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2. The Man of Lawlessness

1Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him; 2to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand; 3let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, 4he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God. 5Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. 7For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. 8And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming; 9even he, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: 12that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 13But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: 14whereunto he called you through our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours. 16Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

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Apostasy Foretold. (a. d. 52.)

13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:   14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.   15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

Here observe, I. The consolation the Thessalonians might take against the terrors of this apostasy, v. 13, 14. For they were chosen to salvation, and called to the obtaining of glory. Note, When we hear of the apostasy of many, it is matter of great comfort and joy that there is a remnant according to the election of grace which does and shall persevere; and especially we should rejoice if we have reason to hope that we are of that number. The apostle reckoned himself bound in duty to be thankful to God on this account: We are bound to give thanks to God always for you. He had often given thanks on their behalf, and he is still abounding in thanksgiving for them; and there was good reason, because they were beloved by the Lord, as appeared in this matter—their security from apostatizing. This preservation of the saints is owing,

1. To the stability of the election of grace, v. 13. Therefore were they beloved of the Lord, because God had chosen them from the beginning. He had loved them with an everlasting love. Concerning this election of God we may observe, (1.) The eternal date of it—it is from the beginning; not the beginning of the gospel, but the beginning of the world, before the foundation of the world, Eph. i. 4. Then, (2.) The end to which they were chosen—salvation, complete and eternal salvation from sin and misery, and the full fruition of all good. (3.) The means in order to obtaining this end—sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth. The decree of election therefore connects the end and the means, and these must not be separated. We are not the elected of God because we were holy, but that we might be holy. Being chosen of God, we must not live as we list; but, if we are chosen to salvation as the end, we must be prepared for it by sanctification as the necessary means to obtain that end, which sanctification is by the operation of the Holy Spirit as the author and by faith on our part. There must be the belief of the truth, without which there can be by true sanctification, nor perseverance in grace, nor obtaining of salvation. Faith and holiness must be joined together, as well as holiness and happiness; therefore our Saviour prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail (Luke xxii. 32), and for his disciples (John xvii. 17), Sanctify them by thy truth; thy word is truth.

2. To the efficacy of the gospel call, v. 14. As they were chosen to salvation, so they were called thereunto by the gospel. Whom he did predestinate those he also called, Rom. viii. 30. The outward call of God is by the gospel; and this is rendered effectual by the inward operation of the Spirit. Note, Wherever the gospel comes it calls and invites men to the obtaining of glory; it is a call to honour and happiness, even the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glory he has purchased, and the glory he is possessed of, to be communicated unto those who believe in him and obey his gospel; such shall be with Christ, to behold his glory, and they shall be glorified with Christ and partake of his glory. Hereupon there follows,

II. An exhortation to stedfastness and perseverance: Therefore, brethren, stand fast, v. 15. Observe, He does not say, "You are chosen to salvation, and therefore you may be careless and secure;" but therefore stand fast. God's grace in our election and vocation is so far from superseding our diligent care and endeavour that it should quicken and engage us to the greatest resolution and diligence. So the apostle John having told those to whom he wrote that they had received the anointing which should abide in them, and that they should abide in him (in Christ), subjoins this exhortation, Now abide in him, 1 John ii. 27, 28. The Thessalonians are exhorted to stedfastness in their Christian profession, to hold fast the traditions which they had been taught, or the doctrine of the gospel, which had been delivered by the apostle, by word or epistle. As yet the canon of scripture was not complete, and therefore some things were delivered by the apostles in their preaching, under the guidance of the infallible Spirit, which Christians were bound to observe as coming from God; other things were afterwards by them committed to writing, as the apostle had written a former epistle to these Thessalonians; and these epistles were written as the writers were moved by the Holy Ghost. Note, There is no argument hence for regarding oral traditions in our days, now that the canon of scripture is complete, as of equal authority with the sacred writings. Such doctrines and duties as were taught by the inspired apostles we must stedfastly adhere to; but we have no certain evidence of any thing delivered by them more than what we find contained in the holy scriptures.

Apostolic Prayer. (a. d. 52.)

16 Now 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,   17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

In these words we have the apostle's earnest prayer for them, in which observe,

I. To whom he prays: Our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father. We may and should direct our prayers, not only to God the Father, through the mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ, but also to our Lord Jesus Christ himself; and should pray in his name unto God, not only as his Father but as our Father in and through him.

II. From what he takes encouragement in his prayer—from the consideration of what God had already done for him and them: Who hath loved us, and given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, v. 16. Here observe, 1. The love of God is the spring and fountain of all the good we have or hope for; our election, vocation, justification, and salvation, are all owing to the love of God in Christ Jesus. 2. From this fountain in particular all our consolation flows. And the consolation of the saints is an everlasting consolation. The comforts of the saints are not dying things; they shall not die with them. The spiritual consolations God gives none shall deprive them of; and God will not take them away: because he love them with an everlasting love, therefore they shall have everlasting consolation. 3. Their consolation is founded on the hope of eternal life. They rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and are not only patient, but joyful, in tribulations; and there is good reason for these strong consolations, because the saints have good hope: their hope is grounded on the love of God, the promise of God, and the experience they have had of the power, the goodness, and the faithfulness of God, and it is good hope through grace; the free grace and mercy of God are what they hope for, and what their hopes are founded on, and not on any worth or merit of their own.

III. What it is that he asks of God for them—that he would comfort their hearts, and establish them in every good word and work, v. 17. God had given them consolations, and he prayed that they might have more abundant consolation. There was good hope, through grace, that they would be preserved, and he prayed that they might be established: it is observable how comfort and establishment are here joined together. Note therefore, 1. Comfort is a means of establishment; for the more pleasure we take in the word, and work, and ways of God, the more likely we shall be to persevere therein. And, 2. Our establishment in the ways of God is a likely means in order to comfort; whereas, if we are wavering in faith, and of a doubtful mind, or if we are halting and faltering in our duty, no wonder if we are strangers to the pleasures and joys of religion. What is it that lies at the bottom of all our uneasiness, but our unsteadiness in religion? We must be established in every good word and work, in the word of truth and the work of righteousness: Christ must be honoured by our good works and good words; and those who are sincere will endeavour to do both, and in so doing they may hope for comfort and establishment, till at length their holiness and happiness be completed.