Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 3 Study # 1
Thesis: What God does in a person's heart and mind is revealed when that person acts in ways that are in harmony with the principles of the Kingdom of God.
Introduction: In our studies so far we have seen that Paul has been giving God the credit for what the Thessalonians are doing in terms of "faith" and "love". This maintains his focus upon the grace of God rather than human initiatives and actions, but there is no question that he is focused upon what the Thessalonians are actually doing in one respect: they are enduring persecutions and tribulations because of their commitment to the "Love/Faith/Hope" issues of the Gospel. That God stands under this endurance as the gracious Initiator is simply assumed by Paul; that the Thessalonians are behaving in a certain way is declared by Paul.
Now, this evening, we are going to look into what Paul calls "the righteous judgment of the God". The claim is that the Thessalonian endurance is a "manifest token of the righteous judgment of God". What does Paul mean and what does that imply for us?
August 16, 2015
- I. The Overall Focus of the Paragraph.
- A. The majority of the paragraph has to do with the coming "payback" in God's dealings with those who reject the knowledge of God, refuse to submit to the Gospel, and persecute those who embrace the knowledge of God and submit to the Gospel.
- B. The emphasis of the paragraph is upon the "legitimacy" of the "believer's" Hope which includes two major concepts: the believer's participation in the Kingdom of the God; and the unbeliever's subjection to eternal destruction.
- II. The Particular Issue Involved in the "Manifest Token".
- A. The word so translated by the Authorized Version is a word that means "tangible evidence of the reality of the intangible".
- 1. Acts 2:22 uses the word regarding the "intangible reality of Jesus' identity" being "made evident" by sense-based phenomena.
- a. Anyone can "claim" to be from God; this is an intangible in that being a witness of the commission by God of a person is basically impossible without being in the third heaven.
- b. The "claim" is "validated" by phenomena that is logically irrefutable in its effect-to-cause rationale (Note Romans 1:20).
- 2. Likewise, Acts 25:7 uses the word in a judicial court setting wherein the court was not a personal witness of the charges so that it has to be "convinced" by "evidences" that leave no wiggle room when it comes time for a verdict (the charges are "intangibles" as far as the court is concerned and the solution is "evidences").
- B. The word is being used by Paul to refer to the Thessalonian behavior (the tangible evidence) in light of the intangible activity of God in the background.
- 1. The intangible activity of God consists fundamentally of a decision He has made.
- a. That "decision" is addressed by Paul's use of the verb translated "ye may be counted worthy of the Kingdom of the God".
- b. God's decision to "count someone worthy of His Kingdom" is made in His own mind and no man has direct access to that; making the decision an "intangible".
- 1) The translators give the impression that this decision is to be made in the future.
- 2) But Paul's meaning is that the decision has already been made and it is playing out in tangible ways (the end of 1:5 reads "concerning which you are indeed suffering").
- a) The verb (to have been counted worthy) is an aorist passive and it is parallel to the same verb used in Acts 5:41 in an aorist passive where the "decision" that the disciples were "worthy" to suffer for His name was made before they were subjected to the suffering.
- b) The logic has already been established in 1 Thessalonians 1:4 where Paul reasoned from the persistent pursuit of the work of faith, the labor of love, and the endurance of hope in the face of serious persecution and tribulations back to its logical roots: the election of God.
- 2. The tangible activity is the Thessalonian persistence in suffering for the Kingdom.
- III. The Focus of the "Manifest Token": The Righteous Judgment of the God.
- A. First, the Judgment of the God.
- 1. This is the intangible: no one can read God's mind to see what His decision is.
- 2. The declaration of the decision is that He has counted the Thessalonians worthy of His Kingdom, but, again, this is intangible.
- 3. The "judgment", then, can be called into question.
- a. The judgment can be called into question as to whether God had, in fact, so considered the Thessalonians "worthy".
- 1) Paul actually entertained this question early on as 1 Thessalonians 1-3 indicate.
- 2) But the question was answered to Paul's satisfaction by Timothy's report in 3:6.
- b. The judgment can also be called in question as to whether God's decision was, in fact, "righteous".
- 1) To understand Paul's meaning we have to get away from our typical concept of "righteous" which we have because of the majority emphasis in the New Testament.
- 2) Instead we have to go to a minority use of the word in the New Testament.
- a) In a few places, the word translated "righteous" actually means "legitimate" or "valid" as in John 5:30 and 7:24; Luke 20:20; Philippians 1:7; and 2 Peter 1:13.
- b) In these texts, the word does not emphasize judicial righteousness so much as "legitimacy".
- 3) In our text Paul is saying that God's decision to declare the Thessalonians "worthy" of His Kingdom is legitimate because it has resulted in "manifest tokens".
- 4. Paul's Point: the Thessalonians are living out the impact of what God has done to/for them, just as Philippians 1:6 says will happen.
- B. One cautionary note: the absence of evidence does not mean the decision has not been made, but the presence of evidence does mean it has.