Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1
January 10, 2016
13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
1901 ASV Translation:
13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
14 whereunto he called you through our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15 So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours.
- I. The Apostolic Obligation.
- A. The "we" (Paul, Silvanus, Timothy) is emphatic. It is only used this one time in this letter.
- B. The "are bound" is the typical term for being obligated by some factor to some end.
- 1. The context is "grace".
- 2. The concept is "obligation".
- a. In the "typical" presentation of "grace" we have an "obligation free" action by God that includes a lack of merit on the part of the recipient so that he/she has no claim upon God that "obligates" Him and a lack of "obligation" upon the recipient so that God requires nothing of the recipient except "faith" in order for him/her to receive the "grace".
- b. But, clearly, the receiving of "grace" does result in "obligation". The text is as clear as it can be that the apostle is "under a form of obligation" because of the extension of grace by God. ("...we are under obligation...because...").
- c. The "definition" of "grace" as expressed by the historical activities of God consists of God's choice to extend benefit that is "unearned" (Romans 11:6) so that He does something required of the recipient under what is "right" for, and in the stead of, the recipient and then "judges" that the recipient has "done" the thing done when that recipient "believes" God's declaration that the required thing has been accomplished and will be imputed to him/her who "believes". This is the essence of the Gospel: God has done the thing required of men (perfection under Law), in the stead of those men, and has offered to impute that "doing" to them "by faith".
- 1) One of the questions of "obligation" is this: what happens to the person who "receives" the grace and then rejects the "obligation" after the fact?
- a) Is the "grace" given, and received, rescinded or revoked by God because He did not get the result from the recipients that He sought? If not, what is the point of even discussing any sense of "obligation"? If so, does the "after the fact" rejection of the inherent obligation actually become a "requirement" for enjoying the "grace" given benefit?
- b) And if any "after the fact" failures negate the blessings of grace, who among us will enjoy those benefits? Have we not all "failed" "after the fact"?
- i. There is Jesus' teaching in Matthew 18:23-35 where "forgiveness" is rescinded because it was not extended by the "forgiven" to another who also needed, and requested, it.
- ii. There is also the entire corpus of New Testament teachings that all that is not "of the Spirit" will create a harvest unto the flesh and a reaping of corruption (Galatians 6:7-8) within the parameters of a "grace" Gospel.
- c) The bottom line is that there are two specific realms wherein this "obligation" principle operates: the first realm is that of the unbelieving world where "obligation" goes unmet and eternal judgment is visited upon those who have failed to meet it; and the second realm is that of the family of God where "obligation" is sometimes met and sometimes not and Fatherly discipline, the law of the harvest, and the coming judgment seat of Christ come into play.
- 2) A second question is this: why does Paul bring up the issue of "obligation" at this point, or, indeed, at all?
- a) There can be no doubt that a sense of "obligation" rests more heavily upon us than does simple understanding of given facts.
- b) Therefore, we must grapple with what Paul's intention was in bringing it up.
- c) There are several issues involved in any concept of "obligation".
- i) On one hand, "obligation" tends to focus attention upon the need for determination in order that the obligation be met (Romans 1:15; 2 Corinthians 8:22; Hebrews 11:6; 2 Peter 3:14).
- ii) And, always, the issue of determination is two-fold: where will the obligated obtain the ability to achieve the determination?; and what is the requirement for the obtaining of that ability? The "where" is always the Spirit of God, and the "what" is always "faith" as a matter of dependence upon Him to fulfill His promise(s).
- d) Thus we must conclude that Paul wanted the Thessalonians to realize that his commitment to expressing gratitude to God for them was not simply a passing whim, but was, rather, the outworking of the Spirit's response to his confidence in Him to direct his ways.
- C. The "to give thanks to the God" is the "end" that "obligation" has in view.
- 1. The concept of thanksgiving is "responding to grace given".
- 2. The "always" is indicative of the magnitude of the grace extended.
- D. The actual "binding" is because of God's election of the Thessalonians.
- 1. In what sense is Paul "bound" to give thanks because God has done some extraordinarily gracious thing for someone else?
- 2. Apparently Paul sees God's grace to others as being through himself as an aspect of his commission ("obligation") by God as the apostle to the gentiles so that he is being "graced" by God by being allowed to be His instrument of grace to others. In 2 Timothy 2:10 he actually said that his reason for enduring all things was for the sake of the elect so that they might obtain God's salvation.
- II. The Identity of the "Brethren".
- A. First, they are "brethren".
- B. Second, they are "beloved by [the] Lord" (a characteristic tied directly to "election" in 1 Thessalonians 1:4).
- III. The Rationale of the Obligation.
- A. The God has "chosen you from the beginning".
- 1. The word translated "chosen" is only used three times in the entire New Testament and it means "to make a choice", "to decide on a course of action".
- 2. The word the Authorized Version translates "from the beginning" is actually the result of a textual problem that the textual critics cannot really resolve. They give a conflated reading of two words a "C" in arguing that the AV, which rests upon two words that mean "from the beginning", is not as preferable as "firstfruit". It is interesting, though, that the AV, ASV, and NASB all use "from the beginning" to render the text. It is likely that the translators realized that the idea that the Thessalonians were "chosen as a firstfruit" makes no sense historically and that Paul's concept of "election" was introduced early (1 Thessalonians 1:4) and is a major thesis in "hope".
- B. The "choice" had to do with "salvation".
- 1. The idea is that God's choice was "unto salvation".
- 2. The means of "salvation" begins with "sanctification by the Spirit".
- 3. This means moves then to "and by faith in truth".