ENDURANCE OF HOPE
But where does Paul speak of hope in 2 Thessalonians? Paul’s first reference to the believers’ hope is in 1:4, where Paul says that he boasts of their endurance and faith in all their persecutions and afflictions. Hope is implied by the word “endurance.” Their endurance issued from the hope of the Lord’s coming back and was supported by it. Such endurance of hope is always accompanied by faith. For this reason, Paul speaks of their endurance and faith. In 2:16 Paul again speaks of hope: “Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal encouragement and good hope in grace.” Paul, an excellent writer, could not forget the basic structure of his Epistles to the Thessalonians with the elements of faith, love, and hope.
HOLINESS AND SANCTIFICATION
In 1 Thessalonians 3 Paul speaks of holiness; in chapter four of sanctification; and in chapter five, of being sanctified. In 1 Thessalonians 3:13 he says, “That He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” Then in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 he says, “This is the will of God, your sanctification,” and in verse 4, “That each one of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor.” Then in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Paul says, “And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the holiness and sanctification spoken of in 1 Thessalonians for the carrying out of a holy life for the church life with the three elements of faith, love, and hope.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:13 Paul gives a further word concerning sanctification: “But we ought to thank God always concerning you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” God has chosen us unto salvation in sanctification, and this sanctification is of the Spirit. Paul’s word about sanctification here implies all that he has said regarding holiness and sanctification in 1 Thessalonians. This means that it implies what Paul has said about having our heart established blameless in holiness, about preserving our body in sanctification, and about being sanctified wholly by the God of peace.
THE BRIDGE OF SALVATION
In 2:13 neither sanctification nor salvation is a simple matter. When I was young, I regarded God’s salvation as something that was very simple. First I was eager to know definitely whether I had been saved. Eventually I came to know for sure that I had been saved. After that, I made salvation a major subject in my conversation with others. Whenever I met a person, I was eager to find out whether or not he was saved. Gradually I came to realize that salvation is not such a simple matter. Now if you would ask me if I have been saved, I would reply, “I have been saved, I am still being saved, and I shall be saved. Eventually, I shall be wholly, fully, and thoroughly saved.”
Another way to ask about my experience of salvation would be to say something like this: “Brother Lee, you said that you have been saved, that you are now being saved, and that you will be saved thoroughly. Please tell us how much you have been saved. Also, how much are you being saved day by day? We know that you have been a Christian for more than fifty years. Please tell us how much of you has been saved and how much still needs to be saved.” I use these questions as an illustration of the fact that salvation is not a simple matter.
If someone asks you if you have been saved and how much you have been saved, you should say, “I know that I have been saved. However, I cannot tell you how much I have been saved. But I do know that I need to be saved much more. I have participated in God’s salvation to some degree, but I need to participate in it to a far greater degree.”
In 2:13 Paul says that God chose us unto salvation. This salvation has a long span. According to what we are able to understand, this span begins with regeneration and ends with glorification. Although we were fallen, sinful, and deadened, God came to regenerate us. Through regeneration, we began to participate in God’s salvation. However, regarding this salvation we have a long way to go.
We may liken the span of God’s salvation to a long bridge. This bridge of salvation begins in time and reaches to eternity. If you were to ask me where I am today on this bridge, I would have to answer that I do not know. I know definitely that I have not crossed all the way over this bridge. I know that I am somewhere on the bridge of salvation, but only God knows exactly where this is.
Although we do not know where we are on the bridge of God’s salvation, we can know with assurance that we shall never lose our salvation or our regeneration. Once we have been regenerated, we are regenerated for eternity. Regeneration is a once-for-all matter. Regeneration can be compared to our birth as human beings. Once a person has been born as a human being, he will never cease to be a human being, a person. In the same principle, regeneration is a matter once for all, even for eternity.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 29, by Witness Lee)