God Has Given Us Good Hope Through Grace, Part 2

Sunday Evening Message

  1. Point out the inadequacy of this morning's image of the Christian life.

    Two problems:

    1. It left the impression that we feel desperate and trapped, upside down, half-way out the plane. It doesn't look like a peaceful or calm image of the Christian life.
    2. Nor does it picture us as very free for others, but totally wrapped up in saving ourselves.
  2. But we know Paul is interested in our calmness and peace right to the end of this letter.

    3:16—Peace in every way and in all circumstances. Knowing that the cable will hold (objective assurance), and that we have been chosen for salvation and called to obtain glory (subjective assurance), gives us peace, even though there is still struggle at times to believe as we ought.

  3. We also know that God does not want us so wrapped up in our own struggle for salvation that we cannot serve others.

    2:16–17—The truth is that the unbreakable cable of God's truth has a grip on us as well, as we on it, and that there is comfort—eternal because unbreakable—and there is hope—good because certain and glorious—with which God fully intends to empower us for good works and good words.

  4. How does this work—how does the sanctification of good works come from eternal comfort and good hope?

    This morning I stressed the way the desperate clinging to salvation makes other claims upon our allegiance seem utterly insignificant.

    But there must also be a positive impulse—not loving money will free you from the need to accumulate it, but what will move you actively to work for the good of others—it's one thing to become a hermit who needs no money and another to become an evangelical entrepreneur to fund the 50 aspiring missionaries at Bethlehem.

    How does saving faith produce that?

    2:17 says it does: comfort and hope establish our hearts in good works.

    Four ways hope in God produces good works:

    1. Our admiration of the mercy of God as the goal of our hope creates a conflict of soul in us now if we do not do those works of mercy which show that we truly love and delight in this character of God. We feel an impulse to rid ourselves of this conflict and act in a way that shows how we are truly in love with the way Christ really is: we really do "love mercy" (Micah 6:8). See 1 John 3:1ff.
    2. Our sense of joy at having experienced the grace of God and our anticipation of knowing it to the full in the age to come gives us an impulse to feel the thrill of overcoming obstacles to goodness by the power of God's grace now. All humans like to overcome finitude. Humanists like to do it in their own strength as a way of confirming the greatness of their own ego. Christians like to do it in God's strength to confirm his reality in their lives.
    3. Hope in God is confidence that he not only is powerful and good, but also that he is wise and therefore knows the best future for us. Therefore if we trust him, we will follow his counsel and do the works of mercy that he commanded.
    4. The joy we have in knowing ourselves accepted and forgiven and commissioned to glory by God is enlarged and deepened when we share it with other people. So we have a built in impulse to share the hope we have that it may be better.
  5. 3:1–2 illustrates this principle that eternal comfort and good hope frees and empowers for concerns that are wider than our own private salvation.

    Paul wants them to give themselves to prayer for the wider progress of the gospel. And he seems to appeal to their own experience as the impulse: "as it has with you."

    The mark of a healthy Christian is enlarging vision for the cause of the gospel.

  6. Note that this verse (3:1) also serves as a corrective for those who might take 2:1–12 as so pessimistic that they basically develop a survival mentality and withdraw from the battle for the allegiances of men.

    The gospel is going to triumph and the "full number of the Gentiles is going to come in" (Romans 11) and "this gospel will be preached throughout the whole world to all the nations, then the end will come" (Matthew 24).

    How we should pray together in the manner of "Prayer 87."

  7. Paul really believed in the cruciality of prayer for the preservation of gospel ministers.

    3:2—See Romans 16:31 and Philippians 1:19.

    This verse implies the willingness and ability of God to intervene in the lives of unbelievers to hinder their hostilities toward Paul as he pleases.

  8. But now in verse 3 Paul illustrates the principle of love in his writing as he quickly returns to their concerns for his. What does the faithfulness of God guarantee for us? (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24; 1 Corinthians 1:8–9; 10:13.)

    He will see that his elect are brought to glory with the necessary holiness. His faithfulness is his commitment to his call—see 1 Thessalonians 2:12 and 2 Thessalonians 2:14.

    NOT that God will keep them from suffering as chapter 1 showed. Just that in suffering they will be able to endure in faith!!!

  9. This confidence in God's faithfulness gives Paul confidence in the obedience of the Thessalonians.

    . . . which shows that his faithfulness is a pledge to sanctify (2:13).

  10. And this confidence in God's working in them the obedience he pleases (Hebrews 13:21; Philippians 2:12f.) leads Paul to prayer for them.

    Confidence in God's work does not eliminate prayer; it strengthens it and encourages it. God intends to use prayer for our preservation.

  11. What does it mean to have your heart directed to the love of God and the endurance of Christ?

    It means that God sanctifies us by the Spirit (2:13) by focusing our attention on the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ so that we will have the eternal comfort and good hope that he prayed for in 2:16.

  12. Verses 6–15 deal with the problem of undisciplined living, and in particular idleness. This may well relate to the near expectation of the coming of the Lord.

    Verse 11 states the problem.

  13. There are really two issues.
    1. How to live as the world ends: what is the role of work?
    2. How do you relate to those who won't follow Paul's instruction in this?
  14. First, What do you do with those who will not work, but mooch off the others?
    1. Admonish him as a brother not an enemy (v. 15).
    2. Don't hobnob with him and act as though there were no problem (vv. 6, 14).
    3. Don't feed him if he won't work (v. 10).
  15. Second, What does God expect of us as the world ends in relation to our work?
    1. Work in tranquility and eat our own bread (v.12).
    2. Not to burden other people (v. 8).
    3. To deny ourselves legitimate rights if it will do more good for others (v. 9).
  16. Is there a Protestant work ethic in the Bible?

    Yes. But it is very different from the secular work ethic?

    It is not to prove my self-reliance but my affirmation of God's order of creation (Adam, work!) and my reliance on God for the power to earn (Deuteronomy 8:18).

    I must constantly have a view to the world and not put any stumbling block in the way of the gospel (1 Thessalonians 4:11–12).

  17. Conclusion: In the face of a gathering storm in chapter 2 the instructions of chapter 3 are remarkably domestic and ordinary.

    Perhaps that will be the best testimony in those days—a strong hope in God, a warm love for Jesus, a productive life in the service of others, with peace in every way and all the time (v. 16).