Verse of the Day Devotion. 2 Thessalonians 1:8
“Dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” – 2 Thessalonians 1:8
In this section of Paul’s second letter to the Church in Thessalonica, he speaks of two groups of people who will receive the judgement of God. But before this, let us look at the type of judgement to be meted out upon Christ’s second coming. “This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire,” 2 Thessalonians 1:5-7. The judgement of God will be a righteous judgement. Charles Spurgeon declares that “the clearest proof of the judgment to come is to be found in the present sufferings of the saints through persecutions and tribulations. For if they, for the very reason that they love God, have to suffer here, there must be a future state and time for rectifying all this that is now so wrong.” This was definitely true for Paul’s time when the Romans and Jews persecuted the true believers, but it will be just as true for our time as Christians will suffer due to antichristian leaderships around the world. What Paul is laying out is that if we will remain faithful during these persecutions, then those who are the source of these persecutions will pay an enormous penalty for their actions. However, when we get to our focus verse, we see the two groups that will experience the retribution of God; those who do not know God, along with those who do not obey the gospel.
The first group mentioned are those who do not know God. These are those who choose not to accept the fact there is a God, and thus do not know Him. They do not believe that the true God exists and thus will not take the time to know Him. These people either do not believe there is any gods out there at all, or they believe in another so called ‘god’ whom they worship and serve. This may be idols, or it may be themselves. They do not acknowledge the true God but worship another which fits their desires, or they reject the idea of any god.
Then there is the second group, “and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” 2 Thessalonians 1:8b. Now, this includes the first group which are the unbelievers. However, because of the word ‘and’, this also includes those who believe in the true God but refuse to obey the gospel. In other words, they claim to be true Christians, but continue to live their lives as before their claimed salvation experience. They say they have accepted Christ, but there is no evidence in that they continue to live as before. One way this is exhibited is in ‘antinomianism’ which comes from two Greek words, ‘anti’ and ‘nomianism’ meaning ‘against the law’. Theologically, antinomianism is the belief that there are no moral laws God expects Christians to obey. Antinomianism takes a biblical teaching to an unbiblical conclusion. The biblical teaching is that Christians are not required to observe the Old Testament Law as a means of salvation. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He fulfilled the Old Testament Law. The unbiblical conclusion is that there is no moral law God expects Christians to follow. In other words, they can continue to sin, for all their sins have been forgiven; past, present, and future. Paul addressed this in the sixth chapter of Romans. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” Romans 6:1-2.
And this idea is contrary to everything the Bible teaches. God expects Christians to live a life of morality, integrity, and love. Christ set us free from the burdensome Old Testament law, but that is not a license to sin. Rather, we have a covenant of grace with God. We are to do all we can to overcome sin and live righteously, depending on the Holy Spirit to help us. The fact that we are graciously freed from the demands of the Old Testament Law should result in us living our lives in obedience to the law of Christ. If we do not do this, then we are like the first group; not really knowing God. John lays this our perfectly. “My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments. The one who says, I have come to know Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” 1 John 2:1-6.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.