Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1
Thesis: Grace does not erase obligation; it simply provides a unique methodology for its fulfillment.
Introduction: The previous paragraph was heavily involved in the themes involved in God's response to the mystery of the lawlessness. His response, in a word, is judgment. But this judgment comes in a variety of ways, one of which is God's response to the attitudes of those who are committed to unrighteousness, and another of which is God's physical response to the behavior those attitudes drive. In any case, the issue is the dark period of the Day of the Lord and His heavy hand upon those who will be subject to it.
In the next paragraph, the focus is upon what God has planned for those who are committed to the love of God and faith in His Spirit. It is interesting that, at the outset, this paragraph is deliberately focused upon two issues: God's grace and the obligation that stands over those who have received it. Since many are confused about the relationship of grace to obligation, we are going to consider two primary issues this evening: what "obligation" does grace bring to the table and why Paul brings the issue up at this point.
January 10, 2015
- I. First, Grace Does Bring Obligation to the Table.
- A. The emphatic "we".
- 1. Greek verbs require no pronoun to identify the subject of the verb; it is built in.
- 2. Whenever an author adds the unrequired pronoun, it is always for emphasis.
- 3. In the present case, the "we" is Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus as apostolic representatives of God in the world whose primary task is establishing the content of "faith" for the Church.
- B. The on-going obligation.
- 1. The verb indicates on-going action in the present time: the obligation stands over the apostles at all times.
- 2. The verb is used to indicate a standing 'debt' that is inescapable except through legitimate payment or dismissal.
- a. Matthew 18:23-35 is a classic text to illustrate the meaning.
- b. The illustrative text frankly addresses the "obligation" imposed by grace and the consequence of failure to meet it.
- 3. In our text, it is clear that Paul feels himself (and Timothy and Silvanus) to be "under" such an obligation and that it is on-going.
- II. The Nature of the Obligation.
- A. Paul actually calls it "an obligation to respond to grace given by the God".
- B. The given grace.
- 1. Paul says the obligation stands over him "because" God chose the Thessalonians from the beginning unto "salvation".
- a. He gives the divine motivation: "beloved by [the] Lord".
- 1) The issue of "love" in this text is the issue of "selective elevation above others, including the Lord Himself".
- a) The prior text of 2:10 says that God extended "truth" to all who eventually come to condemnation and they "did not embrace it".
- b) Since all of us, including the Thessalonians, are not disposed within ourselves to "love the truth", there has to be some reason for the difference between those who end up "loving the truth" and those who reject it that does not come across as a basis for boasting.
- c) In the long range plan of God to bring many sons to glory He is constantly active in bringing a "love for truth" into play in the hearts of some men.
- d) Thus, "love" is rooted in the "selection" by God of those whose hearts He is going to change (note 1 Thessalonians 1:4 in respect to our text's use of the same terminology).
- e) This is God's "selective elevation above others including Himself".
- 2) Being "beloved by [the] Lord" is either rooted in the beloved or in the lover, but not both.
- b. He gives the divine action: The God "chose you from the beginning".
- 1) The verb is only used three times in the New Testament but it is clear that it means "to make a choice", or "to decide on a course of action".
- 2) The phrase "from the beginning" is a bit problematic because it represents two words (apo and arche) but some texts conflate them into (aparche) because apo, written before a word that begins with an alpha is written as ap' and if ap' is misread as the beginning of arche, the result is a wholly different word (aparche) which means "firstfruit".
- 3) Most translators realize that the text is dealing with God's timing and not the issue of "firstfruits".
- c. He gives the divine intention: He is intent upon "saving" the Thessalonians.
- 1) The issue of "saving" is not "general" in the sense of "salvation from sin by way of the forgiveness of sins and the new birth into God's family".
- 2) The "saving" is contextually defined.
- a) The context is adamant that the issue is whether, or not, the Thessalonians are going to be subjected to the judgments of the Day of the Lord.
- b) The salvation is "from" those specific judgments as 1 Thessalonians 1:10 clearly indicates.
- 2. The question is how God's "love", "choice", and "intent to save" brings Paul under "obligation".
- a. Paul clearly understood that he was not "saved" to sit around and indulge himself in the daily pursuits of life in this world (no soldier entangles himself with the affairs of this life).
- b. From 2 Timothy 2:10 he clearly understood that his place in God's plan was to bring those chosen by God into the fold.
- c. Thus, the "obligation" upon Paul by reason of God's choice is relatively simple: it was God's plan to "grace" Paul with salvation unto "service" to the living and true God and that "grace" put him into the position of being God's instrument for the salvation of His elect (thus "obligating" Paul to apply the grace to the situation by faith).