Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 1 Study # 3
Thesis: Being subjected to significant difficulties is not only an integrated part of "believing", it is an integrated part of God's mechanism of sanctification.
Introduction: There is a very significant reason for Paul's deep concern for the condition of the Thessalonians' "faith" in the context of having to "suffer" because of it. It boils down to two things: the reality that makes "suffering" an inescapable necessity; and what will happen to them if they jettison it. This evening we are going to look into these two issues.
September 7, 2014
- I. The Inescapable Necessity.
- A. The "what" that is necessary: "these afflictions".
- 1. The word Paul chose to characterize the "superficial" issue is the word Jesus used in Matthew 24:21 to identify the coming time of horrific "wrath" upon the world.
- a. The "point" here is that there is really no difficulty so minor, nor so great, that this word is not a legitimate identifying term (from a stubbed toe to torture and death).
- b. At root is the basic idea of "pressure".
- 2. As a "pressure", the essence of the term is "methodological" and refers to the attempt by an outside factor that exists to "force" a person to alter his/her "faith/function" approach to some issue of "Life".
- a. There is the "Tempter's" objective: to "force" the person to stop "believing" (and, thus, "acting" upon) an identifiable "truth".
- b. There is "God's" objective: to "force" the person to grip the "believed" "truth" more firmly, thus moving it more and more away from its initial "mental" response to an argument rooted in an apparent "logic" and more and more into its final resting place in the "heart" so that it becomes an actual part of the person's way of looking at the definition and mechanisms of "Life".
- 3. As a mental image, "pressure" fits the most basic concept of biblical "salvation" as a "removal" of the "pressures" into an abounding freedom [Yahweh makes a broad place].
- B. The "why" of the "necessity": "we are being 'hardened into' this very thing".
- 1. The setting of the necessity.
- a. We live in a corrupt creation that is marked at its roots by the presence of a great host of lies as corruptors of both the knowledge of what is true and the confidence that what is true is actually true.
- b. We have a God and an adversary with a future that hangs in the balance with the final outcome being "forevermore".
- c. No one can "believe" anything in this corruption without taking a "side" and living with the consequences established by the opponents.
- 2. The "hardening".
- a. The word behind my translation is a word that means to be inescapably "set" into the described setting.
- b. The fact that there are opposite outcomes means that there is one basic "love" in the cross-hairs: the Ultimate Loyalty.
- 1) With God, the "Love" that is at stake is the issue of a person's settled attitude of personal sacrifice in respect to Others/others.
- 2) With the adversary the "Love" that is at stake is the issue of a person's settled attitude of the sacrifice of all "others" in order to protect and exalt oneself.
- 3. The reality that necessitates such an "appointment".
- a. At root, Sin has one essential element: self preservation/exaltation.
- b. There is nothing that surfaces this element and "forces" a decision about it like being put under the experience of significant discomfort.
- 1) God wants the discomfort to "force" the selfishness "out" and the "faith" "in" (deeper into the essence of the person).
- 2) Satan wants the discomfort to "force" the "faith" "out" and the "selfishness" "in".
- II. The Problem of "Outcome".
- A. Paul calls it "making my labor vain".
- B. Thus, the only way to understand the "outcome" is to understand the "goal" that is in view.
- 1. There are those who will arbitrarily "opt" for a distinction between "justification" and "sanctification" so that Paul can have one "goal" accomplished but have the larger "goal" frustrated unto "vanity".
- 2. There is, however, no reason in the text and context to make such a distinction: Paul's statement is that his labor will be rendered completely ineffective.
- a. There are not two "goals".
- b. Paul's objective is to "stabilize" the "faith" at the "heart" level so that all of the outcomes of "faith" can be achieved.
- C. We have already suggested that the typical "two" views overlook a "third".
- 1. The Arminian view is that "justification" occurred at the preaching of Paul and that any forsaking of the faith that was exercised will result in the loss of that "justification".
- 2. The Calvinist view is that "justification" occurred at the preaching of Paul and that whatever "enduring" that must take place (the "inevitable perseverance of the saints") will take place.
- 3. The third view is that "faith" occurred at the preaching of Paul, but before God responds to it with the decree of righteousness, it has to be "tested" and "forced" into the regions of the "heart" so that it is an established "faith".
- 4. Regardless of the "view", eternity is at stake.