Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1
Thesis: The root of gratitude is a clear understanding of what the experience of grace means.
Introduction: This is the second study of the second "abiding reality" in Paul's declaration in 1 Corinthians 13:13 (But now remains faith, hope, and love; these three...) In our studies of the first of those remaining realities, we argued that "faith" is a grace-based confidence in the legitimacy of God's promises because they are rooted not in human performance issues, but in God's performance issues. Relating to God means believing what He says is true and, particularly, expecting Him to fulfill His promises even when human performance issues stand in opposition to Justice. Thus, biblical "faith" is rooted in a clear-eyed grasp of "grace" as God's intention to make and keep promises in spite of man's consistent/persistent failures.
In light of those "failures" it is important for us to remember what we saw last week in our introduction to this study of Paul's Message of Motivating Hope. We considered both John's and Paul's statements about what happens to people who are locked on to the biblical description of hope: they deal with their persistent/consistent failures in a biblically/relationally acceptable way. In John's terminology, they "purify themselves" and in Paul's terminology, "if we hope...then do we with patience wait". Therefore, our studies in 1 and 2 Thessalonians are logically "next" in line. Being established in hope will enable us to live effectively with, and for, God.
In our study this evening we are going to see that, just as "faith" is rooted in a clear-eyed grasp of "grace" as God's intention to make and keep promises in spite of man's persistent/consistent failures, so also is "hope". This is at least one of the points Paul made in his first comments to the Thessalonian Church.
December 22, 2013
- I. Gratitude is Paul's Opening Claim.
- A. Paul's opening words are "We give thanks to God always for you..."
- B. There are at least three things that are important to this opening comment.
- 1. The roots of the expression of gratitude: Where does it come from?
- 2. The rationale for Paul's gratitude to God for the Thessalonians: Why was Paul grateful?
- 3. The rationale for Paul's expression of that gratitude to the Thessalonians: Why did Paul tell the Thessalonians of his gratitude toward God?
- II. Gratitude Arises From the Known Experience of Grace.
- A. The known experience of Grace, as opposed to the ignorant experience, is experience that realizes and understands that it exists because God is being gracious.
- 1. God is characteristically gracious.
- 2. Men often do not recognize that reality because of their legalism.
- a. Legalists do not accept responsibility for the painful things they experience.
- 1) They cannot afford to accept responsibility because "Law" will condemn them.
- 2) They characteristically look for someone else to blame.
- b. Legalists are quick to claim responsibility for the good things they experience.
- 1) The Sound of Music ... somewhere in my childhood...I must have done something good.
- 2) Butterfly kisses...
- c. Legalism blinds men to grace and diminishes their gratitude.
- 1) Legalists are the quickest to understand that gratitude requires "grace".
- 2) Thus they are the most likely to be unthankful.
- B. Gratitude has its roots in understanding grace.
- 1. Etymologically, "thanksgiving" means "being treated well without consideration of merit/demerit", or overriding such consideration.
- 2. The meaning, however, morphed into a response to being so treated.
- a. This is not automatic: Luke 17:15-18.
- b. But if understanding is present, it strongly tends in the direction of responding correctly.
- C. Paul's gratitude had its roots in clear-eyed understanding.
- 1. He was not just saying words.
- 2. According to multiple passages in Paul's letters, he understood that God had given him an assignment to accomplish.
- 3. According to our text, specifically verse 8, Paul saw the Thessalonians as grace-given helpers in his assigned task.
- D. Paul's expression of his gratitude: why did he tell the Thessalonians of his attitude toward them?
- 1. His words were not words of thankfulness to them; they were addressed to God.
- 2. However, he told them of his attitude toward God for a really good reason.
- a. In this paragraph, both the underlying, immutable plan of God is mentioned, as well as the subsequent methodology of God in executing His plan.
- 1) He inserts the issue of God's "election" as a way to bring "grace" into play (1:4).
- 2) But he also declares that the faith of the Thessalonians was significantly "enabled" by reason of their perception of him (1:5).
- b. The expression of Paul's attitude toward God is another expression of "what manner of man" he was.
- c. According to 1:6, the Thessalonians had become "followers" of him and he wanted that "following" to be as "grace" oriented as possible.
- III. Summary.
- A. Legitimate biblical "faith" is in the grace of God expressed through promises made.
- B. Legitimate biblical "hope" is also in the grace of God expressed through both election and human acceptance of divinely given mandates that are carried out by grace.