“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul ended his discussion in 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12 of the man of lawlessness and the other things that precede the return of Christ on a note of judgment. When the man of lawlessness comes, he will deceive many people, those who refuse “to love the truth” and who have “pleasure in unrighteousness.” These individuals, in turn, will be eternally condemned (vv. 9–12). Yet, this word of judgment is not the final thing Paul has to say to the Thessalonian Christians. As we see in today’s passage, the believers there—and believers in Jesus in every era—do not look forward to the last day in fear of condemnation. Instead, all who believe the gospel will “obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 13–14).
The Apostle gives us this information in the context of telling the Thessalonians that he ought always thank God for them. In so doing, he gives us a remarkably full-orbed presentation of the Lord’s work in salvation that packs a lot of material in a concise form. First, we get a picture of the work of the three persons of the Trinity in redemption. Believers are chosen by “God,” Paul’s common way of referring to God the Father. We are loved by “the Lord,” Paul’s preferred name for God the Son. Finally, we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit (v. 13). Each of the persons of the Godhead is active in our salvation, yet we should not think of each of Them as performing a unique work in which the others do not participate. Note that we are loved by the Son (v. 13), and that Paul says elsewhere that the Father, in love, predestined believers in Christ for salvation (Eph. 1:3–10). Election to salvation is not the work of the Father alone, but the Son also loves us and thus chose us for redemption. By extension, given all that the Bible says about the Holy Trinity, the Spirit is also involved in predestinating God’s people to salvation.
Note also that the Apostle shows us how we can know we are among those elected for salvation. God chooses us for salvation, and the means to that salvation is belief in the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14). In other words, there is no such thing as a person who is elect who does not eventually believe the gospel or a person who believes the gospel but is not elect. If we believe on Christ alone for salvation, we are among the elect. John Calvin comments, “Paul connects [election] with faith and regeneration in such a manner, that he would not have it judged of by us on any other grounds.” Those who have been so chosen will believe, and they will be glorified in Christ (2 Thess. 2:14).
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
We will obtain the glory of Christ in that we will share in His glorified body, bearing His image fully in perfected, glorified bodies (1 Cor. 15:49). In turn, this will redound to the glory of God, for we are saved and glorified only because He has chosen us and has atoned for our sin in Christ. Salvation is in no way of ourselves, but God chooses us, sovereignly grants us faith, and guarantees that we will exercise trust in Him.