by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 2 Study # 2 July 19, 2015 Dayton, Texas
3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;
4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
1901 ASV Translation:
3 We are bound to give thanks to God always to you, brethren, even as it is meet, for that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the love of each one of you all toward one another aboundeth;
4 so that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for yourpatience and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which ye endure;
I. What God Hath Wrought.
A. The giving of thanks assumes that grace has been extended by God.
1. He calls this "giving of thanks" an "obligation".
2. He says that the obligation arises from what would be considered "suitable".
a. "Suitability" means that something of a given "weight" is met by something that is of an equivalent "weight".
b. This idea of equivalence is not precise, but "giving thanks" is always "suitable" to the recognition of "extended grace".
c. But, it would be "unsuitable" for someone to "give thanks" if the person to whom the "thanks" is addressed did nothing worthy of gratitude, just as it is "unsuitable" for a person to receive grace and not give thanks [Note particularly the phrase in Romans 1:21, "...neither were thankful..."].
d. Gratitude just may be the very least of what is "suitable"; grace ought to produce a far greater response than simply giving thanks (as Romans 12:1 strongly implies).
B. The matters Paul identifies as "gracious accomplishments by God" are two: faith and love.
1. At issue: who gets the "credit" when someone's "faith" and "love" grows?
2. Gratitude settles the issue: the claim of gratitude is that God should get the "credit" for the thing done that causes the thanksgiving.
C. The issue of "faith" growing exceedingly.
1. "Faith" is a God-focused issue of both mind and heart.
a. Everywhere in the Bible, giving "God-characteristics" to someone other than God is idolatry.
b. Thus, it stands to reason that men are obliged to consider what their real basis of confidence is.
1) As with most things, "faith" is a multi-tiered reality because God is a user of intermediate agents. "Believing" that a chair will hold one's weight before taking a seat in it is not "idolatry" as long as the chair is viewed as simply one aspect of God's use of agency. If one "believes" the chair has a fundamentally inherent ability derived from its own, independently derived, characteristics, one is "idolatrous" because chairs are not gods. But "believing" that God's creation has principles in place that make chairs capable of supporting people is simply an acknowledgement that God uses intermediate agencies to accomplish His purposes without turning those agents into "gods" (inherent possessors of independent power). Likewise, "believing" that Paul was "believable" as an apostle of God is not some kind of "faith in Paul"; it is "faith in Paul's God" as the initiator and sustainer of Paul's character.
2) Thus, it is incumbent upon men that they sift through their "confidences" to see what the "root" is.
2. The "exceeding growth" means that God is increasingly viewed as the root of life and its needs, not merely "a" root.
a. The idea of "exceeding growth" comes from Paul's use of a combination word that couples "growth" with a prepositional prefix that magnifies the root verb. It is only used once in the entire New Testament, and only sparsely in extra-biblical Greek.
b. The idea of "exceeding growth" has some very basic underpinnings.
1) Exceeding growth stands upon the foundation of "faith" as a very precise response to a very precise "promise". As such it can be "measured" as Jesus did when He identified "faith as a grain of mustard seed"; or as He did when He commended a centurion for "such great faith" as He had not found in all Israel. The "growth" level is discerned by the state of the "soul" as illustrated by a comparison of the fearful woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:47) and the completely relaxed confidence of the centurion who displayed "such great faith" (Luke 7:9). Both received what they "believed", but one did so with such little faith that she was in fear and trembling and the other did so with such great faith that he was completely at ease.
2) Therefore, a "growing faith" requires a progressively greater ability to "see" how a given promise applies to an ever larger number of particular situations. Abraham's "faith" is explained as the ability to "see" that the command to offer Isaac upon an altar meant that God would raise him from the dead after the obedience had been exercised. It would have saved him a great deal of trouble (and us as well) if he had been able to "see" that a promise of a son meant he could not be killed by a lustful king if Sarah was not pregnant.
3) Another aspect of a "growing faith" is a greater ability to "see" the significance of more than one promise at a time. Since there are only three major "issues" with which believers must deal in this world (1 John 2:16), there need only be three major "promises" to address them. But, just as there are only three "primary colors" and a veritable host of variations, so also do the three major issues/promises contain a veritable host of specific applications to the gazillion situations with which we are faced day by day. A "growing" faith simply means that "Someone" is giving insight to His people so that they may see just how a specific, foundational promise meets a specific circumstance on any given day.
4) That Paul gave thanks to God for this "ability" as it was being demonstrated by the Thessalonians means one thing for sure: the ability comes from God Himself as He gives those who possess it the "wisdom" to "see". Insight is not something of which men can boast. Without God's intervention, men would be as stupid as a stump.