A Commentary by John Stott
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12. 3). A prayer for God’s power.
Although the future of God’s people is secure, Paul does not presume upon it. On the contrary, the prospect of our final transformation is an incentive to the pursuit of holiness now. So Paul’s eschatological vision leads him to earnest prayer.
*With this in mind*, he writes namely the future glorification of Christ in his people, *we constantly pray for you*. It is prayer which links the future to the present, the vision of what is to come with the reality of what is. Paul’s prayer consists of two parallel petitions. The first is that *our God may count you worthy of his calling* (11a). We have already noted, in relation to verse 5, that *axioo* does not mean to ‘make worthy’ (in spite of the RSV). There is no possibility of our establishing or accumulating merit in such a way as to deserve God’s favour. No, when God called us to himself through Christ, he did it in his free grace to the unworthy and the undeserving. Since then, he has been summoning us to ‘live a life worthy of the calling’ with which we have been called (Eph.4:1). He has also been working in us in order to narrow the gap between what we were when he called us and what we should be and shall be. Only so may we be ‘counted worthy’ of his call and so of entry into his kingdom (5).
Paul’s second petition is this: *that by his power he [sc. God] may fulfil every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith* (11b). The Greek refers literally to ‘every purpose of goodness and every act of faith’, without specifying whose purpose and whose activity are in mind. Since *eudokia* (‘purpose’) in the New Testament nearly always refers to
God, whereas ‘faith’ must be ours not his, some commentators accept the combination of ‘all that *his* goodness desires to do and that *your* faith makes possible’ (JBP). Others, because the two phrases are most naturally taken as parallels, apply them both to the Thessalonians, their ‘delight in well-doing’ on the one hand and the activity prompted by their faith on the other. Paul’s point is that ‘purpose’ and ‘faith’ are both attitudes of the mind and heart; he therefore prays that God will *fulfil* both by *his power*, so that they issue in good deeds.
Even the translation of thoughts into actions is not, however, the ultimate goal of Paul’s prayers. He has a higher and nobler motive still, namely the glory of Jesus Christ. *We pray this*, he writes, *so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ* (12). That is, when by God’s power God’s people live a life worthy of his call, and when their resolve issues in goodness and their faith in works, then Jesus himself is seen and honoured in them, and they through union with him are seen in their true humanness as the image of God. It is a breath-taking concept that even now, before the end, this double glorification can take place – though only according to God’s grace. As always, grace and glory go together. Glory is the end; grace is the means to it. There can be no glory without grace.
|Tomorrow: 2 Thessalonians 1 1-12. Conclusion: the glory of Jesus Christ.|
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.