by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 1 Study # 2 June 28, 2015 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(003)Thesis:The root of our hope is that we exist by the love of God our Father and by the Lordship of Jesus the Christ.
Introduction:In our study last week we skipped the first verse in Paul's salutation in order to focus upon the "typical" salutary elements of "grace" and "peace". "Grace and peace to you" is found in 13 of the epistles of the New Testament, so I concluded that we needed to revisit those concepts so that we might see what they might mean to us on a day-by-day basis. "Grace" is God's gift in light of the "spirit's" need for a genuine humility, and "Peace" is God's gift in light of the "soul's" need for a genuine fearlessness.
Now, as we move on into our study this evening, we are going to look at what I call an anomaly. It is only in 1 and 2 Thessalonians that Paul uses the phrase the translators have chosen to render "in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ". Just as constant repetition makes us aware of the importance of words and the concepts they represent, anomalies do the same thing. If Paul felt it was necessary to say something to the Thessalonians -- and only to them -- because of something that was true about them and their circumstances it stands to reason that we are looking at something that we need to thoughtfully consider.
I. The Anomalies.
A. A comparison of the salutations of 1 and 2 Thessalonians reveal a couple of differences.
1. In both texts, the church is declared to be "in God the Father", but in 2 Thessalonians there is the addition of the term "our" to the description of God as Father.
2. In both texts, there is the wish for "Grace and Peace to you", but in 2 Thessalonians there is the addition of the "from God [our] Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ".
B. The uniqueness of the salutations to the Thessalonians in respect to the other letters of the New Testament centers on Paul's declaration that the "church of the Thessalonians" is, what the translators render, "in" God [the] Father.
C. The second letter doubles down on God as Father and Jesus as both Lord and Christ by repetition of the phrases in respect to the "in" concept as well as the "from" concept.
II. The Significance.
A. The "in" issue.
1. In English, "in" strongly leans to the idea of "location".
2. In Greek, "en" is pronounced "in", but it has multiple particularly distinct meanings derived from the 2698 times it is used in the New Testament.
a. Sometimes "en" identifies a "location" just as the English word does.
b. But sometimes "en" identifies an "instrument" of something accomplished.
3. At issue for us is what Paul wanted to communicate to the Thessalonians.
a. We have a hint in Acts 17:28 where Paul wanted to get the Athenians to think of the "unknown God" as the Creator/Sustainer in the sense of "...by Him we live and move and exist..." [This is instrumental].
b. We have a second hint from 1 Thessalonians 1:4 where he deliberately sticks the issue of "election" into the train of thought [This is an intentional elevation of God's choices and actions over what is going on so that the Thessalonians would be able to rest in grace].
c. We have a third hint from the overall focus of both letters: at issue is "Hope" and that only exists where God is firmly dominant.
4. The conclusion I have drawn is that Paul wanted to get the Thessalonians to focus upon the fact that they, as a "church", existed by the remarkable work of God and by the remarkable Lordship of Jesus the Christ.
B. The "our" issue.
1. That God is presented to the Church as the "Father" is obvious from a perusal of the salutations of the letters of the New Testament.
2. That Paul went one step further with the "our" in this second letter means that he felt that it would be particularly helpful if the Thessalonians would significantly embrace the identity of God as Father for themselves.
a. The "fatherhood" thesis regarding God in the New Testament is both clear and nebulous.
b. The entire Gospel is rooted in the assumption that men need a new "father" by means of a new "birth".
c. But, what does it mean to have God as "our" Father? [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.]
1) 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.
2) 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"?
3) 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"?
4) 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, but we can never be sure if our condition fits that concept.
5) 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.
d. The above absence of certainty has to mean at least one thing: the issue is not what God will/won't do.
1) 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.
2) There is only one issue that concerns the children of God: His love for us (1 John 3:1).
3) 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.
4) What we must keep in mind is His objective: He seeks our cooperation in Love and Faith.
C. The "in the Lord Jesus Christ" issue [the "in" is "by" as it is not a repeated term and means the same thing for both of its terms].