The Agora
Waiting For His Son - Thessalonians

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IV. Thanksgiving And Encouragement (2:13-17)

A. Paul's Thanksgiving (2:13,14)

v. 13
"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:
v. 14
"Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."


v. 13: "We are bound to give thanks alway to God for you": In spite of the evident discouragement due to their misapprehensions (2Th 2:1-2), Paul reminds them again (as in 2Th 1:3), that he thinks highly of their profession of faith. We are "bound" (the same word as, 2Th 1:3), writes Paul: we "owe it" ("opheilo") as money (Luke 7:41) -- we are under an obligation (Eph 5:28) to thank God for you.

"Brethren beloved of the Lord": Compare 1Th 1:4, where Paul speaks of the Thessalonians as "brethren beloved", being chosen (by "election" -- "ekloge") by God.

"God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation": The salvation of believers rests on the divine choice, not on human effort (cp 1Th 5:9). An alternative reading (changing "ap arches" to "aparchen") produces the translations "God chose you as his firstfruits" (NIV mg) and "as the first converts" (RSV mg). The Thessalonians to whom Paul is writing are the "firstfruits" of his labors there (cp usage in 1Co 16:15; Rom 11:16; 16:5) -- implying that other converts would follow in due course. Or they were, in a more general sense, a part of all the "firstfruits" of Christ (cp James 1:18; Rev 14:4) -- who was himself in the very first instance, the "firstfruits" from the dead (1Co 15:20,23; Col 1:18).

"Through sanctification of the Spirit": "In ('en') sanctification of spirit." There is no definite article before "pneuma." Therefore this phrase may be translated, as Moffatt does, "by the consecration of your spirit." The believers' "spirit", indeed his whole body, life, and spirit (1Th 5:23), is in process of sanctification now (cp 2Co 7:1) -- by the providence of God and the education of His Spirit-Word (cp 1Th 3:13; 4:7,8). Jesus himself tells us that the medium of sanctification is the Word of God (John 17:17). It is by this means that the salvation of the previous phrase is secured. (Compare the parallel phrase, and context, in 1Pe 1:2).

"Belief of the truth": As in vv 10,12, "truth" is not simply an ethical quality, but the Truth of the gospel. Faith in the gospel of Christ is the primary means by which a believer is set apart, made holy, or sanctified in the midst of a wicked, corrupt, and apostate world.

v. 14 "Whereunto he called you by our gospel": While it is perfectly true (v 13) that God chooses believers (cp 1Th 2:12; 4:7; 5:24), it is also true that He makes such choice by presenting the gospel to their attention. Paul calls it "our gospel" here because he has in mind his own preaching and that of Silas and Timothy (1Th 1:5). Therefore, there is also a reciprocal choice by believers of God. It is only our finite minds that may perceive "contradiction" in such a coupling of ideas; to the infinite God, whose mind and thoughts are far above ours (Isa 55:6,7), there is no difficulty at all.

"To the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ": These believers are called to the obtaining of glory; they are not called to glory. They are striving continuously to attain to the glory of Christ; they have not already attained. As in 1Th 5:9, "obtaining" here conveys the idea of progress through intensification of effort.


Consider the immense contrast:

Followers of the Man of Sin
Followers of Christ
2:11 Believed the lie
2:13 Believed the truth
2:12 Had pleasure in sin
2:13 Sanctified (made holy) in their spirits
2:11 Received a strong delusion
2:14 Received the call of the gospel to the obtaining of glory
2:10 Were doomed to perish
2:13 Were chosen to salvation

B. Paul's Encouragement (2:15)

v. 15
"Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle."


v. 15 "Therefore, brethren, stand fast": Compare use of the same verb ("stand fast") in 1Th 3:8, where Paul had considered that their standing firm in Christ was more important to him than life itself. A continuing stability and firm grasp of all aspects of Truth might have prevented the believers' confusion and alarm that required Paul to write this second letter.

"And hold the traditions which ye have been taught": The verb is used elsewhere by Paul only in Col 2:19 (of holding fast to Christ as the head). It is used in the literal sense of holding something with the hand (Mat 9:25), and figuratively of holding, with the mind, to the elders' traditions (Mark 7:3,8). "Tradition" ("paradosis" = precepts, ordinances) is a word that suggests that the Christian faith is derivative -- it was not "invented" by Paul, but passed along just as he had received it from a higher source (1Co 15:3). The single word in Greek does not necessarily carry negative connotations, as the English word "traditions" might. "Traditions" from God are to be gratefully received and obeyed (1Co 11:2).

"Whether by word, or our epistle": Paul had both spoken these "traditions" to the Thessalonians when present with them, and written other "traditions" to them in his first letter. He puts no difference between the spoken and the written word; both were in very fact the word of God (1Th 2; 13; 1Co 14:37). Also, since both oral and written methods had been used to discredit Paul's teaching (2Th 2:2), both methods of Paul must again be endorsed.

C. Paul's Prayer for their Strengthening (2:16,17)

v. 16
"Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,
v. 17
"comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work."


v. 16 "Which hath loved us": The Greek is uncertain as to whether "God" alone is the antecedent, or "Jesus" and "God" both. Either way, the point is the same. The verb form is aorist, indicating one supreme act of love -- undoubtedly referring to the cross: ie "who has set love upon us" -- one act. (Compare the uses of the same verb form in Rom 8:37 and Gal 2:20.) God's loving and giving are very often equated with the death of His Son (John 3:16; Rom 5:5,8; 1Jo 4:10; etc).

"And hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace": Again, the verb is aorist, probably referring to the one great act of conversion in every believer's life. It is at that point that comfort and hope come all at once to the believer. "Consolation" is "parakaleo" (comfort), derived from the same word often translated "exhort" (see 1Th 2:11), and suggests instruction. The related word is translated "comfort" in the following v 17.

Comfort and hope come from God through grace, emphasizing that they are independent of good works on the part of the recipient.

v. 17 "Comfort your hearts": May the One who gave us comfort at our conversion continue to comfort (encourage, exhort) us day by day. Compare 2Co 1:3-7, where God is the "God of all comfort."

"Stablish you in every good word and work": The verb "sterizo" signifies to strengthen, as a building; and is used primarily by Paul of the work of confirming new believers in their faith (see 1Th 3:2, notes).


The "now" with which v 16 begins might better be translated "but". Paul has been encouraging his friends to action, but they can do nothing effective in and of their own strength only. Thus Paul directs them to the one source of strength that will see them through. And he does more: he prays for them, just as he did in the first letter (1Th 3:11-13).

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