Scary. I do believe the early church was not infected with the over sensitivity that plagues our times. Sensitivity that is misplaced and is aimed to cover our own fallen souls. Sensitivity that makes God in the image of man. A god that is sort of a jolly high school football coach that want everyone to succeed and have equal opportunity in the game of life. Closely listen to his coaching and you will win. In essence, you are the biggest story here and everything is about you.
This is not the posture of scripture nor the history of the church. Scripture as well as church history is God centered. The glory, the honor, the fairness, the goodness, the emphasis is all centered upon God. Therefore, there is no room for humans to bring up issues of fairness. Isn’t fairness the sandpaper that rubs our sensitivity raw? We stand as the authority over and above God and everyone else on the issues of fairness and goodness. The slightest wrong rub is felt like a shock paddle. Here is the exact place there is a need for a grand iconoclast. Break the idols of our self, the fallen human heart in its attempts to make God in our own image. God elects. He chooses for his own purposes. We are not the center of the human redemption drama, God is. More specifically Christ is.
Verse 4 “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God”. I do not think the verse implies the brothers should be aware of their election of God. I think the meaning is connected to verse 2, that their election was reason for Paul’s praise to God.
There is much to say in the next few verses. Our attempt is to give a glimpse inside the calling and election of God. Particularly from an earthly standpoint.
The election of God is revealed to the elect through the Gospel call. Verse 5 is a powerful verse speaking about the Gospel call. Several things. The gospel message is the message of the person and work of Christ. To dilute or misrepresent this message is a grave sin. The church must protect the purity of the gospel message. The church must fight to make the gospel message primary.
The message to the elect is not only in Word but also in power of the Holy Spirit. Notice the passage did not say the call did not come in word. God has chosen the preaching of the word as the means of Grace. So, where there is no teaching/preaching then there is a disconnect. The message was with word and power. The effectual call power is the creative power of the Spirit of God. In a similarly parallel way, the Spirit moves upon and gives life to the dead sinner the way the black, void earth was made to live by the brooding of the Spirit. So, I believe Paul has a similar power in mind here.
In other words, the electing power of God is revealed when the Gospel message is presented to a people and the message is attended with power of the Holy Spirit that produces faith, assurance, repentance, evangelism and the like.
In addition to power the word came with assurance. I believe this to be a confidence, hope, and faith. It seems in the grace of election there is a confidence or son-ship. A hope that is an anchor of the soul. For when trial and testing come, there is an assurance given to the elect by the sealing power of the Spirit. Paul adds that there is much assurance.
Verse 6 tells us that the word was received with joy of the Holy Ghost. This is a subjective, inward witness to the elect they are called of God. Despite affliction there can be tremendous joy given by God. This is proof of election. We have confidence within by the subjective power of God’s Spirit bearing witness. Also, confidence without by the trifecta of verse 3, work of faith, labor of love and patience of hope.
In addition to the effectual calling of the Word, now we see the Thessalonians are doers of the word. Verse 5-10 there are several thoughts contained here. Verse 5, 6 tells us they followed God and the example of godly leaders. A character of the elect of God is the following of Christ and the follow the God of scripture. What a treasure to find leaders as they follow Christ. The local church is truly a blessing and means of grace established by God to assist His people. We should not take the church for granted.
Their example was widespread. Verse 7 notes they were examples to believers in the region. Then in verse 8 they were active in spreading the Word in the adjacent regions. This is a powerful challenge that a believer has these defining characteristics: 1. They are examples in word, character, and action. 2. They publish the Gospel.
Verse 9 says they turned from idols to serve the living and true God. There is so much to unpack in this statement.
They turned is the first thing we should notice. Repentance is in view here. In keeping with the context, the character of the elect is repentance. The gift of God to the elect is repentance. Repentance from evil works to serve the living God is the responsibility and command of all men. But men are fallen and do not obey. The fallen nature in men is opposed to God. It is therefore the goodness of God that leads men to repentance. Yet not all men, only god’s elect. So, repentance is hallmark quality for the elect. Therefore, Paul is thankful for the Thessalonian’s repentance.
The verse also intimates that they once served idols. Really in this context they served the various pagan idols found in the Roman empire. I feel that a deeper look at idols would be in order. Idolatry is prohibited by the second commandment. That is not to make the Lord into any graven image. The root, I feel, is that humans desire to regulate God into an image that is appeasing to the fallen nature of men. Men will make idols to worship as a projection of their own fallen state. The aim of this tendency is to hide or mask our guilt before a holy God. Notice Adam clothed himself and tried to hide from God as result of his fall. We hide behind a pretend deity that is made in the image of man’s fallen state so to sooth our guilt.
Notice when Isaiah saw the Lord in Isaiah chapter six. He covered his mouth and was left “undone”. A total disintegration of Isaiah’s person was taking place. He could not hide his fallen nature behind a pretend idol. The God reveled in scripture is the great iconoclast. He breaks all images set forth in the human heart and mind. The God of scripture make us tremble because he is not like us. God is Holy, He is separate, He is in Heaven and He solicits fear. God is also loving and merciful but this is only found in Christ Jesus.
They turned from these silly idols to serve the living and true God. The terms living and true are used to describe God. God is living. That is, He is animated, active, not confined to images or set boundaries. God is the origin of life and the sustainer of life. Classic presuppositional inference I draw from here. We live in Him and have foundation for truth because it is found in Him. Without Him there is not point of life or truth. Anything outside Him is a lie and subject to death. In Him is life. 2+2=4 because he is the axiom that makes this logic possible. With sunlight, water, soil, and seed a tree can grow. This is possible because God is living and true. Science observes and theorizes. Science cannot tell why. This verse tells why: because God is living and true.
Verse 10 And to wait…There is much to be said for waiting upon the Lord. How should we wait? Christ has given us this time to be about His father’s kingdom. We wait by manifesting the Kingdom of God in love toward our neighbors, conforming to Christ in our character, preaching the Gospel, teaching our children, worshiping God in beauty of His providential care, and living with view to Heaven. It is error to neglect the everyday duties that attend life thinking that Christ will appear but the time is not disclosed to us for proper reasons.
It appears the last phrase here is part of a creed. The phrase mentions certain items such as Christ as the Son of God, God raising Christ from the dead, and Christ delivering the saints from wrath. This is the Gospel as stated in these short phrases.
The teaching is that Christ Jesus is the Son of God. These entails that Jesus encapsulates the Old Testament Promises of a coming Messiah, King, Prophet and Sacrifice. I will not flesh each one out now. It is sufficient to say that each title deals with an aspect of God’s redemptive plan found in the Old Testament. Also, that Christ rose from the dead as historical fact that has theological significant. Namely the redemption of the world. It follows that His death and subsequent resurrection was a sign of payment given and payment accepted. The result is that the wrath of God has been quenched in Christ.