2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5
I had a long, hard day yesterday. I wanted to wake up this morning and have somebody pat me on the back and say what a good boy I’ve been. I wanted someone to fawn all over me.
Once again, St. Paul has to go and make it all about God. God this and God that. What about me?
Actually, this passage is about me and about you, but only after it is first about God. And that is the pattern of our lives.
Instead of praising the Thessalonians as he has done before, Paul gives thanks to God (verse 13.) Specifically, he gives thanks to God because from the beginning God chose the Thessalonians for salvation. Notice that Paul doesn’t praise the Thessalonians for obtaining salvation for themselves: he thanks God for choosing and saving them.
More specifically, God chose to save them through two things: sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. From the beginning, God not only chose the Thessalonians and us, but He also appointed two primary means by which He would produce this salvation: sanctification and belief in the truth. In his letters to the Thessalonians, Paul has been supremely concerned that the Thessalonians lead a holy or sanctified life. The way we live is supremely important in our salvation, and this is why the modern wedge (partially the fruit of the Reformation) that has been driven between faith and works is anathema to St. Paul and should be to us.
For Paul, sanctification, being holy by producing good works, has everything to do with salvation. Those who teach the Gospel apart from Law are in reality antinomians who have the spirit of antichrist, because Jesus Christ Himself taught the importance of a holy life (after all, He did perfectly keep the Law and that must mean something.) Those who say that Paul says that faith is apart from the necessity of good works make Saint Paul into Unholy Paul.
The second means by which God saves us is by belief in His truth or Truth. Paul seems to have in mind the Word of God, meaning the Scriptures and the apostolic tradition that the Thessalonians and we have received. In verse 14 Paul says that God called the Thessalonians by our gospel, and in verse 15 he exhorts them to stand fast and hold the traditions which they were taught, whether by word or by epistle. Paul is saying, therefore, that the second means by which we God saves us is by His Word. The teachings of the apostles, now preserved for us in Scripture,
Now you may have noticed that the will of the Father in saving us involves both the special work of the Spirit (sanctification) and of the Son (Truth.) This is yet another reason that we must never separate faith from faithfulness or holiness or our words from our deeds. Paul obviously thought that the Father saved us by both of them.
Because of the salvation of the Thessalonians by sanctification and truth (which can’t be separated), Paul gives thanks to God. For a moment, I thought Paul might stray from his obsession with God and speak of the glory of those who have been saved. In the Bible I happen to be using verse 14 has a few words that I can’t see until I turn the page. Actually, verses 13 and 14 are one long Pauline Behemoth of a sentence, but the last part reads: “to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our . . . “ – and here’s where my Bible cuts off. I thought Paul might finish the sentence “souls.” “For the obtaining of the glory of our souls.”
But once again, it’s all about God, for what Paul really says is “for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” As great as our salvation is, it seems to be the penultimate purpose of our salvation: the ultimate purpose is, once again, for God and His glory.
As we all know, if we’ve been reading St. Paul for 3 straight books now, the glory all belongs to God. He is glorified by the salvation that He chose for us from the beginning by sanctification and by truth. But if we’ve been listening carefully to Paul, we also know that the glory of God is hidden in these earthen vessels. The God who saved us is the God who shares His glory with us, for that is part of our salvation – to share in the life and glory of God.
In the end, Paul does end with a word directed to the Thessalonians and us, and not directly to God: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.”
Even in this prayer in verses 16 and 17, Paul puts together both the good words and the good works that God requires for our salvation.
Glory be to God that He has saved us, and glory be to us, because we are in Christ through sanctification and truth.
Prayer: May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort our hearts and establish us in every good word and work.
Resolution and Point for Meditation: Meditate on how God has used His sanctification and truth in your life. Reflect on the various means by which He brought salvation to you. Resolve to give Him thanks throughout the day for your salvation, especially because it brings glory to your Lord Jesus Christ.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day