by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 1 Study # 2 February 28, 2016 Humble, Texas
3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep [you] from evil.
4 And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.
1901 ASV Translation:
3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and guard you fromthe evil [one].
4 And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command.
5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into thepatience of Christ.
I. The Faithfulness of The Lord.
A. At issue in every case of "faithfulness" is the question of whether, in fact, "The Lord" has/had committed Himself to "do" something so that the later "doing" is called "faithfulness". It hardly needs to be said that we cannot ascribe "unfaithfulness" to anyone who never committed to the doing of what we are using as our standard of measure, so that it is likewise true that no one can call it an "act of faithfulness" for someone to do something that he/she never said he/she would do.
B. Thus, the question becomes this: where did "The Lord" commit Himself to "establishing" His people? Is not the New Testament full of accounts of the people of God being "disestablished" by deception and foolish lusts?
1. The answer is in the text: Paul says "we have confidence in the Lord regarding you...". The verb translated "we have confidence" is a Perfect, Indicative and it signifies that "we stand persuaded". This has to mean that "The Lord" has given "persuasion" to a degree that Paul is now "persuaded". Thus, our conclusion is that "The Lord" did, indeed, commit Himself to the task which Paul calls "establishing them". This commitment is not found in the written Word; it is revealed to be something that "The Lord" said to Paul individually.
2. The remaining question, then, is this: Is this an across-the-board commitment by "The Lord" for every member of the church, or is this simply a one-time "revelation" to Paul that the church in Thessalonica would be so cared for by "The Lord"? The answer seems obvious from the fact that many members of the body of Christ are not "established" (as evidenced by the multitude of examples in the letters of the New Testament that believers do not typically walk in His light): this "revelation" was for Paul in light of his prayers and concerns for the Thessalonians so that he can say "we stand persuaded regarding you". He certainly was not so persuaded in 1 Thessalonians 3:1 or 3:5.
C. The Lord's faithfulness is only to those who believe Him at the point of the promises He has made.
1. At the end of Paul's life he tasted the bitter pill of having everyone abandon him and flee from standing with him in his defense of his own life before Caesar (2 Timothy 4:16). In that experience, and others, it is clear that those who fled were not "established", though not "unsaved" (1 Corinthians 5:5).
a. The plain facts are these: God makes promises to be believed; only those who believe them receive the benefits promised; thus, unbelief keeps the fulfillments from occurring for those who do not believe them even though there are other promises that they have believed. In other words, "believers" only "receive" the benefits of the particular promises they have believed.
b. Thus, a person can be a "justified" and "born again" "believer" because he/she has believed the fundamentals of the Gospel, and yet never receive many of the other benefits that are "promised" simply because those promises are not "received by faith". Believers imperfectly "believe" so that their reception of some of the things God has promised are never experienced by them because they do not actually believe those promises.
2. The failure to believe specific commitments made by God at the point of the test of those promises in one's personal experience results in the real consequence of not obtaining from Him what He has promised but in which He was not believed. An example of this is found in Matthew 19:27-28 where Jesus, speaking to the original Twelve (including Iscariot), says they will sit upon the twelve thrones of Israel in the regeneration. Judas Iscariot did not believe this and will not be upon one of those thrones.
II. The Issues of "The Lord's" Faithfulness.
A. He will "establish" you.
1. This is the same term as used in 2:17 and now it is used not as a "wish" (optative mood), but as a promise (indicative mood). This is an oddity.
2. That Paul moves so quickly from a benedictory "wish" to an emphatic declaration indicates the reality of how God worked with him, and within him. God apparently "persuaded" Paul's heart in the interim between the "wish" and the "declaration".
3. At the root, the issue remains: "establishment" means "fixing an effective determination" within the heart of the one being "established".
B. He will "guard" from the evil [one].
1. The idea of "guarding" is the idea of protecting what has been committed to the one doing the "guarding" (note particularly 2 Timothy 1:12).
2. The word for "evil" is the same used in the previous verse where Paul asked for prayer that his team might be "guarded" from evil men.
C. In a sense, the two are the same: a "fixedly determined believer" is "kept from the evil" by that very "fixed determination" if by "kept" Paul meant "protected at the level of the love/faith complex." If he meant "protected at the physical level", there is no promise that this will happen because Jesus Himself declared His followers would be physically abused even to death and Paul had already demonstrated how many times he was physically abused because of the Gospel.