This is the sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany. The sermon text is: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17. The sermon text is: There Is More To God’s Word Here is the Written Sermon.
There Is More To God’s Word.
But wait! There’s more! If you’ve ever watched TV on Saturday morning or late at night, you’ve probably heard that phrase, “but wait! There’s more!” You hear those words in advertisements. They say “this knife is great. It cuts through tomatoes. But wait! There’s more! It also cuts through tin cans!”
In the words we are looking at this morning, in a very non-joking way, the apostle Paul is telling us this fact. There’s more to God’s word than you might have known. And so Paul tells us: “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13 NIV)
Paul told the Christians in Thessolonica that God had chosen them and saved them through belief in the truth. And here is where that phrase “But wait! There’s more!” comes true. God saves us through belief in the truth.1 Human trust is always shaky, isn’t it? We put our trust in many things here on this earth knowing that we can’t fully trust in them. You take your car to the mechanic trusting that he will fix it and charge the right amount of money. But you have no guarantee. Your tooth is causing you mass amounts of pain. So you go to the dentist trusting that he will be able to fix it. But you have no guarantee. At the very most in all these examples we put our trust in ourselves.
However, we trust in the truth of God’s word in a completely different way. You see, we trust in God’s word not because we are able to convince ourselves that it is true. We trust in God’s word because it convinces us that it is true. And that’s where we say “but wait! There’s more!” We all know that we as Christians are supposed to trust God’s word. But, what you probably haven’t thought about is that it is up to God’s word to prove to us that it is true. Or, to word it as Paul does here, “he chose us for salvation…through faith in the truth.”
But here is where there is that voice inside of every Christian which speaks up and shouts at us from the depths of our soul. If God’s word convinces me that it is true, then why do I doubt? If God, right here in these words is promising to me that I am saved from sin, death and the Devil, then why do I continually fear dying?
The answer to that question is very clear. You have a sinful nature. Adam and Eve rebelled in the garden. They abandoned God. And that hatred toward of God they passed down to us so that now, when God’s word promises something to us our natural reaction is to doubt. Our natural reaction is to be terrified. Our natural reaction is to despair.
But wait, my brothers and sisters, there’s more to know about God’s word than this. Yes, we have this sinful nature. And we will have it till our last day and last breath. But what else do we have? As Paul tells us, we have the Holy Spirit continually making us holy. We have the truth of God’s continually comforting and convincing our doubting and despairing hearts.
And so, my brothers and sisters, what a joy it is to know that there’s more there to learn about God’s word than we initially thought. We don’t convince ourselves that God’s word is truth. No, the truth of God’s word convinces us that it is true. But wait! There’s more to God’s word than this. It does much much more. Paul tells us: “He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:14 NIV)
God convinces us through his word. But what does he do? He calls us through his word too. Now, this word, call, is a very important word.2 It’s the picture of a king who wants someone. So what does he do? He sends one of his servants out to find the person he wants. The servant says to that person “The king wants you.” You can see then why this is a very fitting word for what we would call ‘conversion.’ We all were unbelievers. But then what happened? Jesus chose you from before the beginning of the world. He sent someone to speak this word to you. Oh, but here is where it gets interesting. Here is where we can say “but wait! There’s more!” The gospel, the good news doesn’t just let us know that there is a king. The gospel introduces us to the King. God’s word doesn’t just say “you need to be saved.” No, instead it also brings to us the salvation that Jesus won for us on the cross. God’s word doesn’t just offer to you the glory of God. It gives to you the glory of God.
My brothers, this fact that God calls you through the gospel is such an important fact. It is so vitally important because so many churches miss this point. So many teach and preach that Jesus died for your sins. But then they miss this great and wonderful truth here in these words. They say that you can only get it if you show enough effort. They say you can only get salvation if you show enough intellect. They say you can only get it if you show enough emotion.
There is more, my brothers and sisters. There is so much more to God’s word than what we might initially think is there. It is more and does more than we can grasp or imagine. So then, the words that Paul speaks in the next verse don’t surprise us at all: “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15 NIV)
Since there is so much more there in God’s word than we might expect, notice what Paul encourages his people to do. He encourages them to continually hold onto it. And here is where we see our own sin. Have you ever been waterskiing? Waterskiing is tough. It’s tough because you have to hold onto that rope with just the right balance when you start. But, what makes it even more difficult is that you need to continually and constantly keep holding onto it with all your strength. For, if you don’t, when that wave comes up, if you’re not holding on, you’ll let go and slam into a lake-full of water.
For us, as Lutherans, our sin isn’t as much that we fall into the trap of thinking that we can get to God by choosing him or earning him. No, we have learned from little on up what grace is—God’s undeserved love for us. No, instead, our sin is that God’s word is something we visit on Sunday mornings but let go of during the week. And so we preach, not with our mouths, but with our actions, that we are far more willing to watch the Steelers lose for three hours straight than sit down and see Jesus win against the Devil day after day. Paul, with urgency and sincerity tells you to hold onto God’s word. But you don’t. You don’t continually and constantly cling to his word by reading it and growing in it. There is more. God’s word shows us that there is more sin in us and it is more evil than we might have thought.
There’s so much more. There is so much more sin in us that we see. But, my brothers and sisters, there is so much more grace, mercy and forgiveness in Christ. This morning we see it so clearly in his word. Jesus doesn’t come to us and say “my word is true, now convince yourself that it is true.” No, just the opposite, he says “This is my word. Let it convince you!” He comes to us. But he doesn’t say “I made forgiveness available.” No, instead he says “I promise that you are forgiven.” He doesn’t say “let go of what was handed down to you.” No, instead he says “hold onto it.”
So then, my brothers and sisters, hold onto God’s word. Set aside time day by day to read God’s word because there’s more. Yes, there’s more to learn about your sin. But even more so, there is so much more to learn about God’s word. Here this morning you learn that God’s truth convinces you that your sins are forgiven and you have eternal. Here this morning you learn that God has called you through the gospel. Through the gospel in word and sacrament he has brought you into his kingdom. But, there is more. There is more that our Savior has done. And there is more that he does through his word. Set aside the place in your heart and the time in your day and read it! Hold onto it—constantly and continually. Amen.
1 εἰς σωτηρίαν ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος καὶ πίστει ἀληθείας
2 ἐκάλεσεν ὑμᾶς
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