The language of this section recalls the prayer at the beginning of 1 Thessalonians.
It is almost as if Paul is returning to the place where he began, creating a natural conclusion to this pair of letters. Paul here expresses his concern that the believers in Thessalonica not deviate from the path on which he has placed them.
Read 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17. Why does Paul thank God for the Thessalonians? What does he ask them to do in this passage? In what ways are these words so pertinent to us today, so near the end?
The lives of the Thessalonians provided evidence to Paul that they had been chosen as “first fruits to be saved” (ESV).Some translations say “from the beginning.” Though salvation is a gift, the believer experiences it through sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth. The life of the believer is more than just a subjective experience; it is solidly grounded in truth.
That is why Paul is so concerned that the Thessalonians hold to the doctrines they have been taught, both by letter and the spoken word. People’s grasp of truth often slips with the passage of time, which is why we must always be affirmed by those who preach and teach us.
In the early days of the church, there was even a preference for oral tradition over written tradition. Oral tradition is less subject to unintentional distortion. Tone of voice and gestures communicate meaning more accurately than do words on a page. This is why preaching as a method of communication never grows old.
But written tradition, as in the letters of Paul, is less subject to intentional distortion by those who would alter the gospel for their own purposes. The written word provides a secure and unchangeable norm by which one can test the oral messages that come through preaching. In the book of Acts, the Bereans were commended because they combined attention to the oral messages with careful examination of the Scriptures (Acts 17:11).
Read again the texts for today. So many forces are always at work trying to pry us away from the truth. Look at how you have changed over time. Do these changes reveal a slow, steady settling into the truth or slow, steady movement away from it? In other words, in what direction is your life moving?