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As you know we have been studying 2 Thessalonians and we have been going through the wonderful and rich second chapter and I want you to return to that this morning as we conclude that chapter, 2 Thessalonians chapter 2.  We've been dealing here with the coming man of lawlessness, the coming man of sin, the Antichrist.

When I was in Indiana this week, on Monday night we arrived for a great meeting that night.  And as I pulled up to the church there was a large crowd of cars in the parking lot and many people were moving toward the auditorium.  And I was watching them.  And then I noticed out of the corner of my eye some people were picketing the church.  They had sticks with big placards on them.  I noticed the first one in line said, "Jesus does not forgive sin."  And then there were a number of other such things that were basically denials of the work and person of Christ in one way or another.  It's a bit unusual to have a church picketed by people who are so bold and brash as to demonstrate the Antichrist's spirit right in the very place where Christ is exalted.  But certainly it is the brashness of the enemy himself to do that.  That is the Antichrist's spirit which is already at work in the world.  It’s... It's the mystery of lawlessness that is already at work.

Ultimately it culminates in the final Antichrist.  But there are many, many who today demonstrate the attitude of Antichrist. There is a powerful, supernaturally energized, antichrist attitude that pervades the world.  It is part of Satan's attack on Christ.  You see, the plan of Satan is to keep the world from accepting Christ and His work, to keep the world sufficiently deceived so that they are not saved.  And then ultimately to bring his own false Christ, the culmination of all the antichrist attitude, namely the...the man of sin, the son of perdition and thus bring about the ultimate and final deception.

We're learning about this man and his career in this chapter.  Satan, we know, is a liar and a deceiver and the father of lies.  He disguises himself as an angel of light and his emissaries are equally disguised in the same way.  They, like him, are deceitful workers and their primary deception is to lie about Christ. That is why inevitably false religions have an errant Christology.  False religions tell lies about Christ.

In 2 John verse 7 it says, "Many deceivers have gone out into the world. Those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, this is the deceiver and the Antichrist."  So he tells you right there the antichrist attitude is a denial of Jesus Christ as God in human flesh.  And so again I say, inevitably false religious systems always attack the person and the work of Christ.  All of them, all false religions, hold to a salvation by works or ceremonial ritual or effort and that denies the work of Christ, who alone can save.  And all of them have a skewed view of Christ.  To some He is an angel. To some He is some kind of an elevated emanation, to others He is a glorious man and so on and so on. To some He is a prophet of God.  Always the antichrist spirit attacks the reality of Christ and His work.

Finally and ultimately, that attitude will find its form in Antichrist, the final, great, satanic, religious leader of the world.  When he comes he will be the consummate enemy of Christ.  He will be the greatest deceiver the world has yet experienced, the greatest human deceiver, who will lead the whole world to worship him and not the true Christ.  In fact, just by way of reminder, look for a moment at Revelation chapter 13.  Revelation chapter 13 and verse 4 it mentions him, calling him the Beast.  And of the Beast, it says in verse 5, “There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.”  He has a forty-two-month or a three-and-a- half-year career.  It was given to him, verse 7, to make war with the saints and overcome them and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.

So he literally rules the whole world.  He is a powerful, powerful figure.  Verse 8 says, and here's the key, "All who dwell on the earth will worship him."  He literally gains the worship of the whole world; all of those whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the Book of Life of the Lamb who has been slain.  Anybody who is not a believer, anybody who is not in Christ will worship this ultimate Antichrist.

Further into the chapter it tells that he will by the enabling of Satan and through the instrumentation of the false prophet, who is his henchman, perform all kinds of deceptive signs and those deceptive signs, of course, will increase his attractiveness and be the reason why the whole world falls down to worship him.  And eventually he controls everybody.  Verse 16, "Small and great, rich and poor, free and slaves, they all bear his mark on their right hand or on their forehead and they are all a part of his operation."

This Antichrist then literally captures the world.  He becomes a religious and political leader that people really worship as God.  He starts his career — according to Daniel 9 and Matthew 24 — he starts his career by going into the temple in Jerusalem and there he desecrates the Holy of Holies, the altar, and then sets himself up as God, demands the whole world to worship him and they do because they are all given over to deception by God because they have rejected Christ.  So the final Antichrist is a man, a human being, energized by Satan, equipped to do some astounding things.  He pulls off the ultimate blasphemy in the temple of God, sets himself up as God.  The whole world worships him and he sucks the whole world to himself and therefore God judges them.  It is the Day of the Lord, you remember, that great judgment that comes to destroy Antichrist and with him the false prophet and all who followed him and cast them into the lake of fire forever and forever.

So the Antichrist is an important personality in redemptive history.  Now why is Paul writing about the Antichrist to these Thessalonians?  Well, because they were confused.  When he was with them he taught them about the return of Christ.  He taught them they had nothing to fear.  He taught them that Jesus would come and rapture them and take them out.  And then there would come the day of the Lord judgment, but they wouldn't be in the day of the Lord judgment, they wouldn't experience that judgment.  Somehow, however, they had come to think that perhaps they were already in the day of the Lord and somehow had missed the Rapture. What would make them think that?  Persecution, hostility toward them, difficulty.  But more than that, verse 2, somebody came along with a message and a false letter supposedly written by Paul and saying that there had come a supernatural spiritual word from God and Paul was preaching it and penning it and it was saying that the Day of the Lord has come, end of verse 2, and you're in it.   And panic set in and they were shaken and disturbed.

Why?  Because the Day of the Lord was a day of devastating world-wide judgment and damnation, and they didn't believe they were supposed to be in that.  And so the question would be...what happened to the rapture?  Why weren't we taken out?  Why weren't we rescued?  What's going on here?  And they were in a state of fear and doubt.  And so Paul writes to them with regard to the coming of the Lord and our gathering together to Him, namely the rapture.  And what he says to them is this: You couldn't have missed the rapture; you couldn't be in the Day of the Lord.  Why?  Because Antichrist hasn't come, and Antichrist has to come before the day of the Lord breaks loose. And Antichrist hasn't come, so how could you be in the Day of the Lord?

So he uses that event of the coming of Antichrist, which is a precursor to the Day of the Lord, as a way to show them the day of the Lord hasn't come.  Because it was obvious the Antichrist hadn't come, the abomination of desolations called the apostasy in verse 3 hadn't taken place.   The whole world certainly wasn't worshiping him.  That had not happened yet.  And so the reason he moves into this discussion of Antichrist is to show them that they cannot be in the day of the Lord to give them hope and encouragement that they will escape all of this stuff when the Lord does rapture them and they can still hope for that event to come.

So they had been in fear.  And as we looked at the text we noted that Paul was very concerned that they not be afraid.  He said, "I don't want you to be shaken and disturbed.  It's not necessary."  And so, he unfolds, starting in verse 3, a series of things to help them alleviate their fears.  There's no reason anybody who is a Christian should be afraid of the return of Christ, the coming of Christ, the end results of human history, the final day.  There shouldn't be any fear in our lives.  We should look with joy and hope and eagerness and exhilaration and happiness at that great time.  We have nothing to fear.  We're not going to be in the day of the Lord.  We're not going to become the victims of the Antichrist's deception.  We're not going to become pawns in Satan's great game against God.  We're not going to miss the rapture and somehow get swept away in condemnation.  That's not going to happen.

And so, starting in verse 3 Paul tells them a few things to keep in mind.  Number one, don't be deceived.  And we're just reviewing now.  Don't be deceived.  Verse 3, "Let no one in any way deceive you."  And he goes on to say you couldn't possibly be in the day of the Lord because the apostasy hasn't happened and the man of sin, or lawlessness hasn't been revealed, the son of destruction.  He has not yet opposed and exalted himself above every so-called god or object of worship.  He hasn't yet taken his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.  That hasn't happened.  So you couldn't possibly be in the Day of the Lord.  So don't be deceived.    And we would say to you folks, don't be deceived. As you look at the coming of Jesus Christ, don't let anybody concoct some kind of a theory that's going to take away your joy and your hope and your anticipation, something that's going to confuse you and shake you and remove your composure.

Secondly we noted, he said don't be forgetful.  In verse 5 he says, "Do you not remember that while I was still with you I was telling you these things?"  Don't let go of what you already know.  It's amazing to me, I've often said this to people, "Look, I don't mind if you doubt what you don't know, but don't doubt what you know.  Doubt your doubts, don't doubt what you know is true.  Hang onto what you've been taught."  That's what he's saying.  You know what I told you, don't you remember it?

I suppose one of the most traumatic things that can happen in the life of any believer is to forget things that are very essential to Christian growth and Christian encouragement.  And so he says hold onto those things. That means a constant review, a constant recitation in the mind, a constant effort to remember those things as you go over them over and over so that you cannot be easily deceived.

Thirdly he says to them, don't be ignorant.  And starting in verse 6 and running down to the middle of verse 10 he basically fills in the gaps about the Antichrist.  I don't want you to be ignorant because ignorance can lead to fear and doubt and questioning.  So, he says, I'll just tell you a few more things.  And he goes through the career of the Antichrist there a little bit, talking about his revelation, his power, his influence, and his ultimate destruction.  I don't want you to be ignorant because ignorance can lead to fear.  I don't want you to be forgetful because forgetting things you already know and I certainly don't want you to be victimized by some deception.

Fourthly then, in verse 10 right at the end there and down through verse 12, he says don't be unbelieving.  And here's a very important point.  He does say here that people who don't receive the love of the truth, end of verse 10, so as to be saved, will perish. And God will send them a deluding influence. They will believe what is false. They will be judged because they didn't believe the truth but took pleasure in wickedness.

So he's saying this, don't be unbelieving.  Don't be in the church but unsaved or you have every reason to fear because you will be perhaps around in the future when Antichrist comes and you will be victimized by his deception.  All the ungodly, all those who take pleasure in wickedness, all those who do not love the truth of the gospel so as to be saved are going to feel the judgment of God. And part of that judgment is the inability to understand the truth and being turned over by God to believe a lie.  Because of willful unbelief and refusal to love and obey the truth, there will come judicial unbelief and an inability to obey and believe the truth.

So if you want to look joyfully, he says, at the future, don't be deceived, or forgetful or ignorant or unbelieving.  Now let's come to a fifth, and this is the one that I think is so important for us today.  Don't be insecure.  Don't... You have no reason to be insecure.

I was listening to a conversation one time, a question and answer conversation with a pastor talking to various people asking questions. And one of the questions was this: What happens if Jesus returns and a believer is sinning?  The answer was: The believer goes to hell.  A follow-up question came: What happens if the Lord Jesus returns and someone who believes they’re a Christian has unconfessed sin in their life, sin they have committed in the past for which they have never sought by confession forgiveness, what happens?  The answer, same answer, they go to hell.

In other words, if Jesus comes and everything is not on perfect terms with Him, you go to hell.  Now that's a very, very frightening thing to believe.  I don't see how anybody who believed that kind of thing wouldn't live in fear all the time, because the fact of the matter is “if we say we have no sin we make God a liar.”  He didn't say, John didn't say in 1 John 1, if we say we have never sinned, he didn't say if we say we have not sinned, he said if we say now we have no sin we make God a liar.  At any given point in any Christian's life there will be some manifestation of his fallenness.  To say we have escaped that is to make God a liar.  And by the way, if you get in to Arminian theology... I believe that the reason Arminian theology has developed a perfectionistic viewpoint is to get people out of living in constant fear.  And so they have this theory that you can reach a point where you never sin anymore because they desperately need some plateau of security.   But the fact of the matter is there are people who believe that if you haven't confessed your sins and you've got some that are unconfessed or if you're caught sinning when Jesus comes, you're doomed and you've got to keep your accounts fresh all the time.  You sort of have to keep yourself saved.

And it may have been that some of that kind of thinking had gotten into the Thessalonian church and that they were thinking, you know, maybe this rapture deal went and we didn't see it because somehow we slipped out of salvation.  Somehow we got lost again.  Or maybe the Lord had planned a rapture but He cancelled it because...because there were so many defectors.  And we're all just going right into the Day of the Lord to be judged and condemned.

That thing could shake you from your composure.  That could disturb you, if you were afraid He might lose a hold of you, or you might lose your hold on Him.  Paul doesn't want anybody to think like that so he says this in verses 13 and 14, "We should always give thanks to God for you, brethren, beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth and it was for this He called you through our gospel that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."

What he says here is very simple.  He says when God chose you in eternity past from the beginning, He chose you to gain glory in Jesus Christ.  You're in the process of moving from salvation to glory because that's the plan.   So you don't have to fear you're going to get lost somewhere.  From the very beginning when God chose you, He chose you to be glorified.  You were elected to gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  You were elected to be as perfect as Christ is, as holy as Christ is, to stand in His presence undefiled, like Him.  That's what you were chosen for.  You weren't just chosen to be saved in time in the hope that you could make it; you were chosen to be glorified.  Salvation in time was simply an element in bringing that choice to its fruition.

Now let me show you the flow here.  You have a... You have the theology of salvation here in a microcosm.  First, he says we should always give thanks to God for you.  In other words, we're thankful to God for your salvation.  We're thankful to God that He saved you.  The thanks goes to Him because the saving was His work, right?  It's all God's work.  We don't thank you for being smart enough to do that, we thank God for saving you.  We should always be giving thanks to God for you because He saved you.

And then he takes the components of that work and he begins to delineate them.  First one, you are loved by the Lord. You are loved by the Lord.  He says in verse 13, "We should always give thanks to God for you, brethren, beloved by the Lord." That's where salvation began.  Do you understand that?  Your salvation began when God decided in eternity past to set His love on you.  This is where salvation begins in the sovereign... Here's a good word to remember, “uninfluenced,” undeserved initiating love of God.  Without any influence outside of Himself by anyone or anything, God predetermined to set His love on you.  And that's what Ephesians 1:3 and 4 says, "In love, having predestinated..."  God freely and uninfluenced set His love on you.  You were loved by the Lord.  That's where it all started.  Just like He said of Israel in the Old Testament, you were not greater than any other people but I determined to love you.  That's the only explanation.  You ask why.  You don't know why, that's just in God's own mind in His own plan. He determined to love you.  That's where your salvation was initiated.  You were loved by the Lord.

Secondly, you were chosen by the Lord.  Flowing out of that predetermination to love was a choice.  And it says in verse 13, "Brethren, beloved by the Lord," because God has chosen you.  We want to thank Him for loving you, and we want to thank Him for choosing you from the beginning for salvation.  God chose you from the beginning. That means eternity past. That's what Revelation 13:8 and 17:8 mean when it says your name was written in the Lamb's Book of Life from before the foundation of the world, Before time began God chose you before you were ever born, before man was ever made, God chose you.  Election is not an afterthought.  This choice is not a recent matter.  It isn't that God looks all over the world and picks out a few that He likes.  Sovereignly, designed in eternity rather, by God's own sovereign pleasure He chose.  This surpassing truth is all through Scripture.  That's why the New Testament calls the church “the elect.”  Even Israel is called “Israel, Mine elect.”  God chose them, too.  God chose us, we are the elect.  We're called the elect all through the New Testament.  In Matthew 24 Jesus says the time of the tribulation is shortened for the elect's sake.  In Romans 8:33 Paul says, "Who is going to lay any charge to God's elect?  It is God who justifies."  In other words, if God has chosen you and God has already made that choice and justified you, who is going to be able to go into heaven and bring an accusation against you that's going to force God to take your salvation away?  No one can do that.  God made the choice and the choice is fixed forever.

That's the point.  In Colossians chapter 3 and verse 12, a familiar little verse, "So as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved."  You have been chosen of God.  You are loved and you have been made holy.  This is the great truth Jesus articulated to His disciples in John 15 when He said, "You have not chosen Me. I have chosen you and ordained you that you should bear fruit."  He does the choosing based upon His love.

Now that doctrine of God's elective, sovereign, predestinating love crushes human pride, doesn't it?  Because it gives Him all the credit; it exalts Him.  It produces joy unspeakable because how wondrous to think that you've been chosen. It grants us privilege because we get with that the full and eternal inheritance.  It should promote our holiness for we who have been chosen by God to be His children should long to be like Him.

And then finally, and this is what Paul is after, it produces security.  If I have been chosen by God unto glory and if it's true and it is, Philippians 1:6, "He which has begun a good work in you will perform it till the day of Jesus Christ," then I am secure.  That's really what I was saying when I read to you Psalm 91. There is nothing that can get to the one who is loved by God and who is hidden in the refuge of God's own faithfulness.

So, divine love and choice lead to a third thing. We are loved by the Lord, he says, we are chosen by the Lord. Thirdly, we are transformed by the Lord.  Down in that same verse he says, "We have been chosen by God from the beginning for salvation which is accomplished through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth."  And there you have both the divine side and the human side.  Salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth; there are two elements, those two elements to salvation.

The first element is called sanctification by the Spirit.  What does that mean?  “Sanctified” means set apart, separated.  That simply means that the Holy Spirit — sovereignly, miraculously, and divinely — detaches you from sin.  A new inner man is created, separated from sin, detached from it.  It is the life of God within you; it is the divine nature that becomes yours.  It is holy and it longs for what is pure and holy and it delights in the law of God, as Romans 7 says.  It has holy aspirations and righteous longings.  That new creation on the inside is fit for heaven and fit for the presence of God because it is made holy.  It is detached from sin.  It's a new you.  You're regenerated, you're born again.  The old dies, a new is born.  And so that's the work of the Holy Spirit by which He separates you from sin and creates in you a holy nature.  That's His work.  Salvation is a divine miracle.

Some men were asking me this week, "What do you say to someone who wants to know how to be saved?"  I explain to them the gospel and ask them if they believe it; and if they believe in Jesus Christ.  And if they affirm that they do believe it, that they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, they acknowledge Him for who He is and what He's done, then I ask them to ask God to save them, not to pray a little formulized prayer but to ask God to save them, for only God, sovereignly and supernaturally can separate them from sin, detach them, create in them a new creation.  So rather than a formula is a prayer, "God, please save me, separate me from sin. Declare me righteous before You by the righteousness of Jesus Christ and plant that holy new inner man in me."  That's... That's the two-fold aspect.

So the Spirit actually separates us. The Spirit actually regenerates the inner man, setting him apart from sin to God, and then keeps that process going all through life.  So there is an initial separation sanctification and then there's continual separation as we gain victory over our flesh in which that new man is still incarcerated.

But the second component is faith in the truth.  And I mentioned that. That has to be there, too.  “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you'll be saved, and your household,” right?  Acts 16:31.  If you want salvation you must believe.  You must believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead and confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, that's the human response.  The divine transformation worked by the Spirit requires the element of faith, faith in the truth.  Therefore you have to hear the truth.  You remember it says in Romans 10, "How shall they hear without a (what?) preacher?"  You cannot be saved until you hear the truth.  The Spirit regenerates one who hears the truth, believes the truth.  So the work of the Spirit becomes operative through faith in the truth, the truth being the gospel and the Truth being Christ, for He too is the way, the truth and the life.

So Paul says God has eternally chosen you, chosen you purely on the basis of His love alone; brought that choice into reality by saving you in time through the powerful, transforming work of the Holy Spirit, who separated you from sin; your old life died, you were born brand new, regenerated into a new creation with holy desires; and to enact that He produced in you faith to believe the truth.  You've been in all that process, he says to the Thessalonians.  Loved, chosen, transformed.

Now that's not all, folks, there's a fourth element.  Chronologically it belongs before the third one.  Paul puts it in to verse 14, "And it was for this He called you through our gospel."  He reaches back and gives us something before even your salvation and that was you were called.  What's he talking about?  This call, now follow very carefully, this call is what we call an effective call, an efficacious call.  It worked.  It is what theologians call "irresistible grace."  This call is when God's Holy Spirit called you to Himself and you couldn't resist.  This is what gave you the truth to believe and the will to believe it.  For by grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it's a gift of God.  The natural man cannot believe even though he hears the gospel, unless the call is not just something he hears but something that turns his heart.  The gospel then came to you.  And when it came to you it wasn't just words and facts, it was power. It was a transforming call.  It...  It really changed you.

Back in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, "We thank God that when you received from us the Word of God's message, you accepted it, not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the Word of God,” listen, “which also energeia, energizes its work in you who believe."  So he says you also were called by the Lord, a saving call.  That's what activated your otherwise dead faith.

So, he says to the Thessalonians, you were loved by the Lord, you were chosen by the Lord.  At the appropriate time you were irresistibly called by the Lord.  And in response to that you were transformed by the Lord.  He's been doing all of this.  He's been working all this through and this leads to his final point, end of verse 14, "In order that," is what it means, "In order that, or for the ultimate purpose that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."  Why did He love you?  To bring you to glory.  Why did He choose you?  To bring you to glory.  Why did He call you?  To bring you to glory.  Why did He transform you, save you?  To bring you to glory.  Do you think that somehow you're going to slip through the cracks?  This is a firm statement about the security of the believer, loved and chosen and called and transformed in order to be glorified.  When it started out in eternity past and God said, "I choose so-and-so," He didn't say I choose them to be saved, I choose them to believe, He said I choose them to be glorified, I choose them to be made like My Son, “that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,” “that you may be like Him for you shall see Him as He is.”

And what is going to separate you from the love of God in Christ?  Nothing, right?  Nothing.  Not principalities, or powers, not things present or things to come, not height nor depth, not any other creation, Romans 8 says, nothing.  Absolutely nothing can cause the process to default.

You say, "Well, what if I'm not deserving?"  You never have been and you aren't now and you never will be.  And you certainly weren't when God made the choice.  There is no need to be insecure.   There's no need to be fearful about the return of Christ.  There's no need to be anxious, thinking God may have missed you and here you are caught in the Day of the Lord and you're going to get judged and swept away, or somehow you defaulted and God let you go and now you're lost.  Or maybe God doesn't remember you're even around, He's got so many people on His list, a few names somehow escaped Him.  No.  Don't be insecure.  You were not destined for judgment, you were destined for glory.  You are not to be included with those who will be deceived and judged.  Before the world began God loved you and chose you and called you and transformed you in time in order to make you one of His sons of glory. In leading many sons to glory, the plan is completed.

Those who are unbelieving, they have a reason to fear the judgment of God to come, the Day of the Lord, should they be alive then.  The ignorant, they have cause to fear, they just don't know enough not to fear.  The forgetful, they have reason to fear too because they can't remember what they should know; and the deceived probably have reason to fear too because they've been confused.  But there's no need for that because the Word of God gives us ample instruction to take away any fear.

And then a final word, and in this final word he adds one more exhortation, don't be weak. Don't be weak.  With everything I've given you, "So then, brethren," verse 15, "stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or by letter from us."  And this is just a sort of a summation, direct exhortation to the Thessalonians.  So then, brethren, stand firm.  Don't be weak.  Don't be vacillating.  Hold your ground. Stay upright, don't waver. Don't be fearful. Don't be doubtful. Don't be insecure. Don't be agitated.  Stand firm and hold.  That simply means to exert strength with your grip so something can't be pulled away from you.  Hold on.  To what?  To the traditions which you were taught, whether by word...word of mouth, or by letter from us.

Now when we hear the word "traditions" we might get a little confused here.  What's he mean?  He means the message from God, divine revelation. The word “tradition” has come to mean a lot to us, it usually means a whole lot of stuff that's concocted in some kind of culture, religious or social, that gets passed down from generation to generation. And in our vernacular that's usually what the word “tradition’ means.  We talk about tradition as something that's no revelatory. We say on the one hand there's the Bible, on the other hand there's tradition. And so maybe we see those two juxtaposed when they shouldn't be. The word tradition in the Greek means literally “things handed down.”  That's all it means.  Things handed down.  And what he is saying then in that sense is this, stand firm and hold onto the things handed down, the things handed down through teaching by word and letter from us.  That's divine revelation, my friend.  In the Pauline letters and the revelation God gave him which he preached to them, the oral things and the written things. The oral things, by the way, that God inspired have been recorded for us in the gospels and in the book of Acts.  The written are in all the epistles.

So he says whatever God has passed down through the apostles, through me, whether oral or written, is the authoritative teaching from God handed to you. Stand firm and hold on to it, hold your ground.  And if you do that, if you do that obviously you're not going to be deceived and you're not going to be forgetful, and you're not going to be ignorant and you're not going to be unbelieving and you're not going to be insecure if you'll just get a grip on the revelation of God that's been given to you, doctrinal instruction, authoritative teaching.

There is the use of the word “tradition” in the New Testament to refer to human tradition.  It's used in Matthew 15 to speak of the tradition of the elders, which was manmade stuff passed down by the Pharisees.  And then in Colossians 2:8 there's a phrase, "the tradition of men," which is used of Gentile philosophy.  So the Jews had their religious tradition. That is true.  And the Gentiles have their philosophical tradition that they hand down from generation to generation, human wisdom.  He's not talking about those kinds of traditions.  He's talking about that which is handed down from God to the apostles to the church.  Hold on to that, doctrinal instruction.

In 1 Corinthians 11 verse 2 it's used and I think it's used in a way that will help you to understand that.  He says, "I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions just as I delivered them to you."  He's talking about the apostolic doctrine, the apostles' teaching, which was essential to the life of the church.  That kind of message handed down, not some human tradition.

Now today for us the apostolic message handed down is in this book.  As I said, in the gospels and Acts we have the record of what was spoken.  In the epistles we have what was written.  And this is the once for all delivered to the saints faith. This is, Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:20, he said, this, Timothy, is what you must guard.  “Oh Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you."  And then in the 2nd epistle of Timothy, chapter 1 verse 14, "Guard through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us the treasure which has been entrusted to you."  It is the tradition that came down, that was handed down from God to the apostles to the church.  Now he says if you do this, you stand firm and hold onto the word of the living God which you've been given, you're not going to waver and be confused and ignorant and insecure.

And then he closes this central part of the letter with a benediction which is really a prayer wish in verses 16 and 17.  "Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word."  This is very simple.  He's just saying I know one thing for sure, no matter what I say you don't have the human ability to make it operative so I want to ask God to effect all this in your life.  And here we come to that mysterious and wonderful reality that even though we are commanded to obey and we are commanded to respond, in the human flesh we don't have the capability and so it depends on God to energize that response through us.  That's the mystery of the Christian life.

So he says I'm going to ask the Lord in this prayer wish, "May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father comfort and strengthen your hearts." That's the main thrust, taking out the modifying clauses.  I want God to encourage you in the midst of your being shaken and discomforted.  And I want God to strengthen you to hold on.

I don't want to exegete this benediction and prayer because it's so self-evident, but I do want to mention a couple of things.

First, would you please note there's a pronoun, "Himself," that is in the emphatic position.  It could read, "Now may Himself our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father."  Quite interesting.    Here's another very strong statement about the deity of Christ.  The mention of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, before the Father, also emphasizes their equality.  But what really solidifies it, if they're both the source of comfort and their both the source of strength and the Son is mentioned first, then we could understand that they must be one and the same.  What really solidifies it is a singular pronoun, “Himself,” used to refer to both of them.  “And may Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father.”  And so this equates God and Christ, again the major message of Christianity, God is revealed in Jesus Christ.  That is what the spirit of Antichrist always attacks.

And then it says, "May Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father,” describing Him, “who has loved us."  That takes us all the way back again to what makes it all happen, He loves us and He has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace.  He's talking about salvation there.  He loved us and He granted to us eternal encouragement and a good hope and He did it all by grace.  He's talking about our salvation.  So He says, "May God and Christ who loved us in eternity past and in time and who granted to us gracious salvation, may that God, that saving God who had the power to redeem us, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word."  May the same God whose power was demonstrated in our salvation be demonstrated in our obedience.

He has then summed it up.  You don't need to be discouraged.  You don't need to be shaken.  You need to be hopeful and joyous, anticipating the rapture, the return of Jesus Christ for those who love Him.  You don't need to fear being lost in judgment and caught up in the day of the Lord, it isn't going to happen. It can't happen.  I want you to get above this stuff.  I want you to live lives that are strong and courageous.  I want you to be encouraged and I'm going to ask God to do the work that produces that in your life.  He says "comfort." That means encouraged.  “Strength,” an interesting word, stērizō, from which we get steroids, source of strength and power.  And I want Him to strengthen your heart, that's the inner man, your mind, what moves you, what makes you think and act and react in every good work and word; both in what you do, your deed, and in what you say, your speech.  So may God empower you in what you do and what you say to be strong and bold and immovable and stable and fixed and mature and not shaken.

And thus he closes this, the heart of his epistle.  We have nothing to fear, beloved, and everything to hope for.  And I pray for you the same thing, that as you look at the future the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father, who had the power through grace to save you, will grant you graciously and powerfully to be comforted and strengthened in your own hearts so that you do everything that is good and say everything that is good until Jesus comes.  There's no reason to live with anything other than a joyous hope for what awaits us.

Father, thank You this morning that You have drawn us to again thank You because everything we have comes from You.  You gave us salvation and You gave us a salvation that was eternal.  We bless You for that.  I pray that no one here will be shaken or worried or fearful in the future but that they might look at the future with hope and anticipation because they know the truth, they know the Savior and they know salvation is eternal and that they are destined for glory.  And I pray that as we await the time when Jesus comes, that we may be strong and bold and courageous and unshaken and immovable because we are comforted, encouraged and strengthened by Your power in everything we do and everything we say.  May we be, as we sung this morning, soldiers, strong, bold and effective as we live for the One who someday will come to take us to be with Him forever.  Until that day may we know Your power and Your comfort in Christ's dear name.  Amen.

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