Stand Firm and Hold the Truths of the Bible...
O Lord God, as I enter into Your presence for worship this day, fill my heart with a greater understanding and appreciation of Your grace and mercy. Cause me to rejoice in the love You have shown me in Christ, to take comfort in the future You are preparing for me through Christ, and to gain confidence now in view of the presence of Christ. Amen.
God’s Word is a precious treasure that enlightens our lives and enables us to endure all of the struggles of this life. Let us join the Psalmist in committing ourselves to following that Word at all times!
Jesus taught God’s truths with authority and amazed those who listened to His Words, which in turn were confirmed by the powerful miracles He performed. Let us hold fast to those truths!
Text: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17
But 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, our dear Lord and Savior upon whose teachings we are to take our spiritual stand, dear fellow redeemed:
Perhaps some of you have heard of the Mayan Calendar. It has recently become a topic of discussion for quite a few people, because it is supposedly a prophetic calendar that claims to help understand the past and foresee the future. It claims that the world will end on December 21 of this calendar year. People are fascinated by end-of-the-world topics. They have been for thousands of years. Already in the apostle Paul’s day certain members of the Thessalonian congregation made such predictions and thereby misled their fellow believers into disorderly living. Our Savior, however, tells us plainly regarding the Last Day: “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36). When you hear someone say that they know when the world will end, or that the world will end at a certain time, you know that person is a false teacher to be avoided! Do not listen to him! On the other hand, do not go to the opposite extreme and simply dismiss the teaching of the end of the world. Rather follow the advice of your Savior who says: “Watch therefore…be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:42, 44). But how can we best “watch” and in what way can we best be “ready”? Paul, in our text reveals the answer when he urges us to “stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” The “traditions” of which Paul speaks are not the traditions found in many churches that exist apart from or are opposed to the Bible. Rather he is referring directly to the words which were taught and written by himself and the other apostles, and which then became our Bible. Therefore today I would join Paul in urging you to STAND FIRM AND HOLD THE TRUTHS OF THE BIBLE! Truths which reveal the extent of God’s past love for you, His future plans for you, and His present purpose for you.
Yes, STAND FIRM AND HOLD THE TRUTHS OF THE BIBLE which, first of all, reveal the extent of God’s past love for you! St. Paul begins our text by saying: “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.” St. Paul identifies the believers in Thessalonica as “beloved by the Lord.” In the same way, I can address you as “beloved by the Lord.” How could Paul be so sure that God loved each and every one of those believers in Thessalonica? How can I be so sure that this is true concerning each of you? The reason is very simple—our Savior God tells us so! “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God loved the world—the Thessalonians and each of you are part of that world! Therefore, I can assure you with confidence that God loves you!
To what extent, however, does God love you? The extent of God’s love can certainly be seen so powerful on Calvary’s cross, when Jesus, the Lord of life and of all of creation, gave up His personal life for you and for me. But notice that in our text Paul goes back much further than Jesus’ death on Calvary. He says that God “from the beginning chose you for salvation!” The beginning to which Paul is referring is the beginning of time. Paul explained to the Ephesian Christians: “He chose us in Him (that is, in connection with Jesus Christ) before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). God loved you before you became His children through conversion. God loved you before you were conceived within your mothers’ wombs and brought forth through birth into this world. God loved you before He sent Jesus into this world to redeem you from sin, death, and the devil. God loved you in eternity and as He prepared to call into existence this present world! He chose you in love in connection with Jesus Christ. He chose you for salvation—to be saved and to spend eternity with Him!
Why did He do so? The answer cannot and will never be found in us, for we must ever plead with Paul in God’s presence that we are “chief of sinners” (cf. 1 Timothy 1:15) and, therefore, unworthy of His love and mercy. No, Paul tells us that we were predestined “to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Ephesians 1:5). Later He says that we were redeemed “according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). Still later he informs us that “we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:12). God loves you so much that in His grace and to His glory He chose you in eternity to be His own! He then sent His Spirit to sanctify you through the truth of the gospel creating faith within your hearts. Take comfort in these facts! Rejoice in these facts! STAND FIRM AND HOLD THE TRUTHS OF THE BIBLE!
Secondly, STAND FIRM AND HOLD THE TRUTHS OF THE BIBLE which reveal the extent of God’s future plans for you! Paul writes: “He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Paul began by saying that you were “chosen from the beginning” and now he points in the other direction into eternity after this world ends. He tells us that the Holy Spirit called us by the gospel to this end—“the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ!” This is the extent of God’s future plans for you and for me—we shall obtain the glory of our Savior! What exactly does that mean? Paul speaks of this glorious future in a number of places in his Epistles. In that marvelous eighth chapter of Romans, for instance, he writes: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (8:16-17). When the end of the world comes and we enter Christ’s eternal kingdom, not only will we glorify Christ, but we will share in His glory. When writing to the Philippians Paul told them: “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (3:20-21). We face many challenges in this world, not the least of which involves the weaknesses and frailties of our own bodies.
In recent weeks and months several of our members have been facing severe physical problems, some requiring additional surgeries, others extended hospital stays, and still others entering hospice programs. As these individuals deal with these challenges, it is very easy to get depressed as they look to the future. Their bodies are sick, weakened, and at times close to shutting down. As I visit these individuals and share with them messages from God’s Word I often speak of the future awaiting them in heaven—the glories they will share with Christ! In heaven our bodies will not suffer from the aging process. There will be no diseases or disabilities hampering our abilities to serve either God or one another. There will be no aches and pains, no glasses or hearing aids, no need for medicinal remedies and absolutely no death! These thoughts are not pipe-dreams, but the reality that God promises us. Consequently STAND FIRM AND HOLD THE TRUTHS OF THE BIBLE!
Do so, finally, for they reveal the extent of God’s present purpose for us! Paul writes: “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.” The bedrock of our Christian faith is the fact that we have been saved by God’s grace alone—His undeserved love for us sinners—through faith alone in Jesus Christ. That message brings hope to our hearts in this life. That message, however, has a purpose which is to be revealed in our day-to-day lives. The Scriptures make it very clear that we have not been freed from sin by Christ to live in sin apart from Christ. No, we have been bought with a price—that price being the holy and precious blood of our Savior. God’s purpose for us as Paul explains is that our every word and work are now to glorify our Savior while bringing blessing to our neighbors.
This is a major theme of Paul’s writings. Consider just two additional passages: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV) and “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV). Do you understand Paul’s point? We are to serve our God and to be busy doing those things which are both pleasing to Him and outlined by Him. God’s present purpose for our lives extends into every facet of our lives—our careers, our marriages, our families, our personal goals, our choice of friends and entertainment, our personal interactions with everyone with whom we come into contact. Our every word and work are to be measured by God’s standard of perfect love. Where those words and works fail the test, we are to repent of our sins, seek God’s forgiveness, and rejoice in that fact that not only does He forgive us, but He empowers us so that over time our lives can and will grow closer to His perfect image and intentions.
My dear friends, do not be disturbed by the predictions of Mayan calendars or any other rumors of the end of the world approaching. At the same time recognize that the end of the world will come when the Lord Himself determines it. In the meantime as we deal with the challenges of this life let us STAND FIRM AND HOLD THE TRUTHS OF THE BIBLE! Amen.
Pastor Paul D. Nolting