Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1
December 22, 2013
2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;
3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;
4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God
5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
1901 ASV Translation:
2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention [of you] in our prayers;
3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father;
4 knowing, brethren beloved of God, your election,
5 how that our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and [in] much assurance; even as ye know what manner of men we showed ourselves toward you for your sake.
- I. The Overall Point of This Paragraph.
- A. Elements.
- 1. Paul's giving of thanks for them.
- 2. Paul's making mention of them in his prayers.
- 3. Paul's thoughts in prayer.
- a. Their work of faith.
- b. Their labor of love.
- c. Their patience of hope.
- d. All of the above "in our Lord Jesus Christ".
- 4. Paul's remembering "before our God and Father".
- 5. Paul's claim to know the "election of God" of these beloved brethren.
- 6. Paul's recollection of the impact "our gospel" made.
- a. In word.
- b. In power.
- c. In the Holy Spirit.
- d. In much assurance.
- 7. Paul's claim that they knew "what manner of men" Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy were because it was shown by them for their sake.
- B. The point: Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy regularly prayed for the Thessalonians.
- 1. The significance of this, on one hand, is that Paul wanted the Thessalonians to know the impact they had made on him.
- 2. On the other hand, Paul wanted them to be reminded of their initial introduction to the Gospel as "what happens when men believe God" (see 2 Peter 1:9) (the impact he had made on them).
- 3. Additionally he wanted them to know that God was willing to be involved in their issues for their good. This is what prayer is all about.
- C. The impact of this paragraph upon the meaning of the entire letter.
- 1. As an "introduction", it serves to set the stage for "keeping hope alive" in that it declares what God has done so that believers may be confident of what He will do.
- 2. It also sets this stage under the large umbrella of "the election of God" as a deliberate reference to what God has determined He will do through time using men of His choice.
- a. The "election" of men by God is an indisputable reference to what He intends to do, and it is the most obvious "proof" of "grace" (Ephesians 1) which is the backdrop to all "thanksgiving".
- b. This "intention to do", then, falls back upon the issue of "methodology": How will God bring the "elected" to His intention for them?
- 1) God can, and occasionally seems to, act unilaterally Himself.
- 2) But, both biblical revelation as well as observable reality testify to the "hiddenness" of God, which indicates His use of multiple intermediate agents.
- 3) Even the words of our text indicate God's use of others to accomplish His purposes.
- a) This "use of others" has multiple layers also: layers of agents upon agents; and layers of making choices and taking actions by those agents.
- b) Additionally, the layers of choices and actions include layers and layers of motives: some men seek to please God and others seek to oppose Him, and He uses all and sundry according to His own pleasure. His friends get to be co-laborers together with Him and His enemies are used in spite of themselves because He makes their "wisdom" in opposition to be "foolishness" as He uses the very acts of opposition to promote His own plan.
- II. Paul's Gratitude.
- A. One Issue: Why was Paul grateful?
- 1. The verb "give thanks" originally arose to express a recognition of an extension of grace to the person involved. It etymologically means "to be well graced". But it morphed into the legitimate reaction to such an extension of grace: giving thanks. This raises the issue of why Paul considered the grace extended to the Thessalonians to be an extension of grace to him. If anyone should be "giving thanks", it is the Thessalonians.
- 2. However, if we step back a bit and look at what the extension of grace accomplished for and through the Thessalonians, we immediately see that they had become aggressive evangelists in their own right (1:8) so that Paul's assigned task from God was eased in that "we need not to speak anything". Here we find at least one reason for his gratitude to God: God has made his task easier by giving to him a host of energetic fellow-workers.
- 3. Thanksgiving is the chief characteristic of a "grace" orientation wherein God is acting for our good without regard for whether we "deserve" good or evil treatment.
- B. A Second Issue: What Paul's gratitude did.
- 1. Paul's expression of his gratitude involves the fact that it affected his prayer life. In other words, gratitude led to a series of conversations with God for the purpose of expressing this gratitude. Jesus once had an experience with some folks for whom He did a phenomenal work, and gratitude expressed was not the outcome but for one exception (Luke 17:15-18).
- 2. Paul's gratitude reveals his healthy spiritual relationship with God as a "grace receiver". This is a pertinent element of his own usefulness to God in that it revealed "what manner of man he was" (1:5). This is no small matter in that it reveals the counter-balance to the "election of God", that counter-balance being the impact that men have upon one another. Paul was as clear as can be that it was God's "election" of the Thessalonians that resulted in their very enthusiastic evangelism, but he was also as clear as can be that the Thessalonians responded to "his gospel" because of "the manner of man he was".
- 3. Paul's gratitude also revealed a most fundamental issue regarding how believers are to live: they are to see the whole of life through the lens of "grace" so that they move with confidence without hubris. "Grace" guarantees that no man can boast; boasting only reveals the paucity of the boaster's understanding. But "grace" also guarantees that every man can move with confidence because God is not willing/unwilling to be involved because of real, or perceived, failures by those men.
- C. A Third Issue: Why did Paul tell the Thessalonians of his gratitude?
- 1. Clearly he thought that his revelation to them of his private attitude would be of some help.
- 2. As mentioned above, it carried forward their perception of him a la the "what manner of men we were among you".
- 3. Thus, his thought was that they would be encouraged even further to maintain their threefold behavior (1:3) for the same reason that "what manner of men we were among you" had made a contribution to this healthy spiritual approach to life.