Paul's Exhortation and the Lord's Enablement
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the second letter of Thessalonians, chapter 2, that portion of the Word that we are studying together at this particular time. We are going to read II Thessalonians, chapter 2, the paragraph which begins with verse 15:

I Thessalonians 2

15Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
16Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,
17Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

In these three verses of Scripture we find an exhortation from the Apostle Paul, directed by the Holy Spirit of course, accompanied by a divine enablement. If you are familiar with your Bibles, you will realize that Paul never exhorts without reminding us that we have the unlimited resources of the power of God upon which we may draw to fulfill the exhortation that is entailed upon us, and such is the case here. The paragraph begins with the word “therefore.” Those of us who are familiar with the writings of Paul know that this is a word that he loved to use tying together the great truths of his epistles. In this particular instance, the word “therefore” goes back to the second verse of the second chapter and carries on through the paragraph immediately preceding the present verses which we have read. Glance back at II Thessalonians, chapter 1, verse 1, where the apostle said:

I Thessalonians 1

1Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

These Thessalonican believers were shaken in mind. They were troubled; they were disturbed; they were upset. They were upset in the manner to which we referred because of some things which had been reported to them that Paul had said. They were upset in the manner to which we refer because someone had written a letter and forged Paul's name to it, and the things which it was reported he had said and the things which it was reported he had written were so disturbing that these individuals in Thessalonica were troubled and they were shaken away from the things which they had always believed. And so the apostle had to write them to encourage their hearts in the faith, reminding them of their heritage in Christ.

Stand Fast

As we learned in our last lesson, as was revealed in verses 13 and 14 of this chapter, God had chosen them before the foundation of the world through the sanctification of the Spirit to the obedience of the blood of Christ. And He reminded them that they were not an afterthought of God, that God made His plan for them even before they were born. And so in the text that we have before us today he said, “Therefore, in view of the fact that God has made this tremendous provision for you, in view of the fact that you are not an afterthought of God, don't be shaken in mind, don't be troubled by the things that you hear and that you think you hear.” Rather, heed the exhortation that is contained in verse 15:

I Thessalonians 2

16Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,
17Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

Though we are not among the Thessalonicans today, we are living in an age when much is being said and done that is causing people to be troubled and is causing people to be shaken in mind. Therefore, the exhortation that is contained in this portion of the Word is suitable for us today, so will you notice the very first part of the exhortation in verse 15, where the apostle said, “Stand fast.” These two words “stand fast” come from one Greek word, *ULsteko*UL which means “to continually stand without wavering.” Whenever he says, “stand fast,” he is saying, “stand; plant your feet firmly on the ground, and don't budge an inch. Don't move with every wind of doctrine that comes your way. Don't waver.”

He doesn't expect us to stand without any additional support, and so he suggests in verse 15, “Hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or by epistle from us.” This word “hold” comes from the Greek word which elsewhere in the New Testament is translated “lay hold of” or “lay hands on,” the idea being, “get a very firm grip on these traditions.” And so you see, you have a twofold support. You are to plant your feet firmly on the Word of God so that you will not waver one side or the other, and then you are to get a good hold on the traditions which have been delivered to you.

Give Heed to Doctrine

We remind you that this is a suggestion that is amplified for us in the book of Hebrews, chapter 2, verse 1, where the Spirit of God says:

Hebrews 2

1Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

I am of the opinion today that the reason that we are moved and shaken and troubled in mind is that we don't give earnest heed to the things which we have heard. We do let them slip. We don't lay hold of them. We don't get a firm grasp on them. And that is what the apostle is suggesting these Thessalonican believers do and what we are suggesting that you do today.

Look again at verse 15 and notice the word “tradition” and the phrase, “traditions which ye have been taught.” We must pause and consider that for a moment because there are some people who use the word “tradition” in a different sense in which it is used in this particular portion of the Word. Sometimes when we speak of tradition we speak of things that are extracurricular as far as the Word of God is concerned, things that are outside the Word of God. For example, the Lord Jesus Christ told the Pharisees one day that because they adhered so closely to the traditions of men, they nullified the Word of God. But we must not assume every time we see the word “tradition” that it is a reference to something that is extracurricular as far as the Word of God is concerned. The word “traditions” comes from two Greek words, one of them a preposition and another a verb. One word is *ULpara*UL and the other is *ULdidomi*UL which simply means “those things which are taught with the idea of being handed down.” The apostle is saying, “When I was with you, I taught you certain things. When I was absent from you, I wrote to you certain things. I wrote you these things and I spoke these things to you so that you might assimilate them and give them on to someone else.” The apostle wrote this same kind of advice, you will remember, to Timothy as a young minister of the Word of God, when he said, “Commit thou these things to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

I have said to you repeatedly, and I repeat it again, that if my ministry is no broader than the four walls of this building, it is not a very broad ministry. But if you who come here and sit under the Word of God will receive the things which I give to you as tradition–that is, things that are handed down to you with the purpose of giving them on to someone else–then the ministry of the Word of God will be far-reaching indeed.

Be Faithful to Teach Others

The purpose of our teaching the Word of God was never to fill up so many empty vessels so that they might relax in the fulness of their knowledge, but the purpose of our ministering the Word of God is to commit these faithful things to you who are faithful men that you might be able to teach others also. You are not fulfilling your obligation to God, and you certainly are wasting my time and effort, if you never make any effort at all to convey to someone else between Sundays some of the truth that has been given to you here, and there is always an opportunity to do it. You don't need a Sunday School class before which you stand to give this truth; you don't need a Bible class before which you stand to give this truth, though those are fine and if those opportunities of service present themselves, by all means take advantage of it; but the people who come to your door, the people with whom you pray, every contact you make you can pass on some truth that God has brought to your attention in these services, and that is your obligation before God. The exhortation is, “Brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or our epistle.”

Divine Enablement

This is Paul's exhortation, but as I suggested to you, the apostle Paul always accompanies his exhortation with a word of encouragement. He always accompanies his exhortations with a word of divine enablement, and that is exactly what he does here. If you will glance at verse 16, you will notice that it begins with the word “now.” Actually, in the original text it begins with the word “and,” indicating the connection between what he is saying and what is about to come forth. He is just saying, “Now, hold fast these traditions; and before I am through, I want to tell you something else.” If we look at verses 16 and 17 as a simple sentence to begin with instead of a compound sentence, this will become immediately clear. If you will look at verses 16 and 17 following my suggestion at the moment, leaving out the words which I leave out, you will see the divine enablement which is so clearly presented: “And our Lord Jesus Christ Himself [skip down to verse 17] comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” Do you see what he is saying? “Hold fast to the traditions; pass them on to someone else; stand firm; don't be soon shaken in mind, and the Lord Jesus Christ will comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” This should help us to realize, then, it should help us to understand that though we are commanded, His commands are always accompanied by His divine enablement.

Time will not permit considering a number of such illustrations in the Word of God, but one comes to mind from Paul's letter to the Philippians where he reminds us that we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Many folk only read that portion of the Word, and they stop right there, and they tremble as they think about it, but read the next statement. What does it say? “For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do His good pleasure.” There is no problem working out what God has worked in, but if God has never worked anything in, you will never be able to work anything out. It is difficult for us to hold fast to tradition if those traditions have never been made real to us by the power of the Spirit of God. But if they have been made real to us by the power of the Spirit of God, then we will be able to heed the exhortation.

Provision of Comfort

Let us notice these divine enablements so graciously provided by God. “Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God, even our Father, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” Will you notice the word “comfort” with me for a moment? It is from the Greek word *ULparakaleo*UL, the same word that is used in connection with the Holy Spirit. Very literally rendered, it means “someone who answers a call to come down alongside and to help you.” Here we are, faced with a great many things that can soon shake us in mind. Here we are, faced with a great many things that can trouble us, but we can breathe a prayer to the throne of God that, figuratively speaking at least, will provide immediate help, because God will send to us all of the divine help that is needed and completely surround us so that we can carry on for God. That is the meaning of comfort. It does not mean that God stands around and wipes away tears from your eyes, because you may need this kind of help when there is never a tear. It is that God is able to give you all the help that you need.

When the Lord Jesus Christ was on the earth and the soldiers were about to take Him captive before His crucifixion, Peter raised his sword, ready to defend the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ told him to put away his sword; he had no need of it. He said, “I could lift just one finger toward Heaven, that's all, and legions of angels would come sweeping down for my protection.” I say this reverently, it is a good illustration of what we are talking about right here. In the midst of our troubles and in the midst of our problems, we can even lift one finger toward Heaven and indicate that we are in need to divine help, and this divine help will be immediately forthcoming. And so the Apostle Paul said to these individuals, “You will not be alone in this thing; the Lord will comfort your hearts.”

Look at the word “establish.” The word “establish” comes from the Greek word *ULsterizo*UL which really means “to nail down and to make fast.” And here we have another source of divine enablement. God is not only going to listen alertly for the least little signal of our finger indicating we need help, but God is going to nail us down; He is going to make us heard. He is going to establish us so there is no need at all for any kind of wavering in relation to the things of God.

Did you notice as you glanced at verse 17 the things in which God is going to comfort and establish you? My text says, “in every good word and work.” I do not know why the translators have put the order as they have in this particular verse because in the original text it is not in this order, and it seems to me that the emphasis upon the original is the better. The original text says, “comfort your hearts and establish you in ever [listen closely] good work and word.” He establishes you in the work before He establishes you in your personal word, for the word “word” here, of course, is a reference to your spiritual testimony. This boils down to a very simple thing that we have all realized down through the ages, that what we do has much more effect than what we say. And quite often, much that we do is nullified by what we say. If we are interested in men believing what we say, then we should give forth some evidence that that which we say is grounded in the truth. The Spirit of God is able to comfort us; He is able to establish us in what we do and then in what we say. It is important to have a good foundation upon which our testimony is based.

Enablement Based On Love

Now, this enablement of which we speak today, the comforting and establishing enablement of the Spirit of God, is based upon two things related to the past and to the future which encourages us to believe today that God will do the thing that He says He will do. Notice in verse 16:

I Thessalonians 2

16Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,
17Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

What do we read in this verse of Scripture? That God hath loved us. We are encouraged to believe that God will comfort our hearts. We are encouraged to believe that God will establish our hearts because God hath loved us. “For God so loved the world that He gave…” And we are reminded of the words of the Spirit of God in chapter 8 of the book of Romans to which we often refer because they bring such encouragement to our own hearts, when the Spirit of God said in verses 31 and 32:

Romans 8

31What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

God loved us; God gave us His Son. If He gave us His Son, He is not going to withhold anything else from us. If God loved us and God gave us His Son, then we can rest with perfect assurance today in the fact that God will comfort our hearts and that God will establish us in every good work and word.

Everlasting Consolation

You will notice, as we glance at our text, the second thing whereby we take courage and comfort as we expect God to establish our hearts.

I Thessalonians 2

16Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation…”

God loved us but that was not all that He did. He gave us everlasting consolation. We believe this to be a reference to the gift of the Holy Spirit, for the word “consolation,” is the same word that is used in the original text for the word “spirit” or for the phrase “Holy Spirit.” And we are reminded in chapter 14 of the Gospel of John, verse 16, that the Lord Jesus Christ said, “I will pray the Father and He shall give you another comforter, another consolation that He may abide with you forever.” As the Holy Spirit of God abides with us forever, He becomes our everlasting consolation. And on the basis of this everlasting consolation, we can believe that God will establish and God will encourage our hearts.

Glance again at our original text today and notice a reference now to the future. We take courage because of what has been done in the past, and we take courage because of what there yet remains for us in the future. In verse 16, again we read:

I Thessalonians 2

16Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,

The good hope which the Lord Jesus Christ has given is the hope of the Lord's return. And the hope of the Lord's return establishes us in every good work and word. In the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, the Lord Jesus Christ had told them that their business would be witnessing for the Lord, holding firm the things which they had been given and giving forth those things to other men. Then the Lord Jesus Christ was taken out of their sight as two men stood by in white apparel and said to the men whose eyes were turned toward Heaven, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus which is taken from you into Heaven will so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven. Then return thee unto Jerusalem from the Mount called Olivet.” They returned with the hope that their Lord was coming again, and the hope of the Lord's return was the incentive to Christian service that they needed. The apostle is saying to these Thessalonican believers, “Don't be moved by everything you hear. Don't be troubled, don't be shaken and don't be discouraged. Stand firm; hold fast to the Word of God. And as you do, remember that God Himself will not leave you alone. He will always be at your beck and call to help you in whatever enterprise you may be engaged.” He will always be there to establish you, to nail you down tight, so that there will not be any need for your moving. And you can believe that He will do this because He loves you and sent His son to prove that He loves you. He has given you the Holy Spirit as everlasting consolation, and He has promised that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself will return.

Through Grace

One other thing would I say to you before we are through, and that one other thing is found in two little words at the end of verse 16, “through grace.” All of this, all of this is through grace. Someone has translated it, “Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God, even our Father which hath loved us and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work, and lest you forget it, you don't deserve any of it.” And that is absolutely true today. There is no excuse for your not living a victorious life in Christ.


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