Theological confusion has been a problem since the earliest days of Christianity. Even some of the incredible Christians at Thessalonica—who had endured great pain for their faith—were misled. With this in mind, Paul penned 2 Thessalonians with a focus upon Jesus’ return. His words are directly applicable today.
Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12. Reflect on 2 Thessalonians 2:1–2:
“Now we ask you, brothers, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to him, that you not be easily shaken from your composure, nor be troubled either by a spirit or by a message or by a letter alleged to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has arrived” (LEB).
In his first letter to Thessalonians, Paul had comforted the Thessalonian Christians—noting that Christians who had died would experience Jesus’ return. He furthermore noted that believers would be united with Christ in his return (1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:11). Now Paul reminds the Thessalonian Christians of this promise.
Some in the church at Thessalonica had been misled about Jesus’ return (compare 1 Thessalonians 5:1–3). Some believed that Jesus had already come again and that somehow they had missed his return. Based on Paul’s comments, it seems likely that this false teaching had been propagated as Paul’s own view. It may have even reached the Thessalonians via a forged letter. For these reasons, Paul teaches the Thessalonian Christians the correct view—Jesus has not returned yet—and signs the letter in a distinct way (2 Thessalonians 3:17).
Paul’s words offer us some counsel today. First, we must remember to not be misled by those who speculate about the date of Jesus’ return. It will come unexpectedly and no one will know the day or time (1 Thessalonians 5:2; Matthew 24:30). Second, we must remember that there is a distinction between truth and falsehood. Its mark is the Bible itself. If something cannot withstand the teachings of the Bible, it does not meet the qualifications for truth.
We must use discernment, to ensure that we are not misled. Theological confusion can easily come upon us. But reading the Scriptures in community—diligently seeking to understand their meaning based on their original context and languages—can ensure that we find our way. In these ways, we will ensure that we are not theologically misled.
Discernment is key to being Christian. If we are to practice our faith, we must understand exactly what our faith entails. It is not enough to merely desire justice and mercy for our world. It is not enough to merely want goodness. We must be people who can back our viewpoints with truth. We must ground our lives in truth itself. The Bible will be our guide.
What are some practical ways that you can measure truth—how can you discern it from falsehood? Why is discerning truth critical to your life as a Christian?
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