“But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
It is important to note the “but” which connects this section to the previous verses. Paul had taken the time to dispel the Thessalonian’s fear of missing the Second Coming of Christ by teaching them about what the last days would be like. Now he encourages them by telling them that they are truly saved if they believe in Christ.
The apostle Paul was obligated to thank God for his beloved brethren in Thessalonica. This reveals that he knew beyond any doubt that the suffering and persecuted believers were genuine Christians. He is basically repeating what he had already written in the opening words of this letter. “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren …” (2 Thessalonians 1:3). They were not only loved by Paul, but as the text indicates, they were more especially loved by God too.
Chosen from the beginning
God had chosen them and saved them. The moment they accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour they were destined to receive a share of His glory. If God had chosen them, and they had chosen to follow Christ, then there are no grounds for fear and worry about if they were truly saved or not. He that chose them from the beginning will keep them to the end. We also see in our text that the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are involved in our salvation.
What does Paul mean by “the beginning”? Some teach that he is referring the Calvanistic view of election and predestination, that is, God chose who would come to Christ even before He created the universe. It is more likely that he is speaking of the day they first were first presented with the gospel of Christ. “Of your hearing the gospel. Chosen you to salvation - Taken you out of the world, and placed you in the way to glory” (John Wesley). The phrase is used in other places in the New Testament in this sense. “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:1-2) … “But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him” (John 6:64) … “Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning” (John 8:25) … “And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:27). This verse ought not be used to argue about if or if not God has preordained who will be saved and who will be damned.
Salvation has three aspects to it. There must be a beginning, and that is when a person accepts that God’s word about Christ is true. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved … For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:9, 13). Salvation is progressive in that we grow in Christ, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved [Greek, being saved] it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Salvation must have its ultimate end, “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Romans 13:11) … “He that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22). Paul himself in 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10 makes it clear that he is speaking of the day they accepted Christ, “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
Sanctification of the Spirit
Man cannot be saved unless he is sanctified by the
Holy Spirit, but we must accept that He works where faith has taken root on the
foundation of the preached word. “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from
the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and
inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts
26:18) … “Not by works of
righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the
washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us
abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace,
we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus
3:5-7) … “For I am not ashamed of the
gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that
believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the
righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just
shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17). This sanctifying work [setting
apart] by the Holy Spirit begins the moment a sinner believes in Christ, for “sanctification of the Spirit” cannot be divorced from “belief
of the truth.”
Paul thanked God for their salvation, and to a large degree he is encouraging them to do so too. Instead of worrying about what the false teachers were saying, they ought to focus on what Christ has done, is doing and will do in them.