“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.”
In sharp contrast this portion of Holy Writ stands with relation to the immediately preceding context. There the apostle describes, in no uncertain terms, how God had no pleasure in them that are lost. They were not the objects of His love. And in the way of their unbelief and unrighteousness He destroys them. Under the direction and deception promoted by the man of sin, many shall be led astray and fall away through this son of perdition who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped. Moreover, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness.
But. . .!
In sharp contrast to that the apostle declares: “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord!”
Who were loved eternally by God!
Whom He has chosen to salvation!
Whom He also called in sanctification and belief of the truth through the Word of the gospel!
For this the apostle gives thanks to God. Not because they were better than the lost, but because God had chosen them to salvation.
Always in Scripture, and certainly also in this context, salvation of God’s beloved stands in sharp antithetical position over against the destruction of the wicked.
The latter are described as perishing, as having been condemned. And this is precisely the opposite working of salvation. Those perishing are lost. Those condemned are relegated to the state of the lost.
In salvation you have the antithesis of this. Instead of perishing, it is rescuing. Instead of misery, it is blessedness. Instead of condemnation, it is justification and redemption.
Implied in salvation are three very definite elements. There is, first of all, deliverance. Salvation is deliverance from the greatest possible misery and evil. This state of misery is the plight of every natural man outside of Christ. It is the state also of every child of God into which he is conceived and born naturally as a child of Adam. Out of that state salvation delivers. And this deliverance is possible only through redemption. In the second place, salvation also implies the element of’ safety. Salvation is safety in a state of freedom and blessedness. Safety implies freedom from misery, and with no possibility of ever returning to that misery. And safety is possible only through deliverance, complete deliverance, so that there is no danger that the delivered one should be plucked from the state of freedom and plunged once more into bondage and fear. In the third place, salvation also carries with it the element of preservation. Salvation is preservation in a state of eternal glory. And preservation is possible only when one is perfectly safe.
When one is saved, therefore, he is completely delivered in body and soul from eternal death and misery. He is kept safely in that state of deliverance, and so preserved that no one can pluck him out of the hand of God.
And this is entirely the work of God in Christ!
It is God’s work from beginning to end!
It is He Who wills our salvation in His eternal counsel, and according to His sovereign good pleasure. It is He Who also wills the way in which He works out that salvation; namely, through a real righteous Man, through the way of sin and grace, through the way of the cross. It is God Who saves. And He is pleased to do this through Christ Jesus. That is why He is called Jesus, that is, Jehovah salvation!
Through His suffering and death, through His resurrection and ascension, through His mediatorial work at the right hand of God, through His Word and Spirit, through His saving work in us by faith. He delivers us through His atoning sacrifice, through His perfect obedience He justifies, through His Spirit He sanctifies us, and leads us unto eternal glory.
This work of salvation is realized in us in connection with, in sanctification of the Spirit.
Sanctification is the sphere in which we are saved. Never outside of that sphere are we saved. And sanctification is entirely a work of God, never a work of man, or a work of God and man. It is that work of God whereby He delivers the regenerated and justified sinner from the corruption and power of sin, as a spiritual-moral power; whereby also He renews him in conformity with the image of Christ; and enables him to walk in all good works which were before prepared in order that he should walk in them.
Sanctification has its root and beginning in regeneration. It is not an instilling of a certain holiness of Christ, but that work of God through the Spirit of Christ whereby out of the principle of new life a new, spiritual-moral direction is given to our thinking, willing, desiring, and the action of our whole being. And because we are saved now in principle while our old nature still clings to us, sanctification is a two-fold work of God consisting, in the first place, in the mortification of the old man of sin in us; and secondly, in the giving of life to the new man. This is precisely the work of the Holy Spirit of Christ.
When the apostle speaks of the sanctification of the Spirit, he does not refer to the spirit of man, as some would aver. O, indeed, there can be no question but that also the spirit of man is sanctified. But this is not the intention of the text.
Rather the apostle refers here to the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit of God, but which on the day of Pentecost is given to Christ and operates out of Christ in the church as the Spirit of Christ.
This Spirit is He Who causes us to be brought into the sphere of sanctification, and there He works sanctification in us. Not in anything external. Not in mere external reformation of life. Not in a mere outward obedience to the code of the law, nor in a mere outward submission to gospel ordinances. But in an internal holiness and spiritual renewal in the soul, in the understanding, in the will. So that we earnestly will the will of God, know Him with the knowledge of faith, and we desire to walk in a way pleasing to God.
So we are saved!
But there is more!
The apostle adds: “and belief of the truth!”
The truth is the truth of God in Christ Jesus, objectively revealed in the Scriptures. Centrally the truth is always Jesus, Who declared: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” And He is revealed in the truth of the gospel.
Belief of the truth is faith in the truth. Not a mere historical faith or an assent that the Word of God is the truth, but a cordial embracing of it, a receiving of the love of the truth, the experience of the power that it saves. Accordingly it is a faith that embraces Jesus, relying, hoping on Him as the complete Saviour.
Thus, in this way, salvation is realized in us. In sanctification and belief of the truth is the only way there is to salvation. This is the way God has chosen, and He has chosen us to salvation in this way.
God has chosen you! Triune, Almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Sovereignly He did this! Irrespective of the faith, holiness, or goodness of its object. All of which are fruits of, never the condition to or cause of electing grace, of free and sovereign grace. He chose us, in order that His only might be all the glory.
Not merely as so many individuals did He choose us out of a mass of fallen humanity; but He chose us in Christ. He chose us to be the body of which Christ is the chosen Head. And He predestinated the non-elect to serve as a shell which must serve the election of grace.
From the beginning!
Not, you understand, from the beginning of time or creation of the world, nor from the beginning of our sanctification, nor from the beginning of the preaching of the gospel, did He choose us. But from before the foundation of the world, yea, from all eternity.
Objects, in themselves most unfit. Ungodly, sinners we were, even as others. Not a wit different than those who perish. Equally wicked as the most wicked among men. Wholly undone and corrupt. Who by nature reveal ourselves as unbelieving, totally depraved. Who, like those who walk in all unrighteousness and who received not the love of the truth, but despised it and trampled upon it. Yet beloved of the Lord. And who were chosen in love from everlasting. Chosen unto salvation in sanctification and belief of the truth.
And called with a divine calling!
That is, the effectual calling, not to be confused with the general preaching of the gospel. That preaching is not the divine calling, though it is true that the calling comes to us through the preaching. Rather, it is the saving calling that comes to our heart, so that we hear not only with our ears, but in the deepest recesses of our being the divine call. So that when He calls—we come to Him, we respond.
Called by our gospel! That is, the Word of God, the good news of salvation—preached! The gospel which Paul preached to the Thessalonians, and which is still preached by faithful ministers of the Word. Never apart from that Word does the Lord call. So that the efficacious call is conveyed to us through the outward sound of the gospel, which the Holy Spirit of Christ brings to the heart of the chosen in Christ, so that they hear Him speak.
The purpose of which calling is that we might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Note how the complete Mediator is designated in His names. He it was Who Through the way of His perfect obedience attained unto the heavenly glory and majesty at God’s right hand.
To obtain that glory is to come into the possession of it, to bathe in its radiance, to be filled with its beauty, to be glorified with His perfections.
Unto this the preached gospel calls us!
This glory is the end, the perfection of our sanctification!
And so, also, the beloved of the Lord shall forever give thanks unto God, Who loved them, has chosen them, so that in the sphere of sanctification and belief of the truth they might be called efficaciously into the very glory which Christ has merited for them.
And forever they shall exclaim—
Thanks be unto God!