COMMENTARY ON SECOND THESSALONIANS
2 Thess 1:11 "Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power: 12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)
There is a certain spirit that pervades the Scripture: it is that of complete reliance upon the Lord. Both prayer and preaching reveal that comely quality. The new birth delivers the individual from dependency upon the flesh, men, and the wisdom of this world. It brings one into the realm where things are seen correctly. Where the Spirit is not quenched, and men live by faith, a keen sensitivity of the indispensable role of Deity in the life of the believer is developed. It is relatively simple: with God, "all things are possible," and without Christ, we "can do nothing" (Mark 10:27; John 15:5). While theologians argue about the extent to which these things are true, those who live by faith have no difficulty understanding the truth of them, and relying upon them. This text is a case in point. The words that are contained in it cannot be found in the mouths of some. They are too hard to say, because they are in sharp conflict with the way they see things. However, motivated by his own faith, and moved along by the Holy Spirit, Paul has no trouble saying these words. He can pray them, write them, and preach them. This is because they are true, and reflect the precise nature of life in Christ Jesus. Whether or not men receive them has absolutely no bearing on either their truth or their effectiveness. As you take them into your heart, you will find a certain comforting quality in them that will encourage you and cause both faith and hope to flourish.
GOD COUNTS WORTHY OF THIS CALLING
" 11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling . . . " Once again, we are exposed to the nature of Paul's prayers. They were the result of His fellowship with the Son and were in accord with the purpose of God. These are the loftiest prayers, towering above those that are limited to temporal issues. They do not move us to despise the lower order of prayer, but challenge us not to allow ourselves to be confined there. This kind of prayer is "over and above" the ordinary. It is driven by a keen sense of what the Father is doing through Jesus Christ. It grows out of insight into the nature and purpose of God's great salvation, things that are too often unknown among believers.
PRAY ALWAYS FOR YOU. Solid preaching and teaching is buttressed by insightful prayer. Those in whom we have invested ourselves are the proper objects of our prayers. Praying "always" is praying "constantly." NIV Constant prayer reveals constant need, for that is why the great God of heaven is petitioned. Those who imagine they will eventually arrive at a point in this life where they no longer have needs only God can meet, are in the grip of delusion. There is no such time or condition as that while we remain in the body. There is no point where spiritual life can move along without interfacing with the Father and the Son. Thus Paul prayed "always" for the Thessalonians because they, like us, were "always" in need-not "need" necessitated because of sin, but required by the nature of the faith-life.
THAT OUR GOD WOULD. Other versions read, "that our God may," NASB "that our God will." NRSV This prayer is not presumptuous, which would make it a "great transgression" (Psa 19:13). Men, particularly novices and sophists, take too much for granted in spiritual life. Without exercising their faith and senses, they assume God will carry them along until at last they dwell forever in the courts of the Lord. They adopt a sort of fatalistic view that sees the children of God brought to glory in spite of imperfections. While there may be an element of truth to this, it certainly falls woefully short of the real situation. Paul does not take for granted that God will be kindly disposed toward the Thessalonians. He PRAYS that "God will . . . " By so doing, He trusts to God's analysis of the situation, and not His own. He also has the completion of the work of salvation in mind, for he knows perseverance properly lies between coming into Christ and entering into heaven.
COUNT YOU WORTHY. Other versions read "worthy of your calling," NASB "worthy of His calling," NIV and "worthy of the calling." YLT Because the purpose of the call was at issue, it is called "this calling." Because it was personal, and the Thessalonians were already participating in it, it is called "your calling." Because the call was not unique to them, but applied to the whole family of God, it is called "the calling."
The word "calling" emphasizes Divine initiative. While men do "call upon the name of the Lord," they do not do so until God calls them through His Gospel (2 Thess 2:14). The word "calling" also accentuates the purpose for which we have been called. Elsewhere this is referred to as "one hope of your calling" (Eph 4:4). While this is knowable, it is so lofty that the "eyes of our understanding" must be "opened" by God Himself before it can be seen with any clarity (Eph 1:18). This is the aspect of "this calling" that is emphasized in our text: namely, finally participating in the full purpose for which we were called. This has to do with standing faultless before Him (Jude 24), being a "joint heir" with Christ (Rom 8:17), and sitting with Jesus in His throne (Rev 3:21).
Just as surely as our entrance into Christ depended upon God (1 Cor 1:30; Eph 1:6), so the completion of our pilgrimage depends upon Him. By Divine power, we came out of sin like Israel came out of Egypt. And, by Divine power we are sustained in our journey through "this present evil world" like Israel was in the wilderness.
Counting. The idea of "counting" is that of God being kindly disposed toward us - that He would think it fitting, want, and prefer to "make us worthy." NRSV At once, this has a strange sound to many, for they have a very loose idea about God's will. This condition - God desiring to bless us - lies at the root of several exhortations of Scripture. "Be followers of God as DEAR children" (Eph 5:1). " . . . ye ought to walk and to PLEASE God" (1 Thess 4:1). "That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto ALL PLEASING . . . " (Col 1:10). Those who take these admonitions seriously will experience being made worthy of their calling.
Worthy. The idea is of being deserving of the call of God. This is not deservedness created by us, but is the result of God's own work. God is being petitioned to do this, to bring the work to its intended completion. As it is written, "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil 1:6). But He will not do it independently of the prayers of the faithful. That is precisely why Paul prayed for this singular blessing.
HIS GOODNESS AND THE WORK OF FAITH
" 11b . . . and fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power." At once you sense the extensiveness of God's involvement in our salvation. Even though this expression is challenging to the mind, it has a great ministry to the tender heart.
FULFIL. To "fulfill" is to bring to completion, to finish the work, bring to maturity, and complete the building. In a religious world that majors on beginnings, this is a vital thing to see. Unfinished works do not bring glory to God! Finished ones, however, do. That is the reason for this prayer - for God to bring His work in men to its fulfillment. Once again, behold how faith relies upon God to do the work, yet prays for Him to do so.
ALL THE GOOD PLEASURE OF HIS GOODNESS. Some versions greatly distort this expression. "Fulfill every good purpose of yours," NIV "and fulfill every desire for goodness," NASB and "will fulfill all your good intentions." NLT If we understand that "it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil 2:13), these translations can be received: but only so. A paraphrase of this expression would be, that God would complete those good things He desires to work in you. The "good pleasure of His goodness" is the good He desires and delights to do in us. Hebrews 13:20-21 states the same truth in these words, "the God of peace . . . make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight." NKJV God fulfills our good intentions only when they are in strict accord with His own, or, to put it another way, when our purposes actually reflect His own.
It is possible for God to begin a work, only to be displeased with its outcome. Thus it is said of Israel, "Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?" (Jer 2:21). There were people who came out of Egypt by Divine power, yet never arrived in Canaan. Lot's wife escaped Sodom, but never got into Zoar. Judas became an Apostle, but "fell by transgression." Paul's prayer is for the completion of the work: "ALL the good pleasure of His goodness." He knows it is not a matter of Divine power, for God is fully capable of completing the work. That completion, however, is being accomplished in a hostile arena. We have an adversary that is against us, and a tabernacle of clay about us that resists the working of the Lord. There are principalities and powers at war with us, and the whole world of the unregenerate who hate us. We also have the capacity to return to our old ways, for we have members that must be "mortified," or put to death, else they will cause us to fall (Col 3:5). Once a person sees these things, he is emboldened to pray for God to fulfill ALL of the goodness He intends for us. He is pleased with such prayers, for they are in concert with the intercessions of both the Son and the Holy Spirit (Heb 7:25; Rom 8:26-27). How God's people must pray to be delivered from simplistic views of the Kingdom of God!
THE WORK OF FAITH. This intriguing expression is a coin with two sides. First, faith itself is the work of God, the product of His own doing. Second, there are works that flow out from faith, expressions of Divine life within the believer. Both may appropriately be called "the work of faith." In the first, faith itself is the work. In the second, what faith produces is the work. In both cases, God is the Worker.
The work of God. Although the Spirit makes clear to us that faith comes from God, there are still people who doubt this is the case. Faith "comes" to us (Rom 10:17). It is "obtained" (2 Pet 1:1). It is "given" to us "to believe" (Phil 1:29). Faith comes to us "from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph 6:23). The grace of God is "exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 1:14). It is said of every person in Christ, "God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith" (Rom 12:3). There is no question, then, concerning the source of faith. Yet, our text speaks of "the work of faith."
The prayer is that God will "fulfill . . . the work of faith," bringing it so its intended completion. If faith is generated by men, then we have God completing what man began, something that contradicts God's representation of Himself. He is nowhere said to complete what man begins. Deity is depicted as Author and Finisher, Beginning and End, First and Last, Alpha and Omega (Rev 1:11; 21:6; 22:13; Heb 12:2). It is "the work He hath begun in you" that God will "perform" until the day of Christ. Jesus is also the "Finisher" of our faith (Heb 12:2).
It is the unique property of faith to prepare us to meet the Lord, pass His judgment, reign with Him, and dwell forever with Him. This is "the salvation of our souls" (1 Pet 1:9).
WITH POWER. The "finishing" of our faith is such a formidable work that only God can do it: i.e., "with [Divine] power"! The power of God thus energizes and matures our faith so it can escort us to death's door, or the coming of Lord, whichever comes first, in full confidence and joyful expectation (2 Cor 6:7; 13:4; 1 Pet 1:5).
THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST GLORIFIED
" 12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." There is a reason why God counts us worthy of calling, fulfills His good pleasure in us, and through His great power brings faith to its intended conclusion. Primarily, it is not for our sakes, but for the sake of His Son. A valuable lesson is learned when men are brought to realize God's purpose does not revolve around them. It is sin that revolves around the individual, not salvation!
THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST. The intention of Paul's prayer focused on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ: "We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus." NIV As you must know, this name does not refer to an appellation, the designation of a title or personal identity as normally conceived. The word "name" refers to the totality of the person. From the Divine point of view, "the name" encapsulates what the person is. Thus, when people were changed by God, their names were often changed to denote what they had become: i.e., Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, and Simon to Cephas (or Peter).
"The name of our Lord Jesus" refers to all that He is, all that He has done, and all that He will do. This does not refer to a slogan. It is not a magical phrase that brings protection when it is merely uttered (Acts 19:13). His "name" denotes Him.
GLORIFIED IN YOU. The name of Jesus is glorified in men when His Person is seen in them. When they speak like Him and live like Him, it is because He Himself is working within them. He is glorified in us when men take note that we have "been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13). The idea is that others will give glory to Christ because of those in whom the Lord is working. "Then everyone will give honor to the name of our Lord Jesus because of you." NLT
From the saints. When the life of Christ is "made manifest in our bodies" (2 Cor 4:10), it causes the "sweet aroma of life" to rise from those who are themselves saved (2 Cor 2:15-16). When, for example, Paul came to the regions of Syria, Cilicia, and the churches in Judea, the brethren perceived Christ in Him. Paul says of that occasion, "And they glorified God in me" (Gal 1:24). Christ Himself was glorified in that response, for it drew attention to Him.
From our enemies. In this world, this glory is often brought to Jesus because those who hate Him persecute us. "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified" (1 Pet 4:14). Their enmity against us confirms Jesus and His kingdom are of this world!
When Jesus comes again. Ultimately, Jesus will be "glorified" in His saints when He comes again (1:10). As products of the Lord Jesus, the effectiveness of His death will be seen in them. The power of His life will be evidenced in them. What glory the Lord Jesus will receive when the products of His death and life are displayed to the assembled universe!
YOU GLORIFIED IN HIM. Christ is not only glorified in us, we are glorified in Him! The idea here is that we will ultimately irradiate His glory, being like Him. As it is written, "but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2). Just as Moses' face reflected the glory of God (Ex 34:33-35; 2 Cor 3:13), so believers will be aglow with the glory of Jesus. When believers are "glorified in Him," it will be far greater than the glory seen in Moses' face. His glory faded with time (2 Cor 3:7). But it will not be so for those in whom God has fulfilled His gracious intentions! "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory" (Col 3:4). Then we will appear "in the presence of His glory," (Jude 24) ourselves "glorified in Him.
Here is what God is doing in Christ Jesus! He is so working within us that when Jesus returns in all of His glory, we will ourselves be transformed by that glory, becoming "like Him" in every Divinely intended way. That is what Paul is praying for! If that does not occur, then our lives have been futile, and lived in total vanity. In the preparatory work, God, through the Holy Spirit, is changing us from one degree of "glory" to another (2 Cor 3:18), moving us toward the predetermined glorification for which salvation is adapting us (Rom 8:29-30).
ACCORDING TO GRACE. Because he walked and lived in the Spirit, Paul's expressions were always precise. They were never loose and ambiguous like many that we hear in our time. The whole matter for which Paul has prayed will be accomplished "according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." Grace makes us what we are in Christ (1 Cor 15:10). The outcome of God's marvelous working is in strict accord with His own gracious nature. Because of Christ, He works within us because He wants to. What He makes of us reflects His desire for us. Remove the grace of God, and no profitable Divine work will take place in us. To state the matter simply, Paul prays that everything God has intended for us in Christ will be worked in us through His power and grace. A good prayer!