Standing Firm In God's Love
But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth(2Thessalonians 2:13).
In my Bible, the verse above opens with the heading, "Stand firm". This is an indication this portion of the epistle was written to strengthen and encourage the Thessalonians to stand firm in their faith. In 2Thessalonians, Paul addresses the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, a message we seldom hear in our days. In verse two and three, he tackles a false belief amongst the Thessalonians purporting the second coming has already happened:
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way...(v1-3).
This was a church enduring persecutions and suffering (2Thes 1:4-5) hence a lie of such magnitude will unsettle them. They might be contemplating; "If the second coming has already occurred, what are we then suffering for?" "Is our faith not in vain?". You will notice Paul addresses specifically, the possibility of losing one's faith and uncertainty that such a lie can produce. He wrote, "we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed". Notice also that, some have actually believed the lie of these false teachers. God allowed them to believe a lie because they were unwilling to believe the truth.
The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.(v9-12).
Falsehood has the capacity to lead believers astray and we must at all times guard our hearts against deception. In stabilising their hearts, Paul speaks of a truth--the doctrine of election--which is the reality of every believer: "God chose you...to be saved". The believer is chosen of God; handpicked and set aside to be a recipient of God’s love. Salvation is monergestic--strictly a work of God we contributed nothing to. Christ in John 15:16 tells His disciples "You did not choose me, but I chose you”. Peter in 1Pet 2:9 also wrote that “…you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
What qualifies a person to be chosen by God? Nothing! We are not saved by meritorious works. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone(Rom 3:20; 28, Eph 2:8-9, Gal 2:16).
We contributed nothing to our salvation. It is all a work of God’s grace. We were sinners seperated from God(Rom 3:23). We were children of wrath (Eph 2:3). But God extended His love towards us and set us apart–sanctified–to Himself by the regenerating power of The Holy Spirit. “Once [we] were not a people, but now [we] are God’s people; once [we]had not received mercy, but now [we] have received mercy.” (1Pet 2:10). A Christian is a Christian “according to the purpose of [God’s] will” (Eph 1:5). God chose us before the foundation of the earth (Eph. 1:4).
As indicated earlier, the Thessalonian church was a suffering church and this portion of the epistle was written to strengthen and encourage them to stand firm in their faith. Believers suffer and face persecution in various forms. But the reality of God's Sovereignty in electing--choosing sinners--unto eternal life must delight every child of God. God before the foundation of the earth, set His love upon us and He called us "Beloved". When God saves us from the present evil world, He saves us with an everlasting love. He doesn't save with a love that fails. He saves us never to perish. Our hearts must be stepped in God's love towards us. Nothing can separate us from His love (Jeremiah 31:3, John 10:27-28, Romans 8:31-38).
If you are a believer, God has chosen--elected--you to be saved. You did nothing deserving of God's choice. This truth must humble and cause us to lift our voice in adoration, just as Paul did in writing to the Thessalonians, "But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you… (2 Thess 2:13).