by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 1 Study # 2 June 28, 2015 Dayton, Texas
1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1901 ASV Translation:
1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ;
2 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I. The Differences Between the Salutations of the First and Second Letters [See Notes for June 21(001)].
II. The Sources of This Letter [See Notes for June 21(001)].
III. The Recipients of This Letter.
A. The Church of Thessalonians.
1. This is a clear indication that Paul recognized "The Church" was a composite of many smaller units, such as "the church of the Thessalonicans".
2. Similar to Paul's construct of "The Church" being made of "many members" is this construct of "The Church" being manifest in many geographical locations on the earth.
B. Those "Thessalonians" who are "in God our Father".
1. Being "in" God the Father is not a thought often referred to by Paul. Unless I have overlooked something, this is the only time he uses the phrase in a salutation to a letter. It is not, however, a foreign concept to Paul's writings as a perusal of the phrase reveals.
a. The "in" terminology indicates Paul's most fundamental theological orientation: God's people exist "in" Him (not only in the general, universal sense of Acts 17:28, but in a special and specific sense as "believers" in His Gospel).
1) The first issue is the question of whether the "in" is locative or instrumental. The form is the same but the meaning is significantly different. A "locative" sense means that we are "in God" in a "location" sense. An "instrumental" sense means that we are existing "by means of God" in the sense that we exist by His action. Both are true; but which is Paul's meaning in this salutation?
a) The Acts passage ties the notion of being "in" God with the quoted writer's claim that we are the "offspring" of God.
i. It is highly unlikely that Paul would have introduced any concept to the Athenians that smacked of any form of pantheism or panentheism. The quoted source for Paul's statement is a writer who claimed that we have our "genesis" in God. Paul uses this "genesis" idea to argue that we ought not to think of God in terms of "gold, or silver, or stone". This means that he is thinking in terms of what we are because of what the author of our being is. Thus, Paul's meaning in Acts 17:28 is that we "live, move, and exist" "by the hand of God" shortened to "by Him" -- the very common instrumental use of "in".
ii. That we have a special composition "by God" out of an "offspring" identity is very much like Paul's "in Adam" and "in Christ" theology in Romans 5 where the actions of Adam and Christ belong part and parcel to all of their "offspring" by birth and new birth.
iii. That Paul uses the terminology in Acts 17 among the pagans is simply his tacit claim that, though we might wish to be completely different from Him, no one is. Because we are not "sculptured of gold, silver, or stone", neither is God because we are His "offspring" (those who have their "genesis" -- origin by birth-- from Him).
b) It is just as likely as not that Paul's "in" terminology in the salutation under our consideration has the same "instrumental" meaning: the church is "in God our Father" in the sense that it exists by His doing and results in similarities between Him and it.
2) Then there is the issue of whether Paul ever meant "in" as a "location" concept when claiming that people were "in" Him.
a) In many of Paul's other "in" phrases relating, rarely to God, but often to Christ, the "in" means that we have a special position in respect to God that allows Him to treat us as He treats Himself. Whatever He does to Himself, He does to us, and whatever He does to us, He does to Himself.
b) This terminology has its most significant point in being a signal of a special relationship with God as Father so that we receive His care as the Perfect Father Whose goal for His children is a full-orbed love and faith that will empower His kingdom to be full of righteousness, peace, and joy.
i. This fits Paul's "God our Father" terminology and is reinforced by the addition of "our" to the fatherhood concept initially stated in 1 Thessalonians 1:1.
ii. This also exactly fits Paul's logic in Acts 17:28 in that as "our Father" He is the "progenitor" and we are the consequent "offspring".
b. Though a bit of a problem mentally to make the adjustment to "by" instead of "in" for us as readers of an English translation, it is necessary to grasp that to which Paul is referring: he is writing to a "church" that exists by a Father's action as well as a "Lord's" action when that "Lord" is Jesus the Christ.
2. This concept is somewhat problematical in that the Scriptures are not clear on just what a "perfect Father" will/won't do in regard to His children.
a. Hebrews 12:8 is not unclear about the fact that a "perfect Father" chastens "all" of His children for their sake. But the form of that chastening and the identity of it as chastening, rather than the daily unavoidable unpleasantness that goes on all of the time, is left to our imagination.
b. Likewise Luke 11:11 is not unclear that the "perfect Father" does have some levels of "likeness" to the human fathers on this earth. But, which of the actions of an earthly father are sufficiently "like" the God Who is "father" that we can argue a theological conclusion from "us" to "Him"?
c. Jesus is not unclear that no human father is to be seen as "the" measure of the Heavenly Father (Matthew 23:9), but, again, which of the actions of an earthly father are sufficiently "like" the God Who is "father" that we can argue a theological conclusion from "us" to "Him"?
d. Then there is 1 Corinthians 11:32 where "weakness", "sickness", and even physical "sleep" (death) are identified as some of the ways God "chastens" His own. Added to this is that the very attribute that we are seeking to be employed in His dealings with us is "grace", which, all on its own, throws certainty of what God will/won't do to the winds.
1) The above absence of certainty has to mean at least one thing: the issue is not what God will/won't do. Having a "perfect Father" is not about how He will react in any given situation in which we find ourselves; it is about the underlying motivation. There is only one issue that concerns the children of God: His love for us (1 John 3:1).
2) Though we can not be sure how He will react to our circumstances, one thing we can know for sure: He will be moved by Love to act by Grace.
3) What we must keep in mind is His objective: He seeks our cooperation in Love and Faith.
C. Those "Thessalonians" who are also "in" "[the] Lord Jesus Christ".
1. There is a biblical distinction between being "in" "God as Father" and being "in" the Lord Jesus Christ in some contexts.
a. The "Lord Jesus Christ" is presented in many places as a Second Adam Who is the Head of a race of human beings which has been "redeemed" from the Old Race of the First Adam, but which carries the "seed of God in them so that they cannot sin" (1 John 3:9). This is the link between God and men and it sets the stage for the ultimate realization of the Plan of God.
b. But, in our present context, the "in" is not repeated: the phrase is "in God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ". This insists that whatever meaning we give to "in God" is the same meaning as "in [the] Lord Jesus Christ. If the former is "instrumental", so is the latter.
2. Being "in" the Lord Jesus Christ effectively places us in relationship with all of His redemptive activity so that we actually participate in all that He has-done/will-do and in all of His character in the having-done/shall-do issues of our experience, but being "by" the "Lord Jesus Christ" means that we are to be looking at the issue of our relationship as an outcome of His "Lordship" as both "Jesus" and "Christ".
IV. The Writer's Wishes For the Thessalonians.
1. This grace is a kind of root level issue defining how the "we in Him" reality actually works.
2. This grace is God's input at all times and in every situation so that we can be confident that He will realize His Plan and we will realize our part in it.
3. "Grace" appears to be an issue of the "spirit" of man.
1. This peace is a state/condition of the mental aspect of man's existence in both mind and heart so that "Life" can be the experience of anyone anywhere whose "mind" is rooted in an understanding of "grace" and the commitments God has made apart from "Justice".
2. "Peace" appears to be an issue of the "soul" of man.
C. There is no "wish" for something for the "body" of man, seeing that it has been relegated to the processes of eventual disintegration back to dust.
V. The Writer's Source of Expectation Regarding Those Wishes.