Stand Firm in Biblical Truth!
Lord God, our blessed heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ, our dear Savior, we come before You today in worship and thank You for sending Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us and to work among us. May He impress Your truths upon our hearts this day as we hear Your inspired word and move us to perform good works in accordance with Your will and unto Your glory. Amen.
As promised, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to fill His early followers and so to enable them to share news of the wonderful works of God with all present in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost. The Holy Spirit continues to fill believers today and so to enable us to share the news of God's love for sinners with all who will listen.
Text: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17
We are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 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.
In Christ Jesus, who sends the Holy Spirit to bring us spiritual blessings, dear fellow redeemed:
The Thessalonian Christians were confused—had Jesus’ second coming already occurred or was it still to come? These same Christians were uncertain—should they believe the teachers who had so recently been in their midst and appeared so confident in what they were asserting, or should they believe the apostle Paul who had led them to place their faith in Christ? Have you ever been confused about what exactly God is saying to you on a particular subject or in a particular text? Have you ever been uncertain about whom you should believe when people you know are saying different things? The solution to which the apostle Paul directed those first century Christians in Thessalonica is the same solution to which I would direct you today! When you find yourself confused or uncertain open your Bibles and STAND FIRM IN BIBLICAL TRUTH, for it reveals God’s love, plans, and will for you!
Yes, biblical truth reveals God’s love for you! When the Holy Spirit came to those early disciples on the first Pentecost and enabled them to speak in foreign languages they had never previously spoken, we are told that those listening said, “We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11). The most wonderful of those works of God is His plan of redemption in Christ Jesus, through which He has saved us.
When the Thessalonian Christians were confused and uncertain, the apostle Paul directed them to their God and to the fact that “God from the beginning chose (them) for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” That which removes spiritual confusion and uncertainty is the grace of God—that undeserved love of God for us sinners. It is a love, which extends all the way back into eternity when God chose us to be His believing children. His selection came in connection with the redemption He planned in Jesus Christ. Paul would later write to the Ephesian congregation these words of explanation, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (1:3-5).
Having planned and then completed that redemption through Jesus’ life and death, God then sent His Holy Spirit to work faith in our hearts through the preaching of the gospel—His word of truth! Yes, as Luther wrote in his explanation to the Third Article and as each of us can confess, “the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified, and kept me in true faith!” It is in this central, biblical teaching of Christianity that we are saved by God’s grace alone through faith in Christ Jesus that we can find confidence. It is on the basis of this central, biblical teaching that we can move on to examine all other teachings and teachers and with the help of the Holy Spirit then to remove both confusion and uncertainty!
For instance, following our service today, we are encouraging you to remain for the first of two sessions studying an issue that is before our church body and will be considered in June at our convention. The issue involves our dealings with organizations in this world. When organizations in this world presume to teach spiritual truths, we are to “test” them, as the apostle John says, to see “whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1). The most important test we can make is to ask what an organization teaches concerning salvation. If they teach something other than that we are saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone, we know their teachings are not biblical and are to be avoided. When such organizations require their members to subscribe to such false teaching, then we should avoid the organization, for we would never want to deny the loving sacrifice of our Savior and the blessed redemption He has won for us!
Yes, STAND FIRM IN BIBLICAL TRUTH, for it reveals God’s love for us, and, secondly, it reveals God’s plans for us! Having assured the Thessalonian Christians of God’s love, the apostle Paul directs their attention ahead to their future when he says, “(God) called you by our gospel for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Notice the goal, or purpose—the plan God has for you as His believing child. He wants you to obtain the glory of your Lord Jesus. In other words, He plans to give you all of the blessings of eternal life.
God does not want us to spend our lives doubting His plans for us, or questioning whether or not we will experience what God has planned for us. No, God promises us the glory of Jesus, and He wants us to live our lives with confidence knowing that when our time of grace has ended we will both see Jesus and be with Jesus throughout eternity. This is why Jesus says, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). He does not say "might" be saved, or "perhaps" will be saved. No, He says that those who believe and are baptized “will be saved!” No questions, no doubts, no uncertainties are to plague believing children of God when it comes to God’s plans for our futures! In the same way, the apostle Paul when addressing Timothy spoke of the confidence we can have in God’s plans for us. As he neared his death he wrote, “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
Will there be times of uncertainty and confusion in our lives here in this world? Will there be times when we are not sure what to do? There may well be, for sin and Satan sow uncertainty and confusion. It is to their advantage to do so, as they attempt to lead us away from Christ. Beyond that, there are gray areas in this life to which Scripture may not directly speak and to which we then must apply the truths of Scripture as precisely as we can. However, even in the midst of such times we can “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4) as the apostle Paul encourages us to do. Yes, we can rejoice in the Lord as we abide in and study His word, knowing that as we prayerfully approach the issues confronting us, God’s Spirit will guide us as we seek to fulfill His will. We may rejoice in the Lord knowing that one day all of these issues will fade away as we both realize and enjoy God’s plans for us!
Yes, STAND FIRM IN BIBLICAL TRUTH, for it reveals, finally, God’s will for you! The apostle Paul concludes our text by writing, “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.”
We are saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus. That truth summarizes both God’s love for us and His plans for us. However, we must also realize that God has a purpose for us also in this life. He had not saved us from sin and Satan, so that we might be lost once again to sin and Satan. He has not created us, sustained us, redeemed us, and begun sanctifying us so that we might simply serve our own selfish wants and desires. No, our God has a great purpose for each of us. Most of us are familiar with and no doubt many of us have memorized the apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” These words outline God’s plan of salvation. The words which follow in verse ten, however, are not so well known, and yet they are so very important for they express why God has saved us and the purpose we are to have in this world. Paul says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God has created us for the purpose of doing many good things—things which He has prepared for us to do both to His glory and for the distinct blessing of those around us.
The Thessalonian Christians were uncertain and confused. The apostle Paul pointed them to the biblical truths of God to calm their fears and remove their uncertainty and their confusion. They were loved by God in Christ Jesus—of that they could be certain! They were destined to enjoy the gift of eternal life as God indeed had planned—of that too they could be certain! In the meantime, then, they were to be busy in word and in deed fulfilling God’s will—His will of love as they lived their daily lives and interacted with all of those people with whom they came into contact. Daily living unto the Lord and in accordance with the will of the Lord would enable them to grow in confidence as the Spirit of the Lord continued to work His will and way in their lives.
My dear friends, when uncertainty and confusion enter our lives—when we just do not know what to do—do not panic or despair. Rejoice in the love of your Savior and in the plans He has reveals to you in the Scriptures. Then with your eyes firmly planted on your Savior and your ears open to His words, go about your business day by day determined to reflect God’s love in both your words and actions as you deal with the people God has made part of your life. When you do so, you will experience growth in and through God’s Spirit, as you accomplish those things God has planned for you both now and then throughout eternity. Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting