by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 2 Study # 6 January 26, 2014 Dayton, Texas
3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;
4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
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:
3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father;
4 knowing, brethren beloved of God, your election,
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. Paul's Prayer "Qualifiers".
A. He follows his well-known trilogy (the work of the faith, the labor of the love, and the endurance of the hope) with the phrase translated "in our Lord Jesus Christ".
B. He also follows his well-known trilogy (the work of the faith, the labor of the love, and the endurance of the hope) with another phrase translated "before our God and Father".
II. The Particular Meaning of the First Qualifier.
A. There is a perfectly good Greek term for "in". Paul did not use it; the translators did. By so doing, the translators masked Paul's meaning.
1. Greek grammar, like the grammar of probably every human language on the planet, is not simple. However, if Paul had meant "in", why in the world would he side-step the simple and effective form and opt for one that is a bit convoluted if, in fact, he meant "in"?
2. There are two major questions: did Paul add the "qualifier" to only the final issue of that trilogy (hope), or did he intend that the entire trilogy (faith, love, and hope) would be qualified by his phrase; and, second, why did he use the ablative/genitive form of the word "Lord" if, in fact, he meant what the simple dative means?
a. The differences are these: if he meant only the last of the three to be "qualified", then "hope" is the only thing to be seen as "qualified"; and, second, if he meant that our "hope" (or "faith", "love", and "hope") was to be "in" our Lord Jesus Christ, then he did not write that as clearly and easily as he could have by using the simple dative form of the words.
b. Thus, we must consider our options from the flow of Paul's thought within the larger issue of his "T"heology.
B. We shall begin with the question of just "what" is "qualified": is it only the "hope", or is it the larger trilogy?
1. Paul is writing about his "remembrances" as a description of the content of his thinking as he prays for the Thessalonians.
2. His second "qualifier" emphasizes his concept of "prayer" in that he sees himself speaking in the presence of "the God [Who is] our Father". This qualifier is inclusive. This means that when he "remembers" the Thessalonians before the God Who is our Father, he remembers all three of the things he mentions (their faith, love, and hope).
3. This raises this issue: do the two "qualifiers" actually stand in balance with each other as descriptions of his prayer, or does the former only focus upon the trilogy and the latter focuses upon the entire "remembrance"?
a. This question may not be answerable in a definitive way because this is a translator's dilemma -- making "meaning" choices based upon less than specific grammatical factors.
b. However, my choice is that the first "qualifier" stands pretty much under the second in this sense: the first "qualifies" only the last of the set of three ("the hope") while the second places the "prayers" regarding the three before the Father.
4. With this choice made, the issue of Paul's form of expressing his meaning rises to the top of our questions.
a. Why did Paul "qualify" the last of the trilogy (the "hope") with the Genitive/Ablative form of the word "Lord"?
b. It is clear by his emphatic placement of the word "your" that he intends the Thessalonians to understand that his memories of things that belong to them (your work, your labor, your hope). This is the meaning of the genitive form of the pronoun "your".
c. Thus, we have either the ablative sense of the form used with "Lord", which is at root the idea of source (out of, or from), or we have the genitive sense of the form, which is at root the idea of possession (the Lord's). This boils down to the notions that either the last of the trilogy is to be seen in light of its root (the Lord as the root of the Thessalonian response), or its ownership (the "hope" is to be seen as what the Lord has produced in the Thessalonians).
d. Theologically, either option is true. The Lord really is the root of our responses according to Paul's dictum that the Lord "works in you both the willing and the doing of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13), and the Lord really does take ownership of our responses in that they are His responses as He dwells in those who believe in Him.
e. Thus, we are left with the flow of thought in this particular context. As Paul prays "before the God Who is our Father", is he more interested in presenting his petitions in the light of what the "Lord" has-done/is-doing in the Thessalonians, or is he more interested in presenting his petitions in the light of what actually belongs to the "Lord"? My take on it is that he is not so much interested in presenting his petitions to the Father on the basis of what actually belongs to the "Lord" as he is in presenting them on the basis of what the "Lord" has already begun to do. If the work, labor, and hope is what the "Lord" has already begun to do, then the petitions rest upon the dictum that "what He has begun, He will continue unto completion" (Philippians 1:6).
5. The Larger Conclusion: Paul prayed because he saw what the "Lord" had begun to do and was significantly interested in seeing it come to fulness.
6. The More Specific Conclusion: Paul's focus was upon "the hope" and he "qualifies" it with the genitive form of the phrase "our Lord Jesus Christ" so that the effective meaning is that the "hope" was the kind of "hope" that is characterized as being focused particularly upon "our Lord Jesus Christ"; it was a "Lord Jesus Christ Hope". This is the second of the twin characterizations of "the work" and "the labor": waiting for His Son from heaven. This is the "Lord Jesus Christ Hope".
III. The Particular Meaning of the Second "Qualifier".
A. Paul's concept of prayer is always that he is relating conversationally to "the God". So what is the point of stating the "obvious" (prayer is always to "God", so why say that?).
B. The issue is the character of "the God" to whom Paul relates. God is a Person of multiple attributes, each of which direct our minds down certain "thought trails". If God is characterized as "the God of all comfort", we are directed down the thought trail of "comfort". If He is called "the Almighty", we think of power and its exercise. Etc.
C. The particulars that Paul puts into focus are two: He is "the God" and He is "our Father".
1. As "the God", Paul cuts a deep chasm across the polytheism of the ancient culture and, with the simple articular use of "God" (the God), denies it absolutely.
a. It is one thing to have a "Father" who may be one of many; it is altogether another thing to be the child of the only God Who exists.
b. Eradicating the nonsense of a plurality of deities in competition with each other is primary to "hope" because there can be no hope as long as the gods are fighting among themselves.
2. As "our Father", Paul puts the "relationship" of "prayer" on an extraordinary level of intimacy with familial overtones that color the relationship with deep hues of grace (there is no "law" in the family in the sense that ultimate divine retribution falls upon the children for any reason: there is no condemnation to those who are "in" Christ Jesus as the children of God; Christ is the Son who brings many sons to glory and there is no legal charge that can be laid against the elect in Him).