by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 1 Study # 2 February 28, 2015 Humble, Texas (Download Audio)
(059)Thesis: The faithfulness of "The Lord" is always according to His "persuasion"; never according to the "wishes" of those who pray to Him.
Introduction: In our last study we considered the important place that prayer has for the Plan of God. We saw that Paul's request for the prayers of the Thessalonians was made in view of the fact that "incense" has always been required for the sacrifices upon the altar. As to the importance of prayer, Jesus, Himself, is pictured as a continuous Intercessor for the saints, and the Holy Spirit actually takes over the prayers of the saints whenever they run aground in terms of knowing how to pray. Because prayer is presented as a type of heavenly incense to be offered upon the heavenly altar whenever it is time for prayers to be answered, these themes all dovetail into a theology of prayer that calls us all to engage in it on a regular basis. In respect to Paul's own interests, it is clear that he was aware of his own weaknesses and proclivities and how the trials of serving God in the present time tend to play upon these areas of his own personality. Because of this he asked for prayer that he would continue to be a vessel for the spread of the word of the Lord and its clarity in the minds of those to whom he proclaimed that word. This is no small request as is seen by Paul's triumphant claim at the end of his life that "I have kept the faith". This is no big deal if it is "set in stone", but it is a big deal if every individual's participation in God's plans is subject to the stresses and strains of living and the real possibility that one may not, after all, "keep the faith".
This evening we are going to look at a rather interesting declaration by Paul regarding these issues of how things work out in time with people in the mix.
I. Now Faithful Is The Lord.
A. The first issue of "faithfulness" has to do with Paul's immediate interests.
1. His desire to be a continuing instrument for the progress of the Gospel is a matter that takes the question of "establishment" seriously.
a. In 2:17 this verb is first used as an "optative" "wish" that Jesus, Himself, and God our Father might find it in their "grace" to "establish" the Thessalonians.
b. In 3:1-2 Paul's request for prayer is in view of the possibility that he, himself, might not be so "established"; a concern that shows up more than once in Paul's letters, the chiefest reference, perhaps, being 1 Corinthians 9:27.
c. And, now, in 3:3 the same verb is used as an "indicative" declaration that "establishment" by "The Lord" is to be considered a "given."
d. This creates a puzzle of sorts.
1) Paul, apparently, did not believe the "reformed" dogma of "the inevitable perseverance of the saints".
a) He had too much this-world experience of true saints not being "established" as is illustrated by the Corinthians, the Galatians, and, later, his own experience of being abandoned by all when he faced his first trial before Caesar.
b) In 1 Thessalonians Paul spent the beginning three chapters wondering if the Thessalonians would prove to be "established" or, alternatively, a major disappointment.
b) He also knew his own weaknesses and proclivities to just "assume" he was not subject to being "dis-established".
2) There has to be a reason for his benedictory "wish" in the optative and his declarative "promise" in the indicative.
2. His desire to be delivered from "evil men" is a matter that takes seriously the possibility that "evil" will dissuade God's people from responding to His "eternal summons".
a. In 2:17 this idea is clearly in mind because it is almost always "evil" that causes the heart to shrink away from The Lord, as is evidenced in multiple places where false doctrine is the cause of men to depart from "Him Who calls" (Galatians 1:6 is simply one of many such texts).
b. In 3:3 Paul declares that God "will guard you from the evil".
b. Then, in 3:5 Paul returns to this very issue of the need for the heart to be "directed...into the love of God" as an optative "wish".
c. And, again, in between (in 3:2) Paul requests prayer so that "the evil" will not overwhelm him and his ministry team.
d. And, again, this creates a kind of puzzle.
1) In 2:17 the concept is referred to in the "wish" mode.
2) In 3:3 it is referred to in the "promise" mode.
3) And in the midst is his own concern for himself.
4) There has to be a reason for this move from "wish" to "promise".
B. The second issue of "faithfulness" has to do with when a matter is determined to be a demonstration of "faithfulness" or a demonstration of "unfaithfulness".
1. As a matter of basic reality, a person cannot be considered "faithful" or "unfaithful" without a "standard of measure".
a. A person is only "faithful" if he/she has made a commitment in a given direction and followed through.
b. A person is only "unfaithful" if he/she has made a commitment and failed to follow through.
2. Thus, we need some declaration from "The Lord" that He will underwrite a person's establishment and protection before we can decide that He is, or has been, "faithful".
a. Given Paul's this-world experiences of true saints failing badly and his own sense of triumph at the end that he has successfully "kept the faith" in the pursuit of his "course" (2 Timothy 4:7), there does not seem to be such a declaration from the Lord that applies to all saints in all times and places.
b. So, where did Paul get the ability to go from optative to indicative?
c. The answer is in 3:4.
1) Paul says of the Thessalonians that The Lord has persuaded Paul that He will do what Paul has both "wished" and "prayed" that He would do.
2) This was a particular situation with specific people in view; it is not a general biblical promise to all saints, just like many other of the promises of God.
II. At Issue: the Thessalonians' Belief That The Lord Has Made a Commitment to Them.
A. In all of the Bible, "faith" is necessary to the fulfillment of the thing(s) promised; those who do not believe do not receive (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
B. Thus, it is imperative that every word of God be properly understood as to content and application and believed in order for the promise to be fulfilled by a "faithful Lord".