II Thess. 2:13
“But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.”
By Reverend Ray
“Seeing that God invites all indiscriminately by outward preaching, the only thing that distinguishes his elect from the reprobate is that, allowing the latter to be blind in the light, he presents the former with new eyes, by which they see, and inclines their hearts to obey his word.1”
When the Apostle Paul surveyed the Thessalonian Christians from the perspective of their conduct, conversation and reputation in this world; He saw the powerful hand of a sovereign God manifested in their lives. It is obvious from the epistles to the Thessalonians that their faith had been tried and tempered in the fires of persecution and suffering. Paul uses the Greek word – θλῖψις (thlipsis) – 5 times in his two letters to the Thessalonian Christians to bring attention to the endurance of their faith in the midst of severe trials and testing.
The question arises, in light of this example of the Thessalonians’ faith; what is it that enabled these saints to endure such persecution without wavering or abandoning the faith? This might well be answered with a deviation for a moment to give an illustration that will help to understand the answer and bring to light the meaning of the passage cited above by Paul.
Years ago, as a young boy, the sneaker (i.e., tennis shoe) craze had been initiated by Converse shoe company when it introduced its “Converse All-stars.” But it didn’t take long for smaller shoe companies to begin making copycat sneakers (at a much reduced price). Well, needless to say, everyone on the playground knew what brand of sneaker I was wearing, because I failed to run faster or jump higher than the rest of my schoolmates. They looked like Converse, but they just didn’t perform like Converse; because they weren’t made by Converse.
That’s a simple analogy of what really is on the mind of Paul as he addresses the saints in Thessalonica. He is saying; “I know who made you.” In fact, Paul is saying that God is at the center of the doctrine of redemption as a triune involvement in bringing His saints to glory. Notice that Paul does not shower accolades upon the saints, as if they had any involvement in the work of redemption upon them. Rather, he gives “thanks to God.” They are “beloved by the Lord,” “God has chosen” and “through sanctification by the Spirit.” Here, we see the threefold involvement by the three persons of the Trinity; God, Lord, Spirit, i.e., God the Father, Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Nowhere does Paul suggest that the individual had a contribution or part in the redemptive process, but there is a certain and obvious effect upon those individuals that are chosen by God unto salvation and that is; their lives demonstrate the effects of belief in the truth. This is precisely because it is God that had worked redemption in them, not that they prayed a prayer or made a decision for Jesus and that this, thus signed them up for eternal privileges and blessings, no, there are some clear prepositional phrases in the passages that forbid us from understanding the Pauline doctrine of redemption in any other way than an act of sovereign election by God. These include; “from the beginning,” “for salvation,” “through sanctification,” and “by the Spirit.” All this is an explanation for the phrase; “…beloved by the Lord.”
The statement Paul is making as he surveys the lives of the Thessalonian saints is that their endurance through the persecutions, afflictions and trials was the result of the One Who had made them alive in Christ. Where the Triune God works His redemptive mercies and grace in an individual, the fires of trial, threats of persecution and taunting of temptation crumble under the mighty working of God’s will. The copycat sneakers proved to fall short of the rigorous test of playground demands because they just didn’t have the right origins. So, there is a lot of “look alike Christianity” floating around that won’t weather the storm of testing when the time comes; simply because the origin of salvation is not by Trinitarian Election. But we shall see – that is the patience of the saints.