.”

And establish them in every good work and word.” Paul’s expressed wish for the Thessalonians is parallel to the one he gave at the close of the first half of First Thessalonians:
  • And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love, one toward another, and toward all men, even as we also do toward you; to the end, he may establish your hearts blameless in sanctification before our God and Father, at the arrival of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” – (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13).
Paul makes practical applications of his exhortations in the closing verses of the letter, instructions not unrelated to his comments about the “apostasy” and the “man of lawlessness” – (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15).

Bible Reading - Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash
Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

Thus, the Thessalonians believers are admonished to “
withdraw from every brother that walks disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received of us.” Here again, Paul stresses the necessity of following the teachings given by him and his coworkers. What marks an individual as “disorderly” is his or her refusal to follow the apostolic traditions.

Not only so, but the Thessalonians are called to “imitate” Paul and his companions, who certainly did not “behave disorderly” among them. The Apostle becomes quite specific. When he and his coworkers were at Thessalonica:
  • We ate not bread at any man's hand, but in labor and travail, working night and day, that we might not burden any of you; not because we have not the right, but to make ourselves an example to you, that ye should imitate us” – (2 Thessalonians 3:8-9).
Paul refers to his practice of working as a tentmaker to support his ministry. While it was right and appropriate for his converts to support him financially, to provide an example for them, he often chose instead to work with his own hands.

The cause behind his comments are certain members of the church who refuse to work and support themselves, which is a prime example of what it means to “walk disorderly” - (“For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat”).

Paul dealt with this same problem in his first letter to the Thessalonians. Apparently, considering their heightened apocalyptic expectations, some chose not to work. Most likely, they reasoned that, with the imminent “arrival” of Jesus, continuing to work to support themselves was pointless.

And, whether it came by “discourse” or “letter,” if anyone “obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, to the end that he may be ashamed.” The purpose of shunning someone was not to reject him or her, but hopefully, to shame them into right conduct (“count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother”).

Even with their hope and belief in the coming of Jesus, Christians must not “weary in well doing” between now and the day of his “arrival.” Whether Christ comes today or centuries from now, Christians must “stand fast” in the apostolic traditions and conduct their daily lives in an orderly fashion. Otherwise, they will be overtaken by the “mystery of lawlessness” that even now is at work in the world.


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