Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Calling and patience - 2nd Thessalonians 2:13-17

"But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word." (2nd Thessalonians 2:13-17)
God has chosen us for salvation, and not only us, but the whole world. He has called and invited all people to salvation, for this is the very reason for which He came and died. "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men." (Romans 5:18) However, though all are called, not all are chosen for salvation. Jesus Himself said, "For many are called, but few are chosen." (Matthew 22:14) The truth is that. while we are all called, we are called to a process of salvation, not a state of salvation. We are not saved merely because of our calling but rather because of the process of salvation that is at work in our lives. Many there are who want salvation, yet many there are who refuse the work of salvation in their lives. It is like the rich young ruler who came to Jesus seeking salvation yet left disappointed. "But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus said to His disciples, 'Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.'" (Matthew 19:22-23)

Paul teaches us that the work of salvation involves two things: sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. Sanctification means to be cleansed and set aside as sacred. It is the process by which the Holy Spirit washes away the residue of the world and purifies us for our bridegroom Jesus. Those who are sacred have separated themselves from the world and dedicated themselves to God and His Kingdom. However, this process of sanctification is something that we must yield to and partner with God in. There is the part that God does, "that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word," (Ephesians 5:26) yet there is also the part we must do, "Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work." (2 Timothy 2:21) This participation with God requires not only our obedience but also our faith in the truth. We yield to sanctification because we believe the truth that we have been told, "But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life." (Romans 6:22) We believe that the outcome of our sanctification is eternal life and it is because of this faith that we willingly and joyfully submit to God and to His working in our life; we submit because we believe in the reward.

In yielding to sanctification, we require one more thing: patience. The early church, often troubled by persecution and martyrdom, eagerly looked for the immediate return of Christ to deliver them from their troubles. The Thessalonian church had been troubled in their anticipation by those who said the second coming had already happened. Paul reminds them to quiet their hearts and to strengthen themselves with patience knowing their acceptance by God and that His return would come in an undeniable way not to be missed. Instead of anxiously waiting, he calls them to remain steadfast and to continue in the instructions he had previously given them. It is easy to be disturbed when you are always waiting and hoping for something yet to come, but peace is often found in being diligent in what you already know to do. Instead of looking to the future, Paul calls us to be daily engaged in good works and gracious words. Those who employ themselves in such pursuits will not quickly find themselves troubled by circumstances and fear.

David Robison

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