MORE PROFOUND TERMS
Second Thessalonians also contains some profound terms. In 2:13 Paul says, “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.” To say that God has chosen us unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit is to utter something great and profound. Salvation is in sanctification of the Spirit. Such an expression is used only once in the entire New Testament.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:14 Paul goes on to say, “To which also He called you through our gospel unto the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The expression “the obtaining of the glory” is also unique, used in the New Testament only here. Through the gospel God called us unto the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:16 we read another profound expression: “Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, Who has loved us and given us eternal encouragement and good hope in grace.” Here Paul speaks of eternal encouragement and good hope in grace. These terms are also used only once in the New Testament.
GOD LIVING IN US
Recently in a meeting a sister gave a testimony concerning the living God. She explained that she was in a strange place late at night and that a teenage girl, who had been riding on a bus with her, was very helpful to her. The sister went on to say that this proves that God is living, for He had prepared someone to help her in that situation. In 1:9 Paul speaks of turning to God from idols to serve a living and true God. Do you think that Paul’s concept of the living God here is the same as that of the sister who gave this testimony? What does Paul mean by serving a living God? When Paul speaks of the living God, does he mean that God will send someone to help you when you are in trouble? If this is your concept, this indicates that you have a natural understanding of this matter. In many instances the living God did not keep Paul away from trouble and hardship. This would seem to indicate that in the sense of the testimony given by that sister, God was not very living to Paul in his experience. I mention this testimony in order to point out that we need to learn what Paul means when he speaks of serving a living and true God. We should not understand the Bible in a natural way. Rather, we must understand it according to God’s revelation.
If we read only 1 Thessalonians, it may be difficult to find out what is Paul’s understanding of the living God. But if we read the other books written by Paul, we shall see that for him the living God is the God who is now living in us. We are not serving a God who is merely in the heavens. The God we serve is the One who lives in us. Therefore, to serve a living God means to serve the God who is living in you right now. In the Old Testament the children of Israel served a God who was in the heavens. Solomon prayed to God in heaven. Even in what is called the Lord’s prayer, the Lord Jesus says, “Our Father Who is in the heavens” (Matt. 6:9). But now, after the cross and the resurrection, the God whom we serve is no longer merely in the heavens, for He is now living in us. This is revealed clearly in Paul’s Epistles (Rom. 8:10; Col. 1:27). We even have a song which says that our God is living and that He is living within us. When Paul says that we serve a living God, he means the God who is living within us and who is one with us.
How do we know that our God is the living God? We know it by the fact that He is living in us. Suppose a brother is about to quarrel with his wife. However, the living God in him does not want to quarrel. Therefore, the brother does not proceed to argue with his wife. In this way he serves a God who is living, a God who not only lives in him, but who also lives with him. By this illustration we see that the living God is living not only objectively but also subjectively.
I am bothered by testimonies which refer to the living God only in an objective way and not in a subjective way. Even those who have been in the Lord for years still testify only that the God they serve is objectively living. It seems that He is not the subjectively living One to these saints. We should be able to testify that the God we are serving today is living within us. What we need is not a testimony about how God sent someone to help us in trouble. We need subjective testimonies concerning the living God in our daily life. For instance, a sister may testify of how she was tempted to look at her husband in a very unpleasant way. But because the living God in her did not agree, she did not show such an unpleasant expression toward her husband. This proves that her God is living and that He is living within her. An idol does not interfere with anyone who is about to lose his temper. But the God whom we serve is living, and He inwardly adjusts us and corrects us.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)