2 Thessalonians 2:15
Therefore, brothers, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word, or our letter.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) Therefore, brethren, stand fast.—Such an exhortation is, in itself, conclusive against a theory of irreversible predestination. “Because God chose you from eternity, and called you in time, therefore stand your ground.” If it were impossible for them to quit their ground, it would be needless to exhort them to maintain it. If it were possible for them to quit their ground, and yet be as well off after all, it would be needless also. At the same time, the “therefore” draws a conclusion, not from 2Thessalonians 2:14 alone, but sums up the whole disquisition of the chapter: “Now that you are reminded of the true Advent doctrine.”

Hold the traditions.—The very same word as in Mark 7:3-4; Mark 7:8, “holding the tradition of the elders;” also in the same metaphorical sense in Colossians 2:19; Revelation 2:13. The action expressed is a vigorous and pertinacious grasp, as (for instance) of the lame man clutching the Apostles in Acts 3:11. St. Chrysostom remarks: “It is plain from hence that they used not to deliver all their tradition by letter, but much without writing besides, and that both are equally worthy of belief. Therefore, let us consider the Church’s tradition worthy of belief. It is tradition: ask no further questions.” What were these “traditions” which it was so essential to keep? The context shows that the particular traditions which were most consciously in St. Paul’s mind at the moment, were his eschatological teachings, given to them while he was among them—the lore of which he has been briefly reminding them in this chapter (2Thessalonians 2:5-6): for the exhortation is practically a resumption of that given in 2Thessalonians 2:2-3. “Instead of being seduced by the forgers of prophecies or of communications from us, remember the careful instructions we gave you once for all.” At the same time, he speaks generally, and we must not limit his words to that particular tradition. Whatever can be traced to apostolic-origin is of the essence of the faith. They are to “hold tenaciously” all his traditions, and these would include instructions doctrinal (as 1Corinthians 15:3; Jude 1:3), ceremonial (1Corinthians 11:2; 1Corinthians 11:23), and moral (2Thessalonians 3:6; 2Peter 2:21). As a matter of controversy, it is not so remarkable that he should exhort his converts to cling to his own oral teaching (“whether by word”) as that he should at so early a period call their special attention to what was gradually to supplant (at least, in doctrinal matters) all independent unwritten tradition—the Holy Scripture (“our Epistle”). St. Paul can speak on occasion as contemptuously of the “traditions of men” as our Lord did (Colossians 2:8). Of course, it depends entirely on the individual character of any tradition whether, and to what extent, it is to be “held” or condemned as “human.” In the Church no mutually contradictory traditions can be held together’; and therefore any tradition “by word” which is in disagreement with the written tradition (i.e., Scripture) stands necessarily condemned.

By word, or our epistle.—The “our” belongs to both:” whether by word or epistle of ours.” Unless, St. Paul had written them some other letter, now lost, this proves that the “First” Epistle was in reality the earlier written. “Have been taught” should be “were taught”—the historic tense.

2 Thessalonians 2:15-17. Therefore, brethren, stand fast — In your adherence to the truth and possession of the grace of the gospel; and hold — Without adding to or diminishing from them; the traditions which ye have been taught — The instructions which have been delivered to you; whether by word — When we were present with you; or our former epistle — He preached to them before he wrote, and he had written concerning the things which he wished them to hold fast in his former epistle. The name traditions is here given by the apostle “to the doctrines and precepts of the gospel, on a double account; first, because they were delivered by Christ and by the Spirit to the apostles, merely on the authority of revelation; and, secondly, because the apostles delivered them to the world on the same authority, without attempting to prove them by any other argument. And this precept, hold the traditions, applies to no instructions or directions but those which the apostles and other inspired teachers delivered to the world as revelations from God. And though the inspired teachers, to whom these doctrines were revealed, communicated them to the world first of all by word of mouth, they cannot now be known to be theirs, but by their holding a place in those writings which are allowed to be the genuine productions of these inspired teachers. The traditions, therefore, on which the Church of Rome lays so great a stress, are of no manner of value.” Now our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father — Here again, as in 1 Thessalonians 3:11, prayer is addressed by the apostle to Christ as well as to the Father, and in the same words; who hath loved us — As a father loves his children; and hath given us everlasting consolation — Hath opened to us the sources thereof in his gospel, or furnished us with the means of it; and of good hope — That is, a well-grounded hope, namely, of the glorification of both our bodies and souls; through grace — 1st, Justifying us, and entitling us to that felicity; 2d, Sanctifying us, and preparing us for it; and, 3d, Strengthening us, and enabling us to withstand our spiritual enemies, and do and suffer the will of God to the end, and thereby bringing us to it. Comfort your hearts — Under all the afflictions you endure for the gospel; and establish you in every good word and work — That is, in every good doctrine and practice, in opposition to all the efforts of your enemies to seduce you, whether visible or invisible. 2:13-15 When we hear of the apostacy of many, it is a great comfort and joy, that there is a remnant according to the election of grace, which does and shall persevere; especially we should rejoice, if we have reason to hope that we are of that number. The preservation of the saints, is because God loved them with an everlasting love, from the beginning of the world. The end and the means must not be separated. Faith and holiness must be joined together as well as holiness and happiness. The outward call of God is by the gospel; and this is rendered effectual by the inward working of the Spirit. The belief of the truth brings the sinner to rely on Christ, and so to love and obey him; it is sealed by the Holy Spirit upon his heart. We have no certain proof of any thing having been delivered by the apostles, more than what we find contained in the Holy Scriptures. Let us then stand fast in the doctrines taught by the apostles, and reject all additions, and vain traditions.Therefore - In view of the fact that you are thus chosen from eternity, and that you are to be raised up to such honor and glory.

Stand fast - Amidst all the temptations which surround you; compare the notes on Ephesians 6:10-14. And hold the traditions which ye have been taught On the word "traditions," see the notes on Matthew 15:2. It means properly things delivered over from one to another; then anything orally delivered - any precept, doctrine, or law. It is frequently employed to denote that which is not written, as contradistinguished from that which is written (compare Matthew 15:2), but not necessarily or always; for here the apostle speaks of the "traditions which they had been taught by his epistle;" compare the notes, 1 Corinthians 11:2. Here it means the doctrines or precepts which they had received from the apostle, whether when he was with them, or after he left them; whether communicated by preaching or by letter. This passage can furnish no authority for holding the "traditions" which have come down from ancient times, and which profess to have been derived from the apostles; because:

(1) there is no evidence that any of those traditions were given by the apostles;

(2) many of them are manifestly so trifling, false, and contrary to the writings of the apostles, that they could not have been delivered by them;

(3) if any of them are genuine, it is impossible to separate them from those which are false;

(4) we have all that is necessary for salvation in the written word; and,

(5) there is not the least evidence that the apostle here meant to refer to any such thing.

He speaks only of what had been delivered to them by himself, whether orally or by letter; not of what was delivered from one to another as from him. There is no intimation here that they were to hold anything as from him which they had not received directly from him, either by his own instructions personally or by letter. With what propriety, then, can this passage be adduced to prove that we are to hold the traditions which professedly come to us through a great number of intermediate persons? Where is the evidence here that the church was to hold those unwritten traditions, and transmit them to future times?

Whether by word - By preaching, when we were with you. It does not mean that he had sent any oral message to them by a third person.

Or our epistle - The former letter which he had written to them.

15. Therefore—God's sovereign choice of believers, so far from being a ground for inaction on their part, is the strongest incentive to action and perseverance in it. Compare the argument, Php 2:12, 13, "Work out your own salvation, FOR it is God which worketh in you," &c. We cannot fully explain this in theory; but to the sincere and humble, the practical acting on the principle is plain. "Privilege first, duty afterwards" [Edmunds].

stand fast—so as not to be "shaken or troubled" (2Th 2:2).

hold—so as not to let go. Adding nothing, subtracting nothing [Bengel]. The Thessalonians had not held fast his oral instructions but had suffered themselves to be imposed upon by pretended spirit-revelations, and words and letters pretending to be from Paul (2Th 2:2), to the effect that "the day of the Lord was instantly imminent."

traditions—truths delivered and transmitted orally, or in writing (2Th 3:6; 1Co 11:2; Greek, "traditions"). The Greek verb from which the noun comes, is used by Paul in 1Co 11:23; 15:3. From the three passages in which "tradition" is used in a good sense, Rome has argued for her accumulation of uninspired traditions, virtually overriding God's Word, while put forward as of co-ordinate authority with it. She forgets the ten passages (Mt 15:2, 3, 6; Mr 7:3, 5, 8, 9, 13; Ga 1:14; Col 2:8) stigmatizing man's uninspired traditions. Not even the apostles' sayings were all inspired (for example, Peter's dissimulation, Ga 2:11-14), but only when they claimed to be so, as in their words afterwards embodied in their canonical writings. Oral inspiration was necessary in their case, until the canon of the written Word should be complete; they proved their possession of inspiration by miracles wrought in support of the new revelation, which revelation, moreover, accorded with the existing Old Testament revelation; an additional test needed besides miracles (compare De 13:1-6; Ac 17:11). When the canon was complete, the infallibility of the living men was transferred to the written Word, now the sole unerring guide, interpreted by the Holy Spirit. Little else has come down to us by the most ancient and universal tradition save this, the all-sufficiency of Scripture for salvation. Therefore, by tradition, we are constrained to cast off all tradition not contained in, or not provable by, Scripture. The Fathers are valuable witnesses to historical facts, which give force to the intimations of Scripture: such as the Christian Lord's day, the baptism of infants, and the genuineness of the canon of Scripture. Tradition (in the sense of human testimony) cannot establish a doctrine, but can authenticate a fact, such as the facts just mentioned. Inspired tradition, in Paul's sense, is not a supplementary oral tradition completing our written Word, but it is identical with the written Word now complete; then the latter not being complete, the tradition was necessarily in part oral, in part written, and continued so until, the latter being complete before the death of St. John, the last apostle, the former was no longer needed. Scripture is, according to Paul, the complete and sufficient rule in all that appertains to making "the man of God perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2Ti 3:16, 17). It is by leaving Paul's God-inspired tradition for human traditions that Rome has become the forerunner and parent of the Antichrist. It is striking that, from this very chapter denouncing Antichrist, she should draw an argument for her "traditions" by which she fosters anti-Christianity. Because the apostles' oral word was as trustworthy as their written word, it by no means follows that the oral word of those not apostles is as trustworthy as the written word of those who were apostles or inspired evangelists. No tradition of the apostles except their written word can be proved genuine on satisfactory evidence. We are no more bound to accept implicitly the Fathers' interpretations of Scripture, because we accept the Scripture canon on their testimony, than we are bound to accept the Jews' interpretation of the Old Testament, because we accept the Old Testament canon on their testimony.

our epistle—as distinguished from a "letter AS from us," 2Th 2:2, namely, that purports to be from us, but is not. He refers to his first Epistle to the Thessalonians.

The former verses contained consolation, this is an exhortation: the apostle had assured them of their being elected and called, yet exhorts them to their duty. Assurance of salvation doth not encourage negligence; the apostle takes his argument from thence to quicken them:

Therefore, & c. And that which he exhorts them to is:

1. To stand fast; a military word, speaking as a captain to his soldiers; so 1 Corinthians 16:13 Ephesians 6:14; having before foretold a great apostacy that would come. Or because he had told them of the great glory they had been called to the obtaining of by the gospel, he exhorts them to stand fast, which implies a firm persuasion of mind and constant purpose of will, and stands opposite to hesitation and despondency.

2. To hold the traditions which they had been taught. The word tradition signifies any thing delivered to another; especially meant of doctrines. The Pharisees’ doctrine is called tradition, Matthew 15:3; and so the true doctrines of the gospel, being such as the apostles delivered to the people; as the doctrine of the Lord’s supper is said to be delivered, 1 Corinthians 11:23; and so Romans 6:13.

Whether by word, or our epistle; by word of mouth in public preaching, or private instruction. The apostle had both preached and written to these Thessalonians, before he wrote this Second Epistle. And that the papists should hence infer that there are matters of necessary consequence in religion, not contained in the Scriptures, is without ground. These they call traditions, some whereof are concerning faith, others concerning manners, others ritual, with respect to the worship of God, or the external polity of the church. But who can assure us what these are? What a door is here opened to introduce what men please into the church, under pretence of tradition! Who were the persons the apostle intrusted to keep these traditions? Why should he not declare the whole system of gospel truths he had received from Christ in writing, as well as part? Why should he conceal some things, when he wrote others? And doth not the apostle assure Timothy that All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof for correction, for instruction; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works? 2 Timothy 3:16,17. What need then traditions? And how can we know that they are by Divine inspiration, as we are assured all Scripture is? Our Saviour reproved the Pharisees about their traditions, when from hence they would observe and impose ceremonies of washing hands, cups, and platters, Matthew 15:2-6, yea, and by them make the commandments of God of none effect; which the apostle cautions the Colossians about, Colossians 2:8; and whereof Paul declares his zeal before his conversion, Galatians 1:14: and we find men’s zeal still more about them than moral duties, and express institutions of God’s worship. All the apostle’s doctrine,

whether by word or epistle, he calls by the name of traditions in the text here, and he commends the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 11:2, that they kept the traditions delivered to them; but were not they all committed to writing in some place or other of his Epistles? And which were, and which were not, who can be certain? And why should traditions be confined only to those things which the apostle did not write? He exhorts the Thessalonians to hold the traditions which they had been taught, whether by word or epistle. And if they hold them with strength, as the word is, by this means they would stand fast. Therefore, brethren, stand fast,.... In the doctrine of the Gospel in general, and in the article of Christ's second coming in particular, and not in the least waver about the thing itself, nor be shaken in mind, and troubled as if it was just at hand; and the rather it became them to be concerned that they stood fast in the truth, and persevered unto the end, since there was to be a falling away, and the mystery of iniquity was already working, and antichrist would shortly appear, whose coming would be with all deceivableness, of unrighteousness; and they had the greater encouragement to continue firm and unmoved, seeing they were chosen from eternity unto salvation through sanctification and belief of the truth, and were called in time by the Gospel to the enjoyment of the glory of Christ in another world.

And hold the traditions which ye have been taught: meaning the truths of the Gospel, which may be called traditions, because they are delivered from one to another; the Gospel was first delivered by God the Father to Jesus Christ, as Mediator, and by him to his apostles, and by them to the churches of Christ; whence it is called the form of doctrine delivered to them, and the faith once delivered to the saints: and also the ordinances of the Gospel which the apostles received from Christ, and as they received them faithfully delivered them, such as baptism and the Lord's supper; as well as rules of conduct and behaviour, both in the church, and in the world, even all the commandments of Christ, which he ordered his apostles to teach, and which they gave by him; see 2 Thessalonians 3:6. And so the Syriac version here renders it, "the commandments": and these were such as these saints had been taught by the apostles, under the direction of Christ, and through the guidance of his Spirit; and were not the traditions of men or the rudiments of the world, but what they had received from Christ, through the hands of the apostles:

whether by word, or our epistle, that is, by "our" word, as well as by our epistle, and so the Arabic version reads; these doctrines, ordinances, and rules of discipline were communicated to them, both by word of mouth, when the apostles were in person among them, and by writing afterwards to them; for what the apostles delivered in the ministry of the word to the churches, they sent them in writing, that they might be a standing rule of faith and practice; so that this does not in the least countenance the unwritten traditions of the Papists; and since these were what were taught them, "viva voce", and they received them from the mouth of the apostles, or by letters from them, or both, it became them to hold and retain them fast, and not let them go, either with respect to doctrine or practice.

{11} Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

(11) The conclusion: it remains then that we continue in the doctrine which was delivered to us by the mouth and writings of the apostles, through the free good will of God, who comforts us with an invincible hope, and that we also continue in all godliness our whole life long.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Thessalonians 2:15. Ἄρα οὖν] wherefore then, as such an end awaits you.

στήκετε] stand fast, comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:8. The opposite of σαλευθῆναι, 2 Thessalonians 2:2.

καὶ κρατεῖτε τὰς παραδόσεις] and hold fast to the traditions, instructions in Christianity. As κρατεῖν here (comp. Mark 7:3), so does κατέχειν τὰς παραδόσεις stand in 1 Corinthians 11:2.

ἃς ἐδιδάχθητε] See Winer, p. 204 [E. T. 284].

εἴτε διὰ λόγου] whether by oral discourse.

διʼ ἐπιστολῆς] refers to the First Epistle to the Thessalonians.2 Thessalonians 2:15. The divine purpose does not work automatically, but implies the cooperation of Christians—in this case, a resolute stedfastness resting on loyalty to the apostolic gospel. In view of passages like 1 Corinthians 11:23; 1 Corinthians 15:5, it is gratuitous to read any second-century passion for oral apostolic tradition into these words or into those of 2 Thessalonians 3:6.15. Therefore, brethren, stand fast) So then (R.V.), as in 1 Thessalonians 5:6 (see note): the practical conclusion in which the Apostle gathers up all he has been saying in this letter. “Since the Lord’s return is delayed and its time uncertain, and in prospect of the coming of Antichrist, whose deceptive influence is already secretly at work,—inasmuch as God by our means has made you heirs of His glorious kingdom—Stand Fast.” Comp. 1 Corinthians 15:58; Colossians 1:23,—where, as in this place, hope is the incentive to steadfastness.

and hold the traditions which ye have been taught] “Hold” is an emphatic word: stand firm and hold fast (Ellicott) gives the Greek sense more adequately.

In traditions which you were taught there is no suggestion of the Romanist idea of Tradition, conceived as an authority distinct from the written Word of God; for the Apostle continues, whether by word or latter of ours (the pronoun belongs to both nouns). He bids them hold by what he had taught, whether it came through this channel or that, provided it were really from himself (comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:2, and ch. 2 Thessalonians 3:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:17). He is now beginning to communicate with the Churches by letter, and stamps his Epistles with the authority of his spoken word. The sentence asserts the claim of the true Apostolic teaching, as against any who would “beguile” the Church away from it. Comp. 1 Corinthians 11:2 : “I praise you that in all things you remember us, and hold fast the traditions, even as I delivered them to you.”

The Apostle’s “traditions” included, besides doctrine, also the “charges” (or “commands”) he gave on matters of morals and practical life (ch. 2 Thessalonians 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:2). The body of Christian doctrine, brought to its finished form, he calls in his last letters “the deposit” (1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:14); while his practical teaching is “the charge” (or “commandment”), 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:18.2 Thessalonians 2:15. Ἄρα οὖν, therefore then) The conclusion.—κρατεῖτε, hold) adding nothing, subtracting nothing.—τὰς παραδόσεις, the traditions) I wish that those who are most urgent on the subject of Traditions, had also from this passage held, and would hold, the traditions which Paul has furnished in this chapter. Tradition is a very great benefit. God bestows traditions by means of the messengers of the Gospel. Paul taught many years before he began to write. Tradition is given either by speaking [comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:5] or by writing.—διʼ ἐπιστολῆς, by letter) He had written on this subject, 1 Thessalonians 4, 5.Verse 15. - Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions. Traditions generally denote statements orally delivered and reported; here the word denotes the apostle's instructions in Christianity, whether these are given by word of mouth or by letter. Which ye have been taught, whether by word; referring to the apostle's preaching when in Thessalonica. Or our Epistle; referring to the First Epistle to the Thessalonians. Traditions (παραδόσεις)

See on 1 Corinthians 11:2. Not emphasizing a distinction between written and oral tradition. Tradition, in the scriptural sense, may be either written or oral. It implies on the part of a teacher that he is not expressing his own ideas, but is delivering or handing over (παραδίδωμι) a message received from some one else. See 1 Corinthians 11:23. The prominent idea of παράδοσις is therefore that of an authority external to the teacher. Comp. by word nor by letter, 2 Thessalonians 2:2.

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