By Brooke Holt
“But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15
As you consider this part of Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica, think about someone you love dearly and have been concerned about. Maybe it is a child, a spouse, a sibling, or a beloved friend. This would be someone whom you have agonized over in your prayers. Your deepest desire is for that person to live in joy and safety and flourish in this life and the next. As you remember those deep feelings of concern (or feel them right now), consider these are Paul’s feelings toward the Thessalonians as he wrote this letter.
Paul cared passionately about these people. He led them to the Lord, taught them the Christian faith, and helped them build the church. He wanted to see the church thrive as the people held fast to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet often, those whom we love so passionately are the very ones who resist our leadership or advice. The Thessalonians had been taught the Gospel’s truth by Paul, but now they accepted other teachings that did not align with that truth. Paul wrote with fervency and deep concern to warn them of erroneous teachings and call them back to God’s truth.
To do so, Paul reminded them of how they were saved— “through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (verse 13). If the truth saved them, why would they depart from that truth? Wouldn’t they be putting their salvation at risk? The apostle had ingrained this truth of the Gospel in them while he was among them and in his letters. They had his words; more importantly, they had God’s truth written in their hearts and minds. Like a desperate father, Paul admonished them to remember that truth, stand firm in it, and relinquish every other false doctrine.
While this admonition of Paul to the church in Thessalonica seems straightforward, the church struggled as new ideas often appealed to their fleshly appetites or even their heart’s desires. Maybe they wanted to be inclusive; they longed to fit in with the neighbors or didn’t want to offend anyone. Often, the words of Scripture do not align with fleshly desires nor with the world’s ways. So, what is a Christian to do?
Remember these words of Paul. If you have been saved through the Gospel of truth, stand firm in that truth. Stay in God’s Word, stay in fellowship with God’s people, and continue to surrender to the Holy Spirit to his conviction and guidance. Remember that staying the course of faith is not easy. Jesus prepared his disciples for these challenges: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Just because something is hard does not mean it is not right. May you have the fortitude to enter this narrow gate and walk on the narrow path for it is the way to salvation!
How are you doing with this narrow gate and path, and how might the Lord want to redirect your steps today? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Christmas is the festival of rejoicing at Christ’s first coming—the beautiful, unlikely start of our salvation! As the season ends each year, we pack up the decorations. Advent, on the other hand, is a bigger celebration—one we can’t box up and store in the attic. It celebrates the grace of Christ’s first coming, and then it reaches with restless anticipation for the fuller grace of his second appearing and the completion of our salvation! For 28 days, celebrate Advent. In Prepare the Way, join with St. Paul, King David the Psalmist, Zechariah, Gabriel, Mary, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist, along with the crowds as they rejoiced in the good news of Christmas, and then look beyond it for the holiday that never ends!
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