Paul says, “we are bound to give thanks.” A person who is bound is not free to do anything else. It is what he owes. We owe it to God to be thankful. In effect, God commands us to be kind to ourselves. All of God’s commands are motivated by love. If we cease to be thankful, it could only mean we are bitterness and need help. As sinners, we always need of help. That is the reason, God commands us to come boldly to the throne of grace where we can find help and mercy.
Every year they congregate as families for what they call ‘Thanksgiving’. God calls upon us to be thankful everyday of the year; – and there are no shortage of reminders for us to do this; – 1Co.1:4 I thank my God always; 2Co.2:14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph; Eph.5:20 giving thanks always for all things to God; Col.1:3 We give thanks to God …praying always for you; 1Th.1:2 We give thanks to God always for you; 2Th.1:3 We are bound to thank God always for you because it is fitting;
And our text – 2Th.2:13 “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord.” You notice here, that the theme of his thanksgiving, is election. He adds, “because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”
He was a very strict Calvinist. He believed man was total unable to make himself a Christian; unconditional election; Christ died only for the elect; no more and no less; sinners would only be converted when God irresistibly drew them by His grace; he would be regarded today as an extremist; he would be quite a home with us, but with others – I think not!!!
One day God laid on this man’s heart a passage from Isaiah 54: “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities” (vs. 2-3). He gave thanks to God for that promise, and took it to mean, that God in His sovereignty intended to gather in a massive number of elect from all over the world. He set about a huge missionary endeavour, and today the effect of his work is still circling the world, bringing more people to Christ than ever before in Christian history.
His name was William Carey, and he is known today as the father of modern missions. We are believers today, because God used the work of Calvinists like Carey. CH Spurgeon was also a very devoted Calvinist, and through his work with his pastor’s college, he sent out ministers all over the world. Some years ago, I had dinner with the son of one of those ministers, and he showed me original letters, still in his possession, his father had received from Mr. Spurgeon. God graciously chose us, and called us through the hard work of somebody who went before us. Here in our text we learn that we as believers are bound to be thankful for that. We owe it, as something we must never forget. From the beginning God chose us for salvation.
It is a necessary duty. It is expected of us. 1Thes.5:18 – “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God concerning you.” Some people ask, ‘I wonder what God’s will is for my life? – Where should I live? – or work? – Who should I marry?” This is God’s will for you – “in everything give thanks.”
If we can’t do that, we haven’t begun to live a life of faith. We have not begun to know and trust in a God who is in absolute control of every detail of our life, and is working all things together for good. Not just the good things, but the bad things also – He works all things together for good.
Be thankful – why? Because God says so. If there were no other reason, that is enough. The fundamental reason to be thankful, is that it is the will of God. God derives no benefit from our being thankful, yet he is pleased with it. It shows the spirit of trust and maturity and spiritual understanding of His people.
Thomas Manton said, “the very life and soul of our religion is thankfulness.” Heb.13:15 ‘Let us offer the sacrifice of praise continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.’ It is words like “continually” & “always” that emphasise to us the essence and power of our Christian faith. If God’s word assures us, “no one can snatch us from our Father’s hand” – “nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God” – we have every reason to give thanks continually.
Because there is nothing; nothing; nothing; that can deprive a Christian from their final goal of eternal happiness. Of course, we must remember, we are speaking of our spiritual blessings. As far as this world is concerned, we may struggle financially; we struggle with bad health; we are sometimes threatened with unpleasant outcomes from people who dislike us; or people who are just downright nasty; or even criminals who might break into our home – but the Bible teaches us, even then, when we are burdened with needs, and we cry out to the Lord for help, we do so with thanksgiving – Phi.4:6 “be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
Spiritual blessings have the pre-eminence in our focus, because they concern our well-being, and they discriminate us from others, who might be richer than us; or healthier than us – but they can never be safer than us. That is the first point.
We are more thankful for our spiritual blessings, and the greatest of these spiritual blessings begin with our election. This is where we see all our blessings spring up like a fountain. This is how Paul puts it in Eph.1:3-4….
All the grace in the new covenant would never have entered into our hearts if God had not chosen us. All things would never work together for our good, if God had not called us, and He would never have called us, if He had not first chosen us from the beginning. The Bible says, (Jer.31:3) ‘He loved us with an everlasting love.’
Let me illustrate it to you, with one of the prayers of our Lord Jesus. He sets the example for us, in that He too, gives thanks to God for our election. You find it in Mat.11:25-26, ‘At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them to babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight:”
Other people are left to perish in their own delusions; their own false assertions; their misunderstandings; their arrogance; they are the people who are puffed up with their own opinions – they are the “wise & prudent”. They are not the ones chosen; Paul says, “not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble are called; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise; He has chosen the weak things of the world; the base things; the despised and those who are nothing, in order to bring to nothing, all those who think they are something.”
It is by grace you are saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.’ God’s electing love preceded all actual worth in us. And that is seen when you look again at our text.
“From the beginning, God chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” Now try very hard to get your minds around what is being said here.
God chooses the end and the means. He chooses us for salvation, but He also chooses the path we take for salvation. He does not choose us because we are holy, He chooses us to make us holy. He chooses us to live by faith. Faith and holiness are the means of salvation.
Let me illustrate to you this way. You choose to go on a holiday to Norfolk Island. That is where you want to be. You also choose the means by which you intend to get there. You book your tickets on a passenger jet. There is no sense in a person saying, ‘I have chosen to go to Norfolk Island’, and they are in a balloon, and the wind is blowing the wrong way. The means contradict the end.
And there is equally no sense in a person saying ‘I have been elected to go to Heaven’, if they have no intention to grow in holiness; if the Bible has no relish to them; how can such a person be holy? To be chosen for salvation, means to also be chosen to be holy; if the path they are on is not through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth,” then no election has taken place.
Therefore, this is what we deduce; this is the reason why we should always be thankful. God chose us, and by-passed others. That is not a hard deduction to make, yet many professing Christians today, would not only, not give thanks for this, but they would not even believe such a thing were true. They prefer to believe that they made the choice, not God.
Even when they read Rom.9:13 ‘Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated.’ They will say to themselves, “O yes, that was because Esau turned out to be a worldly man who despised his birthright.’ God only hated him, because of what he turned out to be. But they would be wrong; wrong; wrong; to make such a conclusion, because if they took the time to read the passage, they would read – “the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls, it was said, “The older shall serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”
God chose Jacob, who is also called Israel, and rejected other people. Deu.7:7-8, ‘The Lord did not set his love upon you, and choose you, because you were more in number than any people, for you were the fewest of all people; but because the Lord loved you.’
And friends, you and I may be few in number; smaller than any other church, but we need to be thankful that the Lord “from the beginning chose us for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” What we are learning, we are learning because God chose us to it. Be thankful. We are bound to be thankful. It is not our doing, that we are what we are. As Paul said, “I am what I am, by the grace of God.” Amen.