Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. (2 Thessalonians 2:15, NKJV)
Those who stand victoriously with Jesus Christ are “called, chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14). This relationship with Christ is precisely what the apostle Paul began to lay out for why he gave thanks to the Lord for his brethren (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). Today’s verse concludes his point with an exhortation to be faithful by standing fast and holding the apostolic traditions. We are not faithful to the Lord when we fail to seize and retain the teachings of His apostles. Their teaching (first spoken, then written) is the doctrine of Christ in which we must stand fast and not go beyond (2 John 9). It is the “pattern of sound words” from the apostles that is our standard of faithfulness (2 Timothy 1:13). To relinquish it for the creedal confessions men developed through the centuries (and the diverse doctrines they generated) is to abandon faithfulness to the “word of the truth of the gospel” that the apostles preached under Christ’s authority (Colossians 1:5-6; Matthew 28:18-20). Who ever said “church traditions” establish truth? Not the Lord Jesus, and not His apostles. Neither do we. Let us not be Catholic or Protestant, but simply Christians like followers of Jesus were in the New Testament. Like them, let us be faithful to Jesus by standing fast in the teachings of His apostles. Called by the gospel, we are chosen by God for salvation in Christ, and faithful to apostolic traditions.
26 But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning. (John 15:26–27, NKJV)
Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to His apostles to be a Helper, a Comforter, after He left this world (John 14:16-18). He fulfilled His promise to them (Acts 1:4-5; 2:1-4, 33). The Holy Spirit has given powerful testimony of Jesus Christ to the world. By His miraculous revelation, inspiration and confirmation, the Spirit of truth bears witness of the gospel of Christ through the apostles He empowered (Acts 1:8). The testimony borne by the Spirit of truth is not a personal impulse, feeling or revelation uniquely given as personal experiences to each individual. His testimony is the gospel He gave the apostles which they preached to the world (Jno. 14:25-26; 16:8-13). To refuse their word for a personal testimony that contradicts the Spirit’s testimony in Scripture is spiritually destructive: “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” (Hebrews 2:3-4) The New Testament is the Spirit’s testimony to the world. What a comfort the Comforter has given us!
25 These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:25–26, NKJV)
Jesus taught His apostles the commands of God. They were to keep them because they loved Jesus, as must we (John 14:15). By doing so His abiding presence was assured, even as it is to us when we obey His word (John 14:19-24). Jesus had just promised He would not abandon the apostles as orphans, but would come to them by the Spirit of truth (“another Helper”) whom the Father would give them (John 14:15-18). Today’s passage assured the apostles that what Jesus taught them in person would continue with them through the work of the Helper (the Holy Spirit) whom the Father would send. The Spirit would reveal “all truth” to the apostles as well as give them reliable recall of all that Jesus had taught them (John 16:12-13). We are reading and keeping the word of Jesus when we read and obey what the apostles taught (John 14:23). Jesus promised the apostles that the Father would send them Spirit, and He did (Acts 1:4, 5, 8; 2:1-4). Jesus promised the Spirit would empower the apostles to know all Jesus taught them, and He did (Hebrews 2:3; Galatians 1:11-12). When we read what they wrote we can understand what they knew about God’s plan to us in His Son (Ephesians 3:3-5). Now, by keeping what the apostles taught we love Jesus and have His fellowship (John 13:20; 14:23-24).
18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18–20, NKJV)
Although it is often said that every Christian is an ambassador of Christ, the Scriptures teach that it was the apostles alone who were charged with and qualified to be ambassadors for Christ. An ambassador is an official emissary of a ruler, given the task of conveying official messages and representing the authority of said ruler. The apostles of Christ were chosen by Christ to be His witnesses to the world (Acts 1:8). They are unique in this official capacity (Acts 10:38-42). The apostles were given “the word of reconciliation” (the gospel, v. 19) to fulfill their “ministry of reconciliation” (v. 18) by proclaiming the gospel of Christ to the world. Now, God pleads with the world through them (their writings) to be reconciled to God (v. 20). Christ’s ambassadors, the apostles, have revealed the Savior’s message of reconciliation and by it, the means of being reconciled to God. Save yourself (be reconciled to God) by repenting and being baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-41).
27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” 28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:27–28, NKJV)
The faithful apostles had left their professions and possessions to follow Jesus (Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:11). Their subsequent work in the kingdom of God justified their sacrificial faith. Christ gave them authority to judge among the “twelve tribes of Israel” (i.e., the people of God, Romans 9:6-8; Galatians 6:16) by the gospel they proclaimed (Mark 16:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; Romans 2:16). Christ’s reign and their authority to judge coincide with “the regeneration,” a reference to the time of salvation which began in Acts 2 and continues until His return (Acts 2:29-41; 2 Corinthians 6:1-2; 5:17). Even as the Son of Man now reigns in glory, the apostles’ word is the standard of authority by which souls are regenerated (born again, John 3:3-5; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21). We take comfort and courage in knowing that when we sacrifice all to follow Jesus, He has prepared eternal glory with Him for us (Colossians 3:4).
38 Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is on our side. (Mark 9:38–40, NKJV)
The twelve apostles often squabbled among themselves over who was the greatest in the kingdom. It is easy to see how they would discount and try to forbid someone who was not of their immediate circle, even when the evidence of heaven’s approval was staring them in the face. Jesus acknowledged this person was casting out demons in His name (v. 39). John and his fellow apostles were zealous of their positions, which led them to reject someone who was faithfully working in Christ’s name. (Note, John did not say, “He does not follow You,” but rather, “he does not follow us.”) Zeal for their own positions was greater than their zeal for the Lord. This passage does not endorse unity in doctrinal diversity. (The man and the apostles were all working in the name of Christ.) Instead, it urges unity among those who faithfully follow Christ because they all work in His name (do His will by His authority, Colossians 3:17). We act with the Lord’s authority to glorify Christ, not ourselves. Another person doing the will of Christ will also be blessed (Mark 9:41). That person deserves to be accepted, not rejected as separate from us (Mark 9:38-39).
5 But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:5–7, NKJV)
Perhaps is it hard for us to imagine a situation where it would be better that Christ was not personally with His apostles. Yet, that is what Jesus told them to assure them in their time of sorrow, just hours before He was arrested, tried, abused and crucified. Sorrow filled their hearts as Jesus told them of betrayal and denial within their own ranks, of His departure and death, and of the world’s hatred for both Him and them (John 13:18-16:4). Yet, Jesus was telling them the truth (verse 7). Sometimes truth is hard to hear, but truth is what we always need to hear. In fact, an advantage would come to them from Christ because He was leaving them. He would send them the Holy Spirit, the Helper (advocate, comforter), whose presence and work would empower them to accomplish their apostolic tasks (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4). When things seem their darkest, we should remember God has blessings for us in Christ. His blessings renew our spirits and invigorate our faith, helping us accomplish the good works God has prepared for us to do (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6-7, 2:10).