II Thessalonians 2:13-17 Grace From Beginning To End.
In contrast with those who did not “receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (v. 10), Paul had an obligation to give thanks to God for the recipients of his letter because they were “brethren beloved by the Lord” (v. 13). They believed because they were beloved, they weren’t beloved because they believed. “God from the beginning chose” them (Cf. Eph. 1:4; I Th. 1:4). At no point did their salvation depend upon them initiating anything with God. It was because they were chosen that there was a beginning, but it doesn’t stop there. We do not begin with sovereign grace and then carry on in our own strength. The salvation which God began in His sovereign electing grace, He works out “through sanctification of the Spirit” (Cf. I Pet. 1:2; 5:10). It involves both practice and “belief in the truth.” Belief and practice are inseparable, and just as our practice must be undergoing a progressive sanctification, even so must our belief in the truth.
Preachers of the gospel, like Paul and all faithful ministers of the word, have an obligation to call people to repentance and faith, but as Paul states here, it is ultimately God who effectually calls all those whom he has chosen (v. 14). There is no other message than the gospel which can and must save people, and part of this gospel is the knowledge that it is all by sovereign grace or else there would be no salvation at all. The ultimate destination is glorification-“the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So here, as elsewhere, Paul spells out his understanding of what has come to be called the ‘ordo salutis’ or order of salvation-election, effectual calling, (and with these, justification and definitive sanctification), progressive sanctification and ultimately glorification. It is because of these truths that Paul urges his recipients and us to “stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (v. 15 Cf. I Cor. 11:2; 16:13).
So whether they heard the ministers of the gospel or read the word for themselves, their confidence and ours, must be in that revelation which God has given concerning our great salvation. We should also not miss that this is a Trinitarian activity-chosen by the Father, sanctified by the spirit, for obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Again, though the Spirit is not specifically mentioned a second time, as the Father wasn’t specifically in the former, Paul nevertheless reiterates this Trinitarian reality, for it is the Spirit who has been sent as our comforter, and to establish us, through sanctification, “in every good word and work” (v. 17). Paul also reiterates that this is all of grace, for the Father “has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace” (v. 16 Cf. I Pet. 1:3). So we also see that this salvation also includes the perseverance of the saints, for it is an “everlasting consolation and good hope” (Cf. I Cor. 1:8).