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Thanksgiving for the Thessalonians’ Faith April 10, 2013

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10.

Summary: Paul begins by giving thanks to God for the Thessalonians’ faith and other virtues. Whenever he raises his thoughts to the kingdom of God, he recalls:

  • the root of their faith
  • their labor and troubles that stem from their love
  • their hope for the coming of Christ.

Now Paul and his colleagues know that God has called the Thessalonians. Indeed, his preaching of the Gospel message to them had been accompanied by its inherent spiritual energy, as the power of the Holy Spirit was manifested at that time – confirming his teaching; thus, they would be fully persuaded that God had called them. God worked powerfully through Paul as His minister, as they readily received the Gospel – in the midst of afflictions – because of the work of the Holy Spirit. They became patterns for the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. Moreover, their faith resounded:

  • loud and clear
  • far and wide

and so he does not need to extol it. Other believers have acclaimed the power of the Holy Spirit, which magnificently attested the Gospel when it was preached to the Thessalonians – they have ceased worshiping dead and worthless idols and have begun worshiping God. Paul concludes by asserting that the Thessalonians have the expectation of final redemption, which is founded on the resurrection of Christ; He will deliver them from God’s impending wrath and eternal destruction, which await the human race.

Thoughts: In verse 5, we see that when Paul preached the Gospel message to the Thessalonians, his preaching was accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit. Calvin offers some intriguing thoughts on this point:

As, however, the secret counsel of God is a labyrinth to those who disregard his calling, so those act perversely who, under the pretext of faith and calling, darken this first grace, from which faith itself flows. “By faith,” they say, “we obtain salvation. There is therefore no eternal predestination of God that distinguishes between us and reprobates.” It is as though they said, “Salvation is from faith; there is, therefore, no grace of God that illuminates us in faith.” But it is not so. Rather, as gratuitous election must be linked with calling and with its effect, so it must necessarily hold the first place.

This quote illuminates Calvin’s thought process on the debate between free will and predestination. Some Arminians have assuredly read his commentary since he completed it in 1550; how did they respond to the above quote? My current stance on this “can of worms” is that both free will and predestination play an essential role in a believer’s salvation, but I will not assign relative weights to these two factors in that process. Now this stance can be perceived as a cop-out of sorts, but I would assert that the Bible does not give us sufficient guidance in this regard. Readers – especially Arminians – should feel free to comment.

In verse 10, Paul notes that the Thessalonians await the second coming of Christ, who was raised from the dead. Calvin offers an interesting note on this point:

Another circumstance must be noted: as Christ rose for this purpose – that he might make us all at length, as being his members, partakers of the same glory with himself – Paul intimates that Christ’s resurrection would be in vain unless he again appeared as their Redeemer and extended to the whole body of the church the fruit and effect of that power that he once showed in his own person.

This highlights the critical role that the second coming of Christ plays in our salvation. Indeed, if Christ does not eventually return to Earth and redeem His people, then our faith is worthless. Various passages in Scripture, including Acts 1:1-12, assert the certainty of the return of Christ. Now if He did not eventually return, then the Bible would be thrown into question, as one could wonder if:

  • Jesus was really resurrected
  • He really died for our sins and justified us.

In fact, it could be argued that it is worthless for believers to die and go to heaven to be with a Savior who never returns to Earth. As we see in Revelation, the great story of our redemption from sin cannot be completed – and Christ cannot fully defeat sin – until He returns to redeem and to judge. While the work of Christ during His first coming was sufficient for our salvation, we still await His return as our faith – and, in some sense, His work during His first coming – rest on it.

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