2 Thessalonians 2:13-17
But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brothers beloved of the Lord…
I. HOW GROUNDED.
1. The election of the Thessalonians. "But we are bound to give thanks to God alway for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning unto salvation." This is another overflowing of gratitude for the Thessalonians, who are described not, as in 1 Thessalonians 1:4, as "brethren beloved of God," but as "brethren beloved of the Lord," i.e. sharing with Paul and his colleagues in the special love and care of him who presides over the brotherhood. There is the same inward binding that there was before (2 Thessalonians 1:3) to give thanks to God, and to give thanks to God alway. What gave perpetual matter of thanksgiving, as in 1 Thessalonians 1:4, was the election of the Thessalonians. There is not brought in here, as there is there, their being chosen out of a condition of sin, but it is implied in their being chosen unto a condition of salvation. They had been chosen from the beginning, i.e. from eternity. When God contemplated the creation of a race of men, and contemplated at the same time the incursion of evil into human nature and human history, he also contemplated human salvation. It was also within the Divine plan (going out into all particulars) that the Thessalonians among others should be saved.
2. Means of the realization of their election.
(1) Inward means.
(a) From the Spirit. "In sanctification of the Spirit." Precedence is naturally given to the work of the Spirit. For we must feel that, if God had not approached us first, we never should have approached him. The work of the Spirit, from beginning to end, is a work of sanctification. It is a saving work, inasmuch as it is the reclamation of our nature from unholy uses. On the positive side it is the fitting our nature for Divine uses. As the Spirit is the Agent of our sanctification, his all-sufficient help must be entirely depended upon.
(b) From themselves. "And belief of the truth." In election we are responsible for our state of mind. The Spirit works on our mind through the truth. We may think of the truth that God has provided salvation for us. We may also think of the truth that God (according to ver. 10) has made us the offer of the love of the truth. We may further think of the Divine ideal to which our life is to be brought up. The Spirit has sovereign power in the presentation of truth to the mind; and what we have to do is to be receptive, to offer no obstacle to his presentation of the truth. And we are sanctified only in so far as we have received the truth into us.
(2) Outward means. "Whereunto he called you through our gospel." The gospel is especially the offer of salvation on the ground of Christ's death. It was their gospel, as that in connection with which they served God. There was Divine sovereignty in the Thessalonians being favoured with the gospel. It was by circumstances over which they had no control that Paul and Silas and Timothy were sent to Thessalonica. These servants of Christ stood forward and preached the gospel to them, and it was when they received it as a message from God that they were called to salvation. From that point their calling dated. There is added the outward aspect of the salvation to which they were called. "To the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." This is characteristic of the Epistle. The glory to which we are called is the glory which is possessed by Christ, and which he, as sovereign Dispenser, is to make our possession. We are to be glorified with nothing less than the glory of Christ. It will be seen that God, in electing, has in contemplation all the means of the election being realized. We may assure ourselves of belonging to the number of the elect, in so far as we have evidence of our election in our sanctification.
II. HOW PUT. "So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or Epistle of ours." Election contemplating the means of its realization in faith, it is not improper to found upon election an exhortation to steadfastness. They had taken up their Christian position. Attempts would be made in the way of persecution to move them away from their position. The ill-grounded expectation of the immediate coming was fraught with perils to them. It was already having a bad effect upon some in making them idle. It would be trying, to think that it was well grounded and not to have it realized. It would even be trying, to know that it was ill grounded and to have to give it up. There would be danger of religious excitement being followed by reaction. Let them beware, then, of apostatizing; let them stand fast. The way in which they were to stand fast was by holding fast the traditions. By the "traditions" we are to understand the truths handed to men. For instance, there was the revelation which was necessary for the stablishing of the Thessalonians, that there was to be an apostasy before the coming of Christ. In the traditions they had been instructed both orally and by writing. We are limited to the latter mode of instruction. What are known as ecclesiastical traditions have not independent authority, but have to be tested by the written Word. All our oral instruction has to be founded upon the written Word. By being in writing, the truths handed to us are preserved from corruption. We know that we have them in the form in which God wishes us to have them. It is difficult to escape the influence of traditional interpretation. Yet there is always the opportunity of a true interpretation, while we have the text as it was left by inspired men. The written Word is one of the great boons conferred on men. It is a great advantage to a child that he has not everything to learn for himself, but has the benefit of the experience of his parents. So it is a great advantage to us, that we are not left to our own childish and foolish thoughts, but that we have the written instructions of our heavenly Father. It is by holding to these written instructions, as an unchanging element in the midst of all the tests to which we are subjected, in the midst of all the temptations to which we are exposed, that we shall be enabled valiantly to maintain our Christian position.
III. HOW FOLLOWED UP. Invocation of the Divine blessing.
1. How God is invoked.
(1) In the Second Person. "Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself." From evangelical activity there is a rise first to the Mediator and lordly Dispenser of blessings in the Church. After the preachers have done their best for the Thessalonians, they have the painful consciousness left that they are impotent in themselves. At Corinth Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So Paul and Silas and Timothy, feeling that they, in speaking and writing to the Thessalonians, were only held by him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, implore his help to make their activity successful. "Our Lord Jesus Christ himself accomplish what we are aiming at for them. Let his almighty efficacy be communicated through our feeble instrumentality." If we would do any good to any in whom we are interested, Christ must do it for us. His high priestly service must be recognized by us. Therefore let us ever rise above our mere wishing and striving for others to him who can make our wishing and striving effectual.
(2) In the First Person.
(a) His fatherhood. "And God our Father." From evangelical activity there is a rise, through the Mediator, to him who is the Final Reason and Contriver of redemption. We have some influence with God when we can call him our Father. We naturally expect to have more influence with a friend than with a stranger. We can appeal to him as a friend. We can, if need be, intercede on the score of friendship and long acquaintance. So we can appeal to God as our Father, to bless not only ourselves but others. And, should every other appeal fail, surely this shall not fail. When the cry comes up on behalf of his needy children, "Our Father, wilt thou not bless?" surely he will not turn away his ear.
(b) Wherein it was manifested. "Which loved us." This is timed in the past, and calls up the great act of love - the gift of the Son. Our Father, who gave his Son for us. We can behold in this how God can love. Some would represent it as very unfatherly. But, apart from the Son's unforced consent, there is this consideration, that, where there is true fatherly feeling, it is not more easy to sacrifice a son than to sacrifice one's self. David felt this when he uttered his lamentation over Absalom: "Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" We must hold that, loving the Son infinitely, the Father could as well have sacrificed himself as his Son. The marvel and mystery is, that, loving his Son infinitely, he could be moved to sacrifice him for us his undeserving creatures. But surely by this act of devotion the love of God for us is placed forever beyond all doubt. In presence of the cross, to doubt, or to act as though we doubted, that God loves us, is doing him the most glaring injustice.
(c) What it obtained for us. "And gave us eternal comfort." There is no hiding it, that it is comfort that we all need. There is an evil heart, to keep us from being happy. It gives rise to slavish fear of God and forebodings of judgment. There is also an evil world, which alone is sufficient to keep us from being perfectly happy. It is an evil world, where there is exposure to poverty, to sickness, to bereavement, to death. It is an evil world, where, with sensitive spirits, we have to look forth on so much sin and wretchedness. Where, then, is the comfort? There is no real comfort for a guilty conscience in ignorance or distraction. It is unsubstantial comfort, to know that our suffering is common. There is some substantial comfort in the sympathy of our fellow men, but it is variable. We may not find friends all that we would desire them to be to us. Those by whom we are most comforted may be taken away, and we have to be comforted for their loss. But there is comfort provided by eternal love, and comfort that is eternal in its nature. There is comfort in knowing that our great Substitute has made full satisfaction for our sin. There is comfort in knowing that we are clasped to the heart of the everlasting Father. That is comfort which is neither deceitful nor fleeting. It is sufficient for us amid all the cares of life. It is independent of all contingencies. "And good hope." Comfort refers to time present; hope refers to time future. Beyond all that we have of good and of comfort under evil, there is hope. And what is this hope? It is the hope of our real joys being perfected, of our being delivered from the plague of an evil heart and the burden of an evil world, of our being placed where there will be no more need of comfort - in the presence of the eternal Love. It is also a good hope, in its being well founded - not founded on our own thoughts, but founded on the character and work and promise of God. It is a hope which is even now good in its cheering influence upon our hearts.
(d) Obtained without deserving of ours. "Through grace." The comfort is not self-created; we have had nothing to do with the procuring of it. But, seeing it has been graciously provided for us by eternal Love, we have good reason for taking it in the whole benefit into our hearts. The hope is one which we could not have dared to cherish of ourselves. It is far beyond anything that we could have thought of. But we cannot limit the grace of God. If it is his good pleasure to give us this hope, we have good reason for cherishing it.
2. For what end God is invoked.
(1) To bless the Thessalonians with comfort. "Comfort your hearts." There is another incidental proof here of the Divinity of our Lord in the use of a singular verb, while both our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father are the subject. The hearts of the Thessalonians were full of hopes and fears in view of the coming which was thought to be imminent; comfort is, therefore, invoked for their hearts. It cannot but be congenial to God to comfort the Church. "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins." Having provided the comfort in Christ, he must best know how, through Christ, to apply it to our need.
(2) To bless them also with stability. "And stablish them." Comfort is invoked partly with a view to stability. When we are uncomforted we are unstable as water. Our energies are relaxed, and we are unfitted for our work. Sorrow is weakness, but comfort is strength. Double sphere in which stability is invoked for them.
(a) Work. "In every good work." It was not unnecessary that they should be reminded that they were called to work, even to work with their hands. God grant them all the good elements which belong to work. Let the simplest work be done honestly. Let not their works "with self be soiled." Let them be done unto the glory of God. In these, and in all the elements of good work, let them be confirmed.
(b) Word. "And word." Good speaking is even more difficult than good acting. "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man." God grant them all the good elements which belong to speaking. Let every word be characterized by truthfulness. Let it also have fitness; for "a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." Let it also have wholesomeness, and not be like bad fruit. Let it breathe kindliness. Let it breathe loyalty to Christ. In these, and in all the elements of good speaking, let them be confirmed. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
WEB: But we are bound to always give thanks to God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth;