In a day when the false doctrine of the Faith-Prosperity Movement has taken hold among so many, a teaching promising material blessings in the here-and-now, Paul’s teaching on the wealth of blessings we have as Christians – spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ – stands out as quite a contrast. In the first part (v.1-14), Paul informs us that each Person of the Godhead has blessed us, and follows up in the second part (v.15-23) with his personal prayer that we might properly understand those blessings and the power they may become in our lives.
Read verses 1-2
Observation: Paul’s introduction that he is an apostle “by the will of God” will take on additional meaning in this chapter as the will of God is specifically mentioned further in v.5, 9, and 11.
Q: What are the two basic but very important aspects of Christianity briefly touched upon in the way Paul addresses this letter?
A: “Saints” can literally be translated “holy ones”, a reference to God’s work of sanctification followed by calling them “faithful”, the application of man’s faith. Thus is presented the twofold aspect of salvation, God’s grace in the first instance sanctifying us (that is, setting us apart for His eternal purposes as holy unto Himself), and our faith, by God’s gift, which lays hold of salvation. Paul will further elaborate on both.
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.
— 2 Thessalonians 2:13
Read verses 3-6
Q: From which person of the Godhead are these blessings coming from?
A: God the Father.
Q: According to v.4, what is the very first of these blessings?
A: “He chose us”.
Q: For what purpose were we chosen?
A: To “be holy and blameless before Him”. (v.4)
Application: When we think of our destiny, it’s often defined by things like profession, marriage, where to live, and the like. How well do you consider that it really consists of nothing more than living according to His Word and ways regardless of how those other things turn out?
Q: According to v.5, what is the second of the Father’s blessings?
A: He adopted us.
Q: What did adoption mean to people in the 1st Century church?
A: Adoption was the official act of a father bestowing the status of full adulthood on a son of minor status. It was not the taking of an outsider as we think of adoption today, but the placing of a family member into the privileges and blessings of adulthood. The greater teaching is that even the youngest Christian has everything that Christ has and is rich in grace, and that all Christians have been so elevated to spiritual adulthood.
Q: According to v.6, what is the Father’s third blessing?
A: By His grace through Christ He has accepted us.
Point: He chose us, He adopted us, He accepted us. Our blessings from God the Father are the foundation for all that is to follow in our doing the very same thing when it comes to His Son – we choose Him, adopt Him, and accept Him to complete the cycle of salvation.
Observation: Some people don’t understand how free will can coexist with predestination. In the Hebrew mind of the Bible, these two things were not considered contrary, but held in equal tension so as not to come down on one side or the other. For instance, when Jesus speaks of Judas, He says, “The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him” – that is, it’s predestined; “but woe to that man by who the Son of Man is betrayed!” – that is, a free-will choice was made. One does not trump the other, but actually compliments each other.
Read verses 7-12
Q: From which person of the Godhead are these blessings coming from?
A: Christ the Son.
Q: What is the first blessing listed in v.7?
A: He has redeemed us – “we have redemption through His blood”. Because of His work on the cross, we have a present redemption in that He has delivered us from the penalty and power of sin. But note further down in v.14 that we also have a future redemption when Christ delivers us from the presence of sin at His return.
Q: What is the second blessing listed in v.7?
A: He has forgiven us – “the forgiveness of our trespasses”.
Q: What does the word “forgiveness” literally mean? How is this represented in the Bible?
A: It literally means “to send away”. Where sin is concerned it is pictured by the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement where sin is placed upon the head of the animal and it is sent away into the wilderness. (Lev. 16:20-22)
Q: What is Christ’s third blessing in v.8-10?
A: He has revealed God’s will to us.
Q: In biblical parlance, what exactly is a “mystery”?
A: It is divine truth known only by God’s people through revelation.
Q: What is the specific mystery herein revealed to us?
A: That in Christ we are a part of God’s eternal purpose to ultimately gather “all things in Christ”, which will unite both “things in heaven” and “things on the earth”.
Application: In the blessings from God Paul revealed that God’s purpose for us is to be “holy and blameless before Him”, that is walking according to His Word and ways alone. Here it is further expanded on so that we can see that the purpose of spiritual faithfulness is to unite all things together in Christ.
Q: What is Christ’s fourth blessing to us according to v.11-12?
A: He has provided us an inheritance.
Q: How is this inheritance qualified? What are the parameters governing its disposition?
A: First of all it’s a part of God’s overall will which connects His plans for us not just from before we were born, and not just as a result of this present life, but for the future; our entire past, present, and future are combined in Him. Second, just like our past and present, our future is tied together “in Christ”.
Point: God chose, adopted, and accepted us, but these things are only completed through Christ His Son who has redeemed us, forgiven us, revealed God’s will, and provided an inheritance. The blessings of God can only be experienced through the blessings provided in Christ alone which combine to unite all things Christ, especially our past, present, and future.
Read verses 13-14
Q: From which Person of the Godhead are these blessings coming from?
A: God the Spirit.
Q: According to v.13, what is the first blessing?
A: He has sealed us.
Q: What exactly was a seal in biblical times?
A: It was impressed on a document to give undoubted validity to the contract the document contained. Most often the seal was the image of the person making this contract. So this is a very powerful way of describing God’s promise – His very contract with us – to accomplish all the blessings of the Godhead.
Q: What might be important about the fact that “sealed” is in the past tense?
A: It’s an indication that this has already been accomplished once and for all. It’s a very powerful adjunct to the previous blessings of having adopted, accepted us, and so forth in each of the blessings. From God’s point of view it’s a work which is already completed and finished.
Q: According to v.14, what is the second blessing?
A: He has given us a pledge. Think of this as the other half of the seal. Whereas He seals the contract as legitimate, the pledge is given to assure us from our own point of view that everything will be completed, a sort of “down payment” to assure us that we will experience total redemption and receive all these promised blessings in glory.
Point: The blessings through the Spirit complete the entire body of work begun by God and carried out through Christ.
Q: Why does Paul conclude with the same phrase at the end of each of the above three sections?
A: “To the praise of His glory” is basically used in v.6, 12, and 14. It’s the ultimate explanation of why the Father, the Son, and the Spirit have given us these blessings. Salvation comes by God’s grace AND God’s glory!
Application: How might we approach things differently if we strived to achieve them for His glory rather than our own? How might this be the difference between a mature and immature believer?
Read verses 15-23
Observation: Paul here prays “that you will know”, and later in 3:13-21 offers a second prayer “that you might be”. His first prayer is for enlightenment, the second for enablement. Paul first prays that we might know what Christ has done for us and then prays that we might live up to these blessings and put them into practice in our daily walk.
Q: What is Paul’s first request in v.17?
A: That God may give you spiritual understanding. In other words, it all begins with being firmly grounded in the truth.
Q: How is this first request restated in v.18?
A: “…that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened”. The emotions and feelings of the heart need to be tempered and kept within the boundaries of the truth.
Q: What is Paul’s second request in v.18?
A: “…that you will know what is the hope of his calling”. The biblical definition of “hope” is not wishing for something but seeing it as “future fact”, something already delivered, as in the purposes expressed in v.4-6 above. It’s about faith taking knowledge to the next level.
Q: What is Paul’s third request also found in v.18?
A: “…what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints”. We not only HAVE an inheritance in Christ, but we ARE an inheritance TO Christ.
Point: Christians mature in the Lord when they learn how much they mean to Christ and begin to live in order to bring joy to His heart.
Q: What is Paul’s fourth request expounded upon in v.19-23?
A: “…what is the surpassing greatness of His power”.
Q: What is the example of His power by which we should realize is already at work in, and available to, us?
A: The very power that raised Jesus from the dead!
Point: God’s people do not fight FOR victory but FROM victory.
Of course, all these blessings are only available for those who meet the conditions Paul sets forth in v.1-2. Paul is writing to living saints, people who have put their faith in Christ. These saints – “set-apart ones” – have experienced God’s grace and now enjoy God’s peace. Nowhere does the Bible teach that it is the church which makes a person a saint; only God can make a saint from a sinner. And the sinner must become a saint while he is still alive, for after death comes judgment.
And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,
— Hebrews 9:27
It’s important to enjoin God’s blessings here and now by faithfulness to His Word and ways so that everything – past, present, and future – are tied together in Christ.