I don’t dislike it, I don’t have theological objections to it, and I’m not worried that it is going to lead us astray. It is the word of God, after all. We all believe that All Scripture is inspired by God, breathed-out by Him, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness so that we can be equipped for every good work. We believe it – that’s why we’re call Sunday School at our church "Equipping Hour," so that we can study God’s word, and get equipped.
But this book is not like the Acts of the Apostles, or the Gospel of John, or Ephesians, or Romans. You know: when John MacArthur wrote his commentary for Romans, it turned into two 500-page volumes. When he wrote the commentary on this letter, it was so small that it also included the second letter to the Thessalonians – and together that volume is about 300 pages long. If we surveyed this class, or maybe the pastors we read and respect, I’ll bet this book doesn’t come up in the top half of the books of the Bible regarding its influence or its depth.
If I had to guess, there are two reasons for this. The first one, which we haven’t gotten to in the text yet, is that this book talks about the end of all things in Jesus’ second coming. In that, because it says more than, “Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will Come Again,” it will open up a lot of conjecture and questions which, it seems to me, the Bible ultimately doesn’t intend to answer. It will make us mindful of the intention God has to bring all things to a conclusion. He will make Christ King above all Kings and Lord above all Lords, and the judge of the living and the dead, but we tend to want a lot more than that from our eschatology. I can understand why a pastor doesn’t want to make a ministry out of threading the eye of that needle.
The second reason this book doesn’t get a lot of attention is sort of ironic, given the first reason. It doesn’t get a lot of attention because it is a somewhat-mundane book. The word “justification” makes no appearances in this book. “Propitiation” is not mentioned. “Sacrifice” isn’t given any consideration. “Grace” is mentioned only as part of Paul’s greeting and farewell. God’s sovereignty and omniscience is not extolled. In some sense, it’s hard to see that Paul wrote this book at all since whatever it is he is talking about here makes no direct reference to the great and good theology he presents to us in other places – the places we enjoy more, the places where we feel like our roots as a “Reformed” people run deep and draw their best nourishment from.
This is a commonplace book. But somehow, it winds up in the Bible as Scripture. That, it itself, ought to be a lesson to us when we consider Paul’s view of scripture. If we all believe that all Scripture is inspired by God, breathed-out by Him, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness so that we can be equipped for every good work, then there is a use for a book like this one which winds up getting only a minor representation in our systematic theology.