by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 2 Study # 9 February 16, 2014 Dayton, Texas
5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
1901 ASV Translation:
5 how that our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and [in] much assurance; even as ye know what manner of men we showed ourselves toward you for your sake.
I. The Conjunction ("For" or "how that").
A. This is a very typical use of the causative conjunction (oti), which introduces the rationale for a prior statement.
B. In this case, Paul is explaining that he "knew" of their "election": because ...
II. The Rationale.
A. Our Gospel did not come into your existence in word only, but also in power, even in the Holy Spirit.
1. Our Gospel: a clear recognition that there are many "messages" proclaimed in the world as if they were "gospels", but not the one true Gospel which Paul proclaimed.
a. This was not simply a message about Jesus of Nazareth being put to death for sins and raised on the third day; it was also a message about how that death was to be understood in terms of its efficacy. There were those whose grasp of that death was that it opened a door of opportunity so that anyone who was willing to become intentional in the performance of God's commands could be accepted by God. Then, there was Paul in his understanding of that death as the sole object of "faith" unto justification. The former said that God would forgive those who believed in Jesus' death and submitted to the necessity of obedience to the expressions of God's will as given in commandments. The latter said that God would forgive those who believed that the death of Jesus was a sufficient and complete basis for forgiveness without any additional "intentions".
b. This reality of "our Gospel" as a rejection of human performance issues necessarily opens the door to the questions regarding "intention(s)": what does a person have to "intend" when he/she "believes" in Jesus of Nazareth as God's anointed Redeemer?
1) Can a person "believe" the Gospel while simultaneously "intending" to continue to pursue his/her way upon the earth?
2) Does a person have to "intend" to only do the will of God while "believing" in Jesus of Nazareth in order to receive eternal life?
3) The questions all have to do with "intention".
a) In terms of "intention", the first question that must be asked/answered is this one: what does God "intend" to accomplish by the Gospel, and how shall we determine the answer?
i. First, how shall we determine the answer? There are several ways.
i) The first is the setting into which the promises are made. Beyond debate is this truth: the setting was one of conflict between a "Just" God and "wicked" men. There is, also, this truth: the "Love" of God intentionally seeks true "benefit" for those whom He loves, which, by His own demand, includes His "enemies". Given these issues of "conflict" and "benefit", it seems that the setting of the promises was one in which God "intended" to remove the "conflict" and establish the "benefit". This would make the intention revealed by "setting" to be "reconciliation"; a concept that eliminates conflict and makes the flow of benefit from God to His people possible. This would also, then, mean that no one can "believe" the Gospel while "intending" to maintain a "war footing" against God and rejecting the desirability of the promise of the Joy of Life. By extension, then, the fear of wrath imposed by God because of "conflict" is an element of the "intentionality" of man in respect to his "faith"; the man must "intend" to pursue "peace" with God. Additionally, the desire for joy as the bottom line in the promise of Life by God is a second element of the "intentionality" of man in respect to his "faith"; the man must "intend" to allow God to fill his soul with joy. Ipso facto, the setting of the Gospel in respect to "intentionality" is one in which both God and man seek peace between themselves and the intimacy of Joy. This would automatically eliminate anyone from "believing" while "intending" to continue to pursue evil and death. Importantly, however, the issues of "intending to do evil" and "committing to doing good" are not the same, or equal issues.
ii) The second is the content of the promise(s) made. Throughout the Gospel the promise of the forgiveness of sins stands out preeminently. Forgiveness is an intrinsic requirement of the cessation of conflict. Thus, the conditions for "forgiveness" immediately come into play in respect to "intentionality". When the Baptizer came on the scene as the introduction to "grace" (the name "John" means "Yahweh is gracious" and the angelic insistence upon this name indicates a potent "push" by God in the direction of getting men to "believe" that He is gracious), he announced a "gracious" doctrine: repent and God will forgive. This raises the critical question of the actual meaning of "repent". The explanation of this meaning is involved, but the bottom line is that "repentance" was illustrated in Isaiah 40 where John's ministry was rooted. In that text, the call is for a "level" highway that would be created by the removal of the high places of the mountains and the filling in of the low places of the ravines and valleys. This is a pictorial presentation of twin necessities: the humiliation of pride and the exaltation of depression so that the "level" highway ran between the pride of man in his "I do not need God" arrogance and the depression of man in his "God will not meet the need I have of Him" despair. Such a promise (forgiveness) in the face of pride and despair means that man's "intention" must be to submit to the humiliation of his mountains being crumbled and accept the exaltation from his valleys of despair. Thus, on the basis of the promise of "forgiveness" we can conclude that man's "intentionality" must include the admission of his need for God and his confidence that God stands ready to lift him up to the Joy of Life.
ii. Second, we must bring together the union between the promises of "forgiveness" and "eternal life" because they address the twin issues of intentionality: "forgiveness" eliminates "conflict" and "eternal life" establishes "benefit". Thus, man must "intend" to seek an end to the conflict and to enter into the benefits of Life.
b) Second, we must be careful not to confuse issues of "intention". It is one thing to seek peace and joy; it is quite another to "promise" obedience. Many teach that man's "intentionality" must include a determination to forsake sin and follow Jesus. The problem here is that all sinners know their susceptibility to failure and to make a "promise" to follow Jesus is to promise both more than can be done and more than can confidently be promised. If salvation depends upon man's commitment to "obedience" the Gospel becomes a dream without fulfillment. Man's "faith" cannot be tied to his own abilities; it must be settled in God. Thus man is forbidden by truth to make any foolish commitments to God or anyone else. Therefore, we cannot make the Gospel subject to man's "intention" to do good.
2. The "in" words -- in word...in power...in the Holy Spirit -- are most likely to be understood as "instrumental"; describing "how" the Gospel came in terms of "instruments".
3. My translation of "even in" is my understanding of an epexegetical explanation of the reference to "power".
4. Paul's claim is that when he preached the Gospel, he used words. The gospel came into their hearing by means of words. But (a strong adversative), that "coming" was not simply by means of words; it was also by means of "power". And, epexegetically, that "power" was the active presence of the Holy Spirit whose presence made the verbal sounds of words pierce into their very hearts with potent conviction of the Truth so that they responded. Everyone always responds in some way when words carry a potent conviction into the core of their rationality. In the case of the Thessalonians, the response was as described in 1:3.
a. Sometimes words carry no potency; a "spirit of stupor" in the hearer blocks the actual meaning of the words from being able to penetrate.
b. Sometimes words carry an aggressive potency that is completely unwelcome; the hearers tend to rise up in violent rejection because the words carried their meaning into a clarity that the hearers refused to accept.