(055)Thesis:For the Word of God to effectively work within a believer, the resident "faith" must be characterized by a definitively focused commitment.
Introduction:As Paul began to write his next "primary idea", he reverted back to the original idea at the beginning of the letter (1:2): the giving of thanks to God for what He was doing in Thessalonica. In the larger context of the two "thanksgiving" paragraphs, the issue is pretty much the same: the Thessalonians have become "imitators" of those who had earlier embraced the faith. In the earlier paragraph, the "imitation" is of Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus who persevered in the proclamation of the Gospel in spite of much tribulation. In this current paragraph, the "imitation" is of the churches of Judea which had persevered in the face of very great opposition from their own countrymen. Whereas in the first unit regarding gratitude Paul worked most intently with the example the Thessalonians were imitating, in this second unit the focus is upon the opposition upon whom God is going to wreak enormous vengeance. So, with gratitude as the primary focus, Paul felt it necessary to drive two major ideas home: the quality of the example set; and the intensity of the opposition.
For our study this evening, we are going to look into what Paul considered the "bottom line" in regard to perseverance in the face of opposition: the nature of the "faith" that is exercised.
I. The Transparent Value of Unadulterated Faith.
A. It is a transparent fact that anything that creates an "unceasing expression of gratitude" to God has to be pretty important.
B. It is also a transparent fact (outside of our current text) that "a little leaven leavens the whole" so that the effectiveness of "faith" is incipiently undercut if such a "leaven" is permitted (Galatians 5:9, where the issue is purity of doctrine; and 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, where the issue is purity of fellowship).
II. The Elements of an Unadulterated Faith.
A. The fact of, and commitment to, the divine origin of The Message.
1. It should go without saying that confidence in "truth" that clearly has its roots in a man will break down when crunch time comes.
2. Alternatively, it is impossible for a "truth" to have divine roots without it being convincing and effectual if what Paul calls "a love for the truth" (2Thess 2:10) actually exists in the one who is relating to "truth" as from God.
B. The reality of a willingness to "take the truth alongside of oneself".
1. This reality exists within the context of the Message From God being delivered by men (all of whom wish to convey the impression that they "speak for God").
2. This is the reason for the extended treatment of the character of the Word-bearers in the preceding paragraph.
3. What is at stake in the term is the two-part concept of "receiving" and "pulling the thing received into close proximity".
a. Proximity is a large New Testament thesis in regard to the promise of "Life".
1) The imagery is that of someone who is pulling something in close so that it will have the impact that it naturally carries, but is often muted by "distance".
2) The ultimate "proximity" doctrine is the indwelling of the Spirit of God.
a) This indwelling is the essence of a major shift in the quality of Life as Jesus said in John 14:17.
b) This indwelling is presented as a critical necessity throughout the New Testament, but it got its original impetus in Acts 1:8.
3) The ultimate "proximity blocker" is what a person "believes" when it is not "truth".
b. The imagery of Paul's combination of words is that the person who "heard" The Message got "the message" and pulled it into close proximity.
C. The further step of "strengthening one's grip" upon the thing brought alongside.
1. The Authorized Version translators seriously dropped the ball by hiding Paul's switch in terms.
2. The NASB translators did better, but seemed to choose a word that has less impact than is inherent in the term.
3. The word decomai signals a stronger grip and its impact is most clearly seen in 2 Thessalonians 2:10 (salvation does not occur without this "stronger grip" in respect to "truth").
III. The Impact of an Unadulterated Faith.
A. Paul's claim is that the Message firmly gripped "worketh" in you.
1. 2 Thessalonians 2:7 strongly implies the concept of "incipient" working, bit by bit, from glory to glory.
2. Philippians 2:13 says that this is the primary methodology of God: He works in you to will and to work.
B. Paul's qualification "you who are believing" means that he sees the "receiving" and "strengthening of one's grip" as a matter of effectual "faith".
1. The Scriptures strongly imply that "receiving" without "strengthening" can be disastrous if it leads to a "release" of the thing once believed (though Luke 8:13 implies that this is not a "cure all").
2. But 2 Thessalonians 2:10 says that such a strengthening in regard to one's concern for truth leads to salvation.