2 Thessalonians: 1:11-12 (Works of faith)

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2 Thess 1:11-12

(2 Thess. 1:11-12 ESV)  11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power,  12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“To this end” refers back to verses 9 and 10 to Paul’s statement that the believers would marvel at Jesus’ return. That is, “to this end” means “so that you will be ready for the return of Jesus.”

“God may make you worthy of his calling” sounds like works salvation, except the person doing the work is God. Paul has the work of the Spirit in mind, and is not here wrestling with the question of synergism, that is, to what extent do we/can we participate in our salvation? In this passage, Paul is emphasizing God’s ongoing work in the saved person through the Spirit. Continue reading

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2 Thessalonians: 1:9-10 (Available Light and Rom 2)

map of greeceThere are, of course, passages that the Available Light advocates argue from. I covered them in the Available Light series some time ago.

The most heavily relied upon passage, in my experience, is —

(Rom. 2:6-8 NET)  6 He will reward each one according to his works:  7 eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality,  8 but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness. 

If Paul is speaking of those outside the Kingdom who’ve never heard the gospel, then these verses reads like a promise of works salvation for those people. And as soon as I say that, the problem with such a reading becomes manifest. The reason God gives us grace is that no one will be justified by works. Continue reading

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2 Thessalonians: 1:9-10 (Available Light, Part 4)

map of greeceThat’s the OT perspective on the presence of God, and Paul almost certainly thought in these terms. But there’s another way of looking at God’s presence — equally valid. Just think of what it means for God to be present in this world.

(Heb. 1:3a ESV)  3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. 

(Col. 1:16-17 ESV)  16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him.  17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 

Jesus is everywhere making the world work, holding things together. His will causes the laws of nature to be true. And yet the world, because of sin, is a mess. (This is, I believe, also part of the meaning of Jesus being the Logos in John chapter 1.)

Imagine how ugly the world would be if God and Jesus abandoned it? They are busy doing good for both the just and the unjust (Matt 5:45). The world is actually, on the whole, good. Evil people don’t want to leave it. They fear death because death will separate them from the pleasures of the world God has made, despite all its imperfections. Continue reading

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2 Thessalonians: 1:9-10 (Available Light, Part 3)

map of greece2 Thess 1:9-10

(2 Thess. 1:9-10 ESV)  9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,  10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 

Destruction

There are several challenging words and phrases here to sort through. For example, “eternal destruction” is not altogether obvious.

“Destruction” translates olethros, meaning destruction or death. BDAG translates “pert. to being totally destructive, deadly, destructive.” Continue reading

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2 Thessalonians: 1:7-8 (Available Light, Part 2)

 

map of greeceInterpreting 2 Thess 1:7-8

In light of yesterday’s post, let’s consider a more fleshed out translation, but a tentative one:

(2 Thess. 1:7b-8 ESV) when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels  8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God [those who lack faith in Jesus] and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus [by believing in Jesus]. 

Do not know God

“Do not know God” refers back to Jer 10:25:

Pour out your wrath on the nations that know you not, and on the peoples that call not on your name

and

(Ps. 79:6 ESV)  6 Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call upon your name!

Compare —

(Jn. 1:10-11 ESV)  10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

Notice that in both passages, Jeremiah and the Psalmist refer to nations that do not know the Lord and those nations that do not call upon the Lord’s name. To “know God” is paralleled with calling on God’s name, that is, worshiping God. The references are surely to the idolatrous nations that surround Israel. Jeremiah’s point is not that the neighboring, idolatrous nations have rejected God’s word but that they don’t worship (call on the name of) God. Continue reading

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2 Thessalonians: 1:7-8 (Steadfastness when persecuted, Christian suffering, Part 2; Available Light, Part 1)

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2 Thess 1:7a

(2 Thess. 1:5-8 ESV)  5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering — 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

God’s response to Christian persecution

Verse 6 declares that “God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you.” That is, God will exact vengeance against those who persecute you. Their decision to persecute marks them as people who will be punished by God.

Verse 7 continues the thought: “and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.” Paul promises relief from our afflictions — but the relief is only assured when Jesus returns. Even Paul will have to wait on Jesus. Continue reading

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2 Thessalonians: 1:1-7a (Steadfastness when persecuted, Christian suffering, Part 1)

map of greece2 Thess 1:1-4

(2 Thess. 1:1-4 ESV) Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:  2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.  4 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. 

The salutation is very similar to 1 Thess, and so I’ll avoid repeating materials already covered.

Paul begins with a word of praise, thanking God that the church is growing in faith and in love for each other. Paul says not a word about inviting friends and neighbors to church or doing community service projects — not that he wouldn’t encourage these things. Rather, a close reading shows that Paul is, first and foremost, concerned that the church act like the church among and toward each other. It’s not until we have a loving, faith-filled congregation that the world will find us attractive. They’ll happily accept our well digging and house-painting and enjoy our Easter and Christmas programs, but they won’t put on Jesus until they see us living the love and faith of Jesus toward one another. If we would just do that — by becoming a united, holy community — both congregationally and as the church-universal — the evangelism and social service will go much better. Continue reading

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