Saturday, 30 September 2017
Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 2 Thessalonians 2:5
Paul now takes time to upbraid the church at Thessalonica, and he does it in the form of a question. Further, in a change unique to this verse alone, he switches from the third person to the first person. Whereas he has been saying “we” to include Silvanus and Timothy, he now departs from that in his zeal to correct his audience and says, “I.”
He begins with, “Do you not remember.” It is a way of saying, “You obviously didn’t pay attention.” Jesus used this same type of questioning in order to rebuke the disciples, such as in Matthew 15:16. Paul has done it elsewhere as well, such as in his letters to the Romans and those at Corinth. Now, having chided them for not having remembered, and for instead having become shaken by someone’s introduction of false doctrine (see verse 2), he goes on to say, “that when I was still with you.”
As noted, he speaks here in the first person – “I personally was there, and I personally instructed you on this matter.” The frustration in Paul is obvious. He wanted soundness of mind for his beloved brethren, but they had instead been disturbed in their thinking because of the introduction of incorrect information. The situation here is similar to that of the book of Galatians. False teachers had come in and introduced false doctrine. In its reception, the church in Galatia had started down a bad path. Paul spent an entire letter attempting to get that heretical nonsense corrected. Now, he is writing a second letter to Thessalonica in order to do the same.
To finish the verse, he says, “I told you these things.” The word translated as “told” in the Greek is in the imperfect tense. In other words, “I repeatedly told you these things.” The use of the imperfect, when read by the church, would be an embarrassing moment for them. Paul had spoken of the end times as a core part of his doctrine, and one of the things he told them was that it would probably be a long time before the Lord returned. Further, before “the day of Christ” came, certain things would precede it.
If they had paid attention, they would not now be unsettled. The same imperfect tense is used in 1 Thessalonians 3:4 when reminding them that they would face tribulation. Paul and those with him didn’t just tell them this, they told them it often. The same is true with his words of end-times events. The entire thought of this verse is reminiscent of that of Hebrews 5:12 –
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” Hebrews 5:12
There are things which people hear, and of which they should pay close attention, but they instead take brain-naps while the instructor is imparting his wisdom to them. In this, they are only harming themselves.
Life application: It’s a real problem in Christianity today that people do not carefully read and study God’s word. People selectively pick and choose what they will read, or they simply listen to teachers who do not have the best in mind for their hearers. Thus, they become unsettled in their doctrine, and they are led very quickly down wayward paths. It is truly heartbreaking to see the amount of confusion over simple, straightforward doctrines. The timing of the Lord’s coming for His people, and the events which follow that, are carefully laid down for us if we will but open the book and look.
Lord God, why do we fail to pick up the word and study it for ourselves? Instead of doing a thorough evaluation of its teachings, we take your word in a piecemeal fashion, and we are prone to accept other’s faulty views without checking them out. If we do this with things like prophecy, how much more serious is it when we do it with the core doctrine of salvation? Have we got that right? Help us to be assured of our standing before You. It would be sad to find out we have that one wrong. Amen.