“But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth…”
The word “because” indicates the incentive for Paul’s thanksgiving: God chose the Thessalonians for salvation. Paul is thankful that God takes the initiative in salvation. His thanksgiving centers on what God does, not man.
God from the beginning [firstfruits]
The word “beginning,” primarily, denotes an offering of firstfruits–”God chose you as firstfruits.” This referred to setting aside the first portion of something and offering it to God before using the rest. The “firstfruits” were the first of a set. The New Testament uses this word for foretaste, pledge, and pledge of blessing to come. Our salvation has an eternal date. God chose us from eternity. The origin of our salvation began in eternity past.
God chose us for Himself. The word “chose” means to take or pick. God picked the Thessalonians, not because of any merit on their part, but because of His sheer, unadulterated grace. We do not initiate salvation. God does all the initiating. He loved the Thessalonians based on His character. He loved them because of who He was, not who they were.
The New Testament uses this Greek word for “chose” only three times in the New Testament (Philippians 1:22; Hebrews 11:25). The other two times, it is a person who does the choosing. This is the only usage whereby God is the chooser. God selects certain people for Himself; they are God’s aristocracy. These are His privileged people.
God chose us for a reason known only to Himself.
Why did God select you? Why are you so special? He could have selected someone smarter and with better qualities of character, but He didn’t. He chose you. God chose a rascal like you. As God went over the list of those whom He would choose, He did not bypass you; He picked you out from a number of people.
God never explains why He chooses some and not others. This is especially difficult when we think of some of the scoundrels He does choose. “Why did God spare my life in that accident? He spared me because He wanted to save my soul.” God takes great interest in you. He shows enormous concern for you.
God did not choose us because He knew beforehand that we would receive Christ. He chose us then He foreknew. As human beings, we cannot know that something will happen unless we choose that it is going to happen.
“…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love…” (Ephesians 1:4).
”No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44).
Hello Dr Richison.
I am a member of Oliver Alliance Church Oliver BC. Our Bible Study Group is studying Thessalonians. My wife and I are enjoying your commentary on this book.
I have a dilemma. There are many Bible verses stating that we have freewill concerning salvation. Paul says God chooses us. Please help me understand this.
My apology for the formatting but this is the way it came out by cut and paste! 🙂
by Dr Grant C. Richison
A. IT IS GOD’S ETERNAL PLAN
B. IT IS GOD’S ETERNAL, HOLY, WISE AND SOVEREIGN PURPOSE, COMPREHENDING AT ONCE ALL THINGS THAT EVER WERE OR WILL BE–IN THEIR CAUSES, COURSES, SUCCESSIONS AND RELATIONS–AND DETERMINING CERTAIN FUTURITION.
C. IN REALITY, THERE IS ONLY ONE DECREE–THE SUM TOTAL OF GOD’S PLAN.
D. THE OMNISCIENCE OF GOD IS THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING THE DECREES.
1. SELF-KNOWLEDGE= GOD KNOWS HIMSELF TOTALLY.
2. OMNISCIENCE= GOD KNOWS ALL THINGS OUTSIDE HIMSELF BOTH ACTUALLY AND POSSIBLY.
3. FOREKNOWLEDGE= THIS ACKNOWLEDGES THE ACTUAL FACTS OF REALITY–FOREKNOWLEDGE MAKES NOTHING CERTAIN, IT ONLY ACKNOWLEDGES WHAT IS CERTAIN.
II. FUNCTION OF THE DECREE
1. GOD KNOWS PERFECTLY, ETERNALLY, AND SIMULTANEOUSLY ALL THAT IS KNOWABLE, BOTH THE ACTUAL AND THE POSSIBLE.
2. SUCH PERCEPTION AND SAGACITY IS TOTALLY COMPATIBLE WITH HIS ESSENCE.
3. OMNISCIENCE SEES THE FREE AS FREE, THE NECESSARY AS NECESSARY, TOGETHER WITH ALL THEIR CAUSES, CONDITIONS, AND RELATIONS, AS ONE UNDIVIDABLE SYSTEM OF THINGS, EVERY LINK OF WHICH IS ESSENTIAL TO THE INTEGRITY OF THE WHOLE. EVERY CAUSE AND EFFECT IS RELATED TO ANOTHER CAUSE AND EFFECT VOLITION IS THE UNCAUSED CAUSE OF HUMAN FUNCTION SO THAT THE COURSE OF HISTORY IS JUST AS MAN THINKS IT, WILLS IT, DOES IT. “PREDESTINATION” DOES NOT MEAN THAT GOD FORCES US INTO AN ACTION. EVEN THOUGH GOD KNEW WHICH WAY YOU WOULD CHOOSE TO GO AND DECREED ONLY THAT ONE TO BECOME REALITY, HE KNOWS ALL THE REPERCUSSIONS OF EACH ALTERNATIVE.
B. THE DECREE ITSELF=
1. THE DECREES ARE THE COMPLETE AND CONSUMMATED RIGHT OF THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD TO DETERMINE THE CERTAIN FUTURITION OF ALL THINGS.
a. GOD HAS RIGHTS.
b. GOD HAS EXERCISED THIS RIGHT TO MAKE ALL THINGS CERTAIN.
2. NO EVENT IS DIRECTLY EFFECTED OR CAUSED BY THE DECREE
THE DECREE MERELY ESTABLISHES WHAT WILL BE CAUSED, BUT THE DECREE ITSELF IS NOT THE CAUSE. THE CAUSE MAY BE, FOR EXAMPLE, THE FREE WILL OF AN INDIVIDUAL.
3. THE CAUSE OF SOME EVENTS IS THE FREE WILL OF MAN; BUT THIS, ON THE OTHER HAND, DOES NOT MEAN THAT MAN’S WILL IS BEYOND GOD’S CONTROL (THAT MAN CAN CAUSE THINGS THAT ARE NOT IN THE DIVINE DECREES)
a. GOD HAS DECIDED IN ETERNITY PAST WHAT HUMAN BEINGS WOULD BE LIKE: WE WOULD BE RATIONAL CREATURES WITH FREE WILL. OUR SOULS WOULD HAVE SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS.
b. BECAUSE GOD CANNOT CONTRADICT HIS OWN NATURE, THE ESSENCE AND ATTRIBUTES OF GOD NECESSITATED HIS WILLING THE HIGHEST AND BEST FOR MANKIND.
C. ELECTION, FOREKNOWLEDGE AND PREDESTINATION FLOW FROM THE DIVINE DECREES.
1. THESE TERMS DESCRIBE THE ACT OF THE INFINITE, ETERNAL OMNISCIENCE OF GOD WHICH DETERMINED THE CERTAIN FUTURITION OF EVENTS RELATED TO THE BELIEVER.
2. GOD’S DECREES NEVER ORIGINATE FROM HIS FOREKNOWLEDGE, ALTHOUGH ALL 3 EXIST SIMULTANEOUSLY IN THE MIND OF GOD. THE SEPARATION IS LOGICAL, NOT CHRONOLOGICAL.
3. ELECTION IS THE PLAN OF GOD FOR BELIEVERS ONLY.
ELECTION IS GOD’S COMPLETE AGREEMENT WITH HIS OWN FOREKNOWLEDGE, I PET. 1:2.
a. GOD KNEW AHEAD OF TIME WHO WOULD CHOOSE FREELY TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST
b. GOD DECREED THAT SUCH AN ACT OF FAITH WOULD ACTUALLY OCCUR.
c. GOD AGREED NOT ONLY THAT THEIR POSITIVE VOLITION TO CHRIST WOULD OCCUR AT A CERTAIN POINT IN TIME BUT ALSO THAT ALL THE BLESSINGS OF SALVATION PLUS CERTAIN UNIQUE BLESSINGS WOULD BE THEIR ETERNAL POSSESSIONS (EPH. 1:4; II THES. 2:13).
4. ELECTION IS DECLARED THROUGH GOD’S FOREKNOWLEDGE; ELECTION IS A FUNCTION OF PREDESTINATION. II TIM 1:9; EPH 1:5 (THE BELIEVER SHARES THE DESTINY OF CHRIST; WE ALSO SHARE IN THE ELECTION OF CHRIST (ISA. 41:2; I PET 2:6).
A. DECREES INCLUDE ALL THE FACTS OF HISTORY
B. THERE IS ONE ALL-INCLUSIVE WILL AND PURPOSE OF GOD CONCERNING ALL THAT EVER WILL BE.
C. THE DECREES ORIGINATED ENTIRELY WITHIN HIMSELF.
D. THE DECREES ARE EFFICACIOUS–THE DIRECT WORK OF GOD–HIS WORK ALWAYS SUCCEEDS IN ITS INTENDED EFFECT.
E. THE DECREES GUARANTEE CERTAINTY.
F. THE DECREES ARE ALL-COMPREHENSIVE.
G. THE DECREES ARE ETERNAL.
H. THE DECREES WERE ALL DECREED SIMULTANEOUSLY.
I. THE DECREES ARE PERFECT.
J. GOD’S PERFECT PLAN INCLUDES ALL IMPERFECT PERSONS, BUT HE MAINTAINS HIS PERFECTION AND INTEGRITY THROUGH HIS POLICY OF GRACE.
K. THE DECREES OF GOD ARE UNCHANGEABLE AND CERTAIN.
UNCHANGEABLE–BECAUSE IT ONLY DEALS WITH REALITY.
CERTAIN–BECAUSE OMNISCIENCE ALWAYS KNEW THAT THESE THINGS WOULD OCCUR UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE PARTICULAR MOMENT IN HISTORY.
L. THE DECREES ARE THE FREE CHOICE OF DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY.
M. GOD HAS DECREED ENDS AS WELL AS MEANS, CAUSES AS WELL AS EFFECTS, CONDITIONS AND INSTRUMENTALITIES AS WELL AS THE EVENTS WHICH DEPEND UPON THEM.
N. SOME THINGS GOD DECREED TO DO HIMSELF.
WE CALL THESE THINGS “IMMEDIATE” THINGS IN CONTRAST TO “MEDIATE” THINGS WHICH HE DECREED THAT SOME OTHER AGENCY, SUCH AS THE FREE WILL OF MAN, WOULD PERFORM.
E.G.=CREATION IS “IMMEDIATE”
O. GOD ACCOMPLISHES SOME THINGS THROUGH SECONDARY CAUSES ACTING UNDER THE LAW OF NECESSITY.
P. ALL EVENTS ARE EQUALLY CERTAIN TO OCCUR WHETHER PRIMARY OR SECONDARY CAUSES.
Q. WE MUST DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE DECREES OF GOD AND THE DESIRES OF GOD.
R. DISTINCTION MUST BE MADE BETWEEN THE DECREES OF GOD AND THE LAWS OF GOD (SET UP FOR HUMAN VOLITION)
IV. CONCURSUS VS ALL THINGS TO THE IMMEDIATE AGENCY OF GOD
A. ONE ADMITS AND THE OTHER DENIES THE REALITY AND EFFICIENCY OF SECOND CAUSES.
B. ONE MAKES NO DISTINCTION BETWEEN FREE AND NECESSARY EVENTS; THE OTHER ADMITS THE VALIDITY AND UNSPEAKABLE IMPORTANCE OF THIS DISTINCTION.
C. THE ONE ASSERTS AND THE OTHER DENIES THAT THE AGENCY OF GOD IS THE SAME IN SINFUL ACTS THAT IT IS IN GOOD ACTS.
D. ONE ADMITS THAT GOD IS THE AUTHOR OF SIN, THE OTHER REPUDIATES THAT.
E. FREE AGENCY MEANS:
1. WE HAVE POWER (NATURAL) TO ACT FREELY;
2. TO ACT FREELY IMPLIES WE ORIGINATE OUR OWN ACTS.
F. THIS IS NOT INCONSISTENT WITH OUR LIBERTY TO BE INDUCED TO EXERT OUR ABILITY TO ACT BY CONSIDERATIONS ADDRESSED TO OUR REASON OR INCLINATIONS.
1. GOD CAN HINDER AN ACTION;
2. GOD CAN DETERMINE AN ACTION.
G. RELATION OF PROVIDENCE TO FREEDOM:
1. GOD SOMETIMES ALLOWS MAN TO DO AS HE PLEASES — PUTS RESTRAINTS IN THE WAY.
2. GOD SOMETIMES KEEPS A MAN FROM DOING WHAT IN HIS FREEDOM HE WOULD OTHERWISE DO.
HE USES CIRCUMSTANCES, INFLUENCE OF FRIENDS, INNER RESTRAINTS TO ACCOMPLISH HIS PURPOSE.
3. GOD OVERRULES WHAT MAN DOES TO HIS OWN ENDS.
HE EVEN MAKES THE WRATH OF MAN TO PRAISE HIM.
H. E.G. = PRAYER
1. GOD DOES SOME THINGS ONLY IN ANSWER TO PRAYER.
2. GOD DOES SOME THINGS WITHOUT PRAYER.
3. GOD DOES SOME THINGS CONTRARY TO PRAYER.
Dr Richison this is a very belated thank you for your detailed response to my question. I now have a better understanding of the Divine Decree. I am presently using your Phillipians commentary as a study guide. Blessings. Bruce