by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 2 Study # 2 September 28, 2014 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(075)Thesis:Our relationship with God is significantly tied to our gratitude to God as we face the ups and downs of our experience in this world.
Introduction:Last time we looked into the fact that Paul clearly understood the fact that "Life" has two "source-strands"; a vertical one which is primary, and a horizontal one which is secondary. We also saw that, just because the horizontal one is "secondary", is no reason to be hesitant about making a significant commitment of our "souls" to each other. In fact, we might argue that a lack of willingness to make significant commitments to others reveals a "faith" that is "lacking" in respect to the primary strand. Our vertical strand is sufficient to give us "Life" as long as it is "healthy" in respect to "faith". In 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 Paul described his "Life" experience as he pursued both "source-strands". It is not a description that has as great appeal as "The Hope", but it is a description of reality until "The Hope" arrives.
This evening we are going to look at how Paul balanced the "source-strands" in his own "faith-walk".
I. He Never Lost Sight of the Root of "Life" as a "Grace" Issue.
A. 1 Thessalonians 3:9 inserts the issue of Paul's "gratitude" toward God into his description of how much his "Life" was tied to the "steadfast faith" of the Thessalonians (3:8).
B. All genuine "gratitude" is "grace" based, both by the formation of the word and by the obvious reality that "gratitude" is not due in a "legal" setting.
C. In this text, the gratitude is all about "Life" from the primary "source-strand".
1. The gratitude is all about "the joy".
2. "The joy" is the very essence of "The Life", so "Life" is clearly in view in this text.
3. "The Joy" is deliberately described as "before our God" using a term that indicates "presence" before God.
D. This has specific meaning in Paul's text.
1. This means that the person being "grateful" is clearly aware of God's part in the thing done.
2. This also means that God's part in the thing done is according to God's choices and will, not the will and choices of the one being grateful.
3. It would be "nice" if everyone who initially responded to the Gospel was poured into the new life with "faith and love" as were the Thessalonians, but they stand out as an exception to the norm.
4. Paul sees this as an extra measure of "grace" from God; not the typical measure (the Galatian letter presents the alternative reality where "grace" was just barely discernible in that the Galatian turn to legalism caused Paul some serious questions about whether, in fact, sufficient "grace" had been poured out to accomplish the "establishment" of the primary "source-strand" of Life).
5. Ultimately, the greater significance is this: God is "gracious", but He is not bound to be in every situation and who is Paul to water down the reality of the first "source-strand" just because he has invested heavily in the second?
II. He Never Lost Sight of the Details of the "Grace" Methodology.
A. Paul's prayers were incessant and excessive.
1. "Incessant" prayers are deeply rooted in the supplicant's awareness of two things: God is gracious (so that He may well be "swayed" by the persistence of the supplicant), but He is not tied to any "demands" of any kind to act graciously in any particular situation (so that the end of incessant prayer is always, "not my will, but thine, be done").
2. "Excessive" prayers are deeply rooted in the supplicant's awareness of one thing: "Life" is a gift from God so that there will be no "Life" if God does not act (and "excessive prayer" is simply a result of a deep "love" commitment of the soul that realizes that a great deal will be lost if God does not act).
B. Paul's "request" was absolutely in line with his "theology" of grace.
1. Clearly Paul does not have a great deal of confidence that the Thessalonians will be able to come to a fullness of confidence before God without his input.
2. There is a very real "condition" which people face in this world: ignorance of the truth of God.
3. There is only one "solution" to this "condition": somehow the truth of God is made plain to those in this condition.
4. Apparently it was not in the apostle's "faith system" to "believe" that God would by-pass His typical approach to "ignorance".
a. He told the Ephesians that God had given "apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors/ teachers" to the church for the building up of itself.
b. He sent Peter to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles to remedy this "ignorance" and the knowledge of Him was relatively restricted to the activities of those whom He had gifted and given to the Church.
1) These gifted people, however, were not a small group as time went by.
2) Every time someone was established in the faith, God gave them both His Spirit and His Spirit's "gifting" so that every group of believers in every place had the Spirit and His gifts to empower their walk with God.
3) Thus we can expect that the Thessalonians had both the Spirit and the gifts to make the "ignorance" problem go away.
4) The problem with this "solution" is that it takes time for the gifts to surface and mature sufficiently to function at a high level (even Paul had to go away to Arabia to receive the Gospel from Jesus before he could function as God's apostle).
c. He sponsored the writing of His revelation of Truth (our Bibles) so that each successive generation would have the Truth in written form if they had a Bible.
d. He made little, to no, provision for anyone who was outside of the circle of those who were exposed to this spoken/written Truth.
e. His approach took long years that inevitably left many people out simply because the spoken/written Truth never arrived in their "world" [Note Paul's series of questions in Romans 10:14].
5. Also, apparently, the body of "Truth" that must be imparted is not "large": it takes a long time to expose people to the whole of God's revelation and few people have the opportunity in life to receive that exposure.
a. This raises this question: when is "faith" not "lacking"?
1. The question runs in two directions.
a) The issue of a "faith" that "lacks" the most basic ingredient so that it "fails" to be acceptable to God (Acts 15:5).
b) The issue of a "faith" that "lacks" the more detailed truths that enable those who "believe" to inherit well in the Kingdom of Christ (2 Peter 1:11).
2. Thus the answer runs in two directions.
a) A "faith" that is not "lacking" in respect to the issue of "qualification to enter into the Kingdom" only requires enough "truth" to get a person to cease depending upon his/her own capacities to "earn" an entrance into God's Kingdom and to begin to depend upon the Person and Works of Jesus Christ alone.
b) A "faith" that is not "lacking" in respect to the issue of "inheriting well in the Kingdom" requires enough "truth" to get a person to shed his/her self-absorption so that he/she becomes a "servant" to others out of love.
b. This also, however, also raises a corollary question: what is "required" of those who "believe" in either/both case/cases?
1. The answer seems to be the same in both cases: "faith" must "endure" in order to be effective.
2. This means that the "endurance" arises out of an "established" "faith"; i.e., a "faith" that has become an integrated part of the actual perspective a person takes in respect to theissue in view. A "faith" that jettisons the required perspective is clearly not "established" and the consequences of "unbelief" fall upon those who do not "stand fast". Since the issues are not the same, the content of truth that is "believed" is not the same. But, whatever the issue (entrance or abundant entrance into the Kingdom), the requirement is for a "faith" that depends upon God's promises for the fulfillment to come and does not revert to human performance issues to bring that fulfillment to pass.