Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #1179 MP3 Audio File Video File

Chosen From the Beginning

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14

Delivered 08/13/23

Good morning, Bereans. For our study this morning, we are going to be looking at just two verses that are loaded with doctrine. In 2 Thessalonians chapter two (vss. 1-12), we have been looking at an eschatological passage. In these verses, we learn that the Thessalonians were troubled because they had gotten word that the Day of the Lord had already happened. This tells us that they must not have seen the Day of the Lord as a total destruction of the earth and all its inhabitants as most today do.

Paul tells them that the Day of the Lord had not yet come and would not come until the rebellion came and the man of lawlessness was revealed. Then once he was revealed, the Lord would kill him with the breath of his mouth and bring him to nothing by the appearance of his coming. This is divine judgment.

Now as we come to verses 13-14, the context is a prayer to God for His initiating and electing grace in the lives of the Thessalonian Christians. Which stands in dramatic contrast to the previous verses.

Therefore, God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 ESV

Paul now reassures these new converts that they will not be a part of the great apostasy because God has loved them and chosen them for salvation. God called them, not for judgment, but so that they may gain the glory of the Lord Yeshua the Christ.

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV

The "but" here is in strong contrast to the future of the perishing as just described in verses 10-12, Paul and his team give thanks for the drastically different and glorious future of the Thessalonian believers now described in verses 13-14.

Notice how Paul mentions all three members of the trinity in this verse "God…Lord…Spirit" without pausing to explain it. He had obviously taught them about the Trinity when he was with them. Paul often alludes to the Trinity.

"But we ought always to give thanks to God for you"—he combines the present continuous tense of opheilo, "to owe, be indebted," with the adverb pantote, "at all times," to stress the point of their obligation to recognize the gracious and loving work of God in the salvation of men.

We see something in these two verses Paul lays out that we don't see very often—

the Ordo Salutis. The "Ordo Salutis" has to do with which step in salvation came first, and, more importantly, it has to do with who made the first move in our salvation. The wide spectrum of modern Christianity insists that any and every saved person had to make that first move. In other words, he needed to reach out in faith to God. Reformed theology, by contrast, maintains that the first move is God's (Eph. 1:5, 11; John 1:13; 15:5; 1 John 4:19). This issue of the "Ordo Salutis" is not a mere tedious technicality like the riddle "Which came first: the chicken or the egg?" It actually answers the question: "To whom do we give the glory for our salvation: God or ourselves?" And this, my friend, is a very important question.

The Bible contains a unified system of truth. When an error is made in one area of our theological understanding of the Word of God, that error does not remain in isolation for long. The error cascades throughout our theology and, if not halted at some point, produces greater and greater falsehood. Theological error is not just an intellectual issue; theological error can result in condemnation. At the very least, it quickly spills over into the way we live our Christian lives. B. B. Warfield said that a mutilated gospel produces mutilated lives. Bad theology is a cruel taskmaster. This principle is especially important in understanding the doctrine of salvation. A proper understanding of the logical order of salvation is vital to a right understanding of the gospel.

What does the Bible teach about the "Ordo Salutis"? Where would you go in the Bible to defend the "Ordo Salutis"? I would normally go to Romans 8:29-30 which gives us a logical sequence of the doctrines of salvation. But now I see that we could also go to our text in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14. Let's compare these texts.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:29-30 ESV

These verses contain a broad outline of the order of salvation. The sequential order that is given is: foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification. The acts of salvation presented in this passage, however, are not exhaustive. We also see this order in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14.

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Yeshua the Christ. ESV

All the elements of Romans 8 are here also but not in as strict an order. The first thing we see in the ordo salutis is.

1. Loved by God.

"Brothers beloved by the Lord""beloved" is the perfect passive participle form of agapaō.  This is what we would call an intensive perfect because it stresses being loved as an abiding state resulting from past action. As believers in Christ, having been loved by God in the past, we are the constant recipients of God's love.

In the Romans text, we have an unbroken chain of salvation—all whom God "loved beforehand" [foreknew] He justified and glorified. Now, we know that everybody is not going to be justified, so this must mean that God does not love everybody, which is a truth taught in the Scriptures.

As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."  Romans 9:13 ESV

Now you may say, "I don't like that text." Or you might say, "I never have understood that text." But what you should never say once you have read this verse is that God loves every individual equally without exception, without distinction.

Nothing can more clearly manifest the strong opposition of the human mind to the doctrine of divine sovereignty than the violence which human ingenuity has employed to twist the expression, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."

God is sovereign in the exercise of His love. What I mean is that He loves whom He chooses to, and, therefore, does not love everybody. Now I know that when I say that people get upset, but it is clearly what the Word of God teaches. He didn't love Esau. That is very clear. Now how will you argue? Will you say that He loves everyone but Esau?

One of the most popular beliefs of our day is that God loves everybody. But the idea that God loves everybody is a modern belief and not a biblical one.

Tom Constable writes, "Though God loves all people (John 3:16), He does not choose all for salvation." So, God loves the people he damns for eternity?

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV

See, it says God loved the world. Yes, it does, but does "world" mean every single individual, without exception, without distinction? In John 3, Yeshua is speaking to Nicodemus, a Jew. The Jews believed that God loved only them. Nicodemus had the idea that when the Messiah came, He would give the Kingdom to the Jews and He would submit the Gentiles to judgment. That was their doctrine. Their doctrine was that the Jews would be saved (i.e., anybody connected with Abraham). But Gentiles would be judged. This is why the Prophet Jonah could not conceive of the Ninevites (Gentiles) being saved, and thus he did everything in his power to see that this city would be destroyed. When Peter went to the home of Cornelius and preached the Gospel to the Gentiles who had gathered there, the church leaders in Jerusalem called him to account for his going to the Gentiles with the Gospel (Acts 11:1-3). According to one commentator, no Jewish writer specifically asserted that God loved His world.

What John 3:16 is saying in context is that God's love is international in its scope in that He loves Gentiles as well as Jews. When John writes, "For God so loved the world," he is saying that His love is enough to embrace, not simply Israel, but also Gentiles.

"Because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved"—some early manuscripts read "first fruits," while others read, "from the beginning." The NASB has "because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation." The phrase "from the beginning" is from the Greek manuscripts א , D, K, and L and the Peshitta translation. But manuscripts B, F, G, and P, the Vulgate, and the Harklean Syriac translations have "first fruits." The problem is that the phrase, "from the beginning," is not used by Paul elsewhere. A. T. Robertson thinks it was the original wording, (cf. Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. IV, p. 54), and the UBS4 gives it a "B" rating (almost certain). Paul never used the concept of "first fruits" to illustrate election.

If "from the beginning" is the original reading, it parallels Ephesians 1:4.

even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love Ephesians 1:4 ESV

The sense of it would be from the beginning of time. It would reflect God's electing choices made before time began.

The Ordo Salutis starts with God loving us in eternity past. Then we have:

2. Election or Predestination and Giving

Our text says, "Because God chose you." "Chose" is from the verb aihreomai, "to pick, take," but in the middle voice it means "to choose." The form of the verb (an aorist indicative middle of past action) plus the words, "from the beginning," point to the eternal choice of God. This choice was not on the basis of their love for God or any merit on their part but because of God's love for them. The middle voice (an intensive middle, "he chose for or by Himself) stresses this truth.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 1 Thessalonians 1:4 ESV

Notice the linking together again of the love of God and the election of God. From all eternity, God loved the church at Thessalonica. He chose them from the beginning from all the sinners in Macedonia.

Now because people don't like the idea of God's being sovereign over salvation, they come up with ideas that convey that God elects because of the decision of our free will. They think that the reason that individuals are elected is because God looked down through the years and saw that they would of their own free will believe in Yeshua. So, doesn't that mean that God cannot act until we act. Yes, that's what it means. He looked down through the years and saw we would believe, therefore, because of our act, the choice of our free will, he decides to choose us.

If you really believe that, then evidently you think that there is a time when God gains knowledge. In other words, God did not know who would believe until He looked down through the years, and then based on that added knowledge, chose them. This fashioned a God who is not omniscient but who needs to gain knowledge.

Under number 2, we could add Predestination—the same concept of choosing or electing. What predestined means in its most elementary form is that our final destination is decided by God, not only before we get there but even before we are born.

Also under number 2 is the concept of the Father's giving the elect to the Son as a love gift for his suffering. I don't have time to develop this, but since it fits in this spot, I wanted to mention it.

since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. John 17:2 ESV

"To give eternal life to all whom you have given him"—please notice that it doesn't say that He gives eternal life to all who believe in Him. It is certainly true that He gives eternal life to all who believe in Him, but here He says that He gives eternal life "to all whom you have given me." So, who are "the given"? Whom has the Father given to Yeshua? This is important because all who are "given" get eternal life. Notice what Yeshua said earlier in John 6.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. John 6:37 ESV

Yeshua connected "coming" to Him with "believing in Him" in verse 35.

Yeshua said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. John 6:35 ESV

What I want you to see here is that "coming to Yeshua" and "believing in Yeshua" are synonymous concepts. They are parallel terms. Thus, coming to Christ is the same as believing in Christ and vice versa. This is very important in understanding this text.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. John 6:37 ESV

Since "coming to Christ" and "believing in Christ" are synonyms, who is it that believes in Yeshua? It is "All that the Father gives to Him." The ability to believe on Yeshua requires divine enablement. It is only those whom "the Father" enables to believe that "come to" Yeshua in faith. These are "all" the people whom "the Father gives" to the Son as gifts. Yeshua viewed the ultimate cause of faith as God's electing grace, not man's choice.

So far in the "Ordo Salutis" we have seen eternal love and choosing. Please understand that both of these happened before time. It was in eternity past that God loved and chose. Then in time we were born into the world. And when we were born, we were born into a State of Death.

3. State of Death.

This is not in our text or the list in Romans 8, but these are not exhaustive lists. I add this to the list because I think it is important for us to understand that even though we were loved and chosen by God from eternity past, we were born into the world in a state of spiritual death. In other words, we were born under the wrath of God.

All men are born separated from God, so that they are spiritually dead. Every unbeliever is in a state of death.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.   Romans 5:12 ESV

Because of Adam's sin, spiritual death spread to all men. Adam was the federal head of the human race. When he sinned, we sinned. His sin is imputed to us.

In historical theology, man's condition in sin has been called "total depravity." This does not mean that every human being is as bad as he could possibly be (that would be "utter depravity"). The phrase "total depravity" is attempting to communicate that sin affects every aspect of man's being. Sin dominates every aspect of a person's thoughts, actions, attitudes, and desires.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins Ephesians 2:1 ESV

This verse states that fallen man is "dead in sin" and, therefore, he has no spiritual life whatsoever. It is important to note that the Apostle Paul did not say that man is sick in sin or simply influenced by sin. He declared that fallen man has no spiritual life.

After stating that man is spiritually dead and exhibits that lack of spiritual life in his sinful disposition and actions, verses 4 and 5 proclaims the following:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV

Scripture declares that we were dead in sin, and God acts first to bring about a spiritual resurrection, making us alive in Christ. This represents the next step in the "Ordo Salutis" which is Calling or Regeneration.

4. Calling or Regeneration.

To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Yeshua the Christ. 2 Thessalonians 2:14 ESV

"To this he called you through our gospel"—this calling is effectual calling, God calling dead men to life. This is regeneration, or a spiritual resurrection. Fallen man, in his natural state, lacks all power to commune with God, because man is spiritually dead. Apart from God giving life, man cannot even understand God. This little-understood truth is also taught in John 12:37-39.

Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Therefore, they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, John 12:37-39 ESV

They did not believe because they could not believe. Paul teaches this same thing in 1 Corinthians 2:14.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV

Notice carefully what this verse says. Natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God (e.g., the Gospel). Who is the natural man? The word "natural" comes from the Greek word psuchikos. Jude uses this same Greek word to mean "devoid of the Spirit." So, the natural man is the man without the spirit of God. In God's effectual calling, regeneration is absolutely necessary. Apart from it, man has no ability to understand or desire the things of God.

Yeshua answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."  John 3:3 ESV

The third chapter of John is very familiar to everyone who has spent time in the Word of God. The term "born again" is familiar to believers and unbelievers alike. We are familiar with the term, but do we understand what it means? We know that people must be born again, but there are many different opinions on how a person is born again.

The term "born again" is synonymous with effectual calling—"regeneration." Being born again is the same as "receiving a new heart" (Ezekiel 36:26), or what Ephesians 2 calls being "made alive." Peter calls it "being called out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). All of these terms refer to what theologians call "regeneration."

Hodge says that regeneration is "the instantaneous change from spiritual death to spiritual life. Regeneration, therefore, is a spiritual resurrection, the beginning of a new life." Thiessen says, "Regeneration may be defined as the communication of divine life to the soul, as the impartation of a new nature, or heart and the production of a new creation."

In the "Ordo Salutis" we were physically born spiritually dead. In other words, we entered this world in a state of death. Then at some point in our life, God called us. This is an effectual call; it is a call from death to life. This effectual call (regeneration) is by grace without means. In a supernatural act, God gives a person a new heart, and he becomes spiritually alive.

Man is passive in the new birth; he does no more to produce his own birth than Lazarus did to produce his resurrection.

You may be thinking, "It didn't happen to me that way. I believed, and then I received new life." You are looking at it from your experience and not from the standard of God's Word. Before you could ever believe, you had to be made alive.

This calling of God, this spiritual birth, is effected without means. Most people think that the means of regeneration is the Word of God or faith. But regeneration is a direct act of God upon the spirit of a man. Truth cannot be the means of regeneration because before a man is regenerated, he is blind and cannot see the truth; he is deaf and cannot hear the truth; he is dead and cannot respond to the truth. Truth cannot be the means of the new birth if the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit as 1 Corinthians 2:14 teaches. The increase of light will not enable a blind man to see—the disease of the eye must first be cured. So must a man be regenerated by the Spirit before he can receive the truth. It is solely a work of the Spirit, and that's why we pray for the lost.

When God calls, we come! The call of God is irresistible:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 ESV

We see here again the idea that no one can come to Christ unless God first calls that person to spiritual life. The Greek word for "draw" is helkuo. Strong says it means: "to drag." Kittle says it means "to compel by irresistible superiority."

Far too many believers think of salvation as that which begins with man's quest for God. They have no conception of a sovereign God who gives life to a spiritually dead soul. In a word, they exhibit little or no grasp of a biblical order of salvation (Ordo Salutis). The emphasis in Scripture is not on what man does to appropriate the grace of God, but, instead, on what God does in applying it.

So far in the "Ordo Salutis" we have eternal love, choosing, state of death, and effectual calling. What is next?2

5. Faith.

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV

"And belief in the truth"—"truth" here is parallel to "gospel" in verse 14. We have to have faith; we must believe the truth of the gospel. Faith is understanding and assent to the propositions of the gospel. Let me just add here that a person must hear the gospel before he can understand and assent to it. A person cannot believe what he doesn't know. Faith is belief or trust in Christ and in Christ alone for our salvation. Faith is the response of God's life-giving call (regeneration). It is not the cause of it. Regeneration precedes faith. This is demonstrated in Acts 16.

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. Acts 16:14 ESV

"The Lord opened her heart"—this is the effectual calling or regeneration. She responded in faith. She could not have responded if she were dead.

Based on the "Ordo Salutis," faith is the evidence of regeneration.

Everyone who believes that Yeshua is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 1 John 5:1 ESV

"Everyone who believes that Yeshua is the Christ has been born of God"—John uses the present tense here: "Everyone who believes." The clear meaning, then, is that everyone who is presently believing in Yeshua "has been born of God." The perfect tense, which generally refers to an event in past time, indicates results which persist into the present time. So, we have a present tense and we have a perfect tense. The perfect tense would indicate an event that occurred previous to the other. The tenses make it clear that the divine begetting is the antecedent, not the consequent, of the believing.

So  far  in  the "Ordo Salutis"  we  have  eternal  love,  choosing,  state  of  death,   

effectual calling, and faith. What is next?
6. Salvation or Justification.

What was it that the Thessalonians were chosen for?

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV

"God chose you…to be saved"—they were chosen for salvation. The words, "for salvation," express the purpose or goal. The purpose of God's election was that they might be saved. "Salvation" stands in contrast to the horrible condemnation that all who do not receive the love of the truth will face (2 Thess. 2:10-12). Paul stated this fact in 2 Thessalonians 1.

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 2 Thessalonians 1:9 ESV

As we talked about last week, you have to have faith in order to be saved.

And they said, "Believe in the Lord Yeshua, and you will be saved, you and your household."  Acts 16:31 ESV

When we believe in Christ, we are saved or justified. The Scriptures are clear that faith in Yeshua the Christ is the instrumental precondition of justification. We see this in Romans 5.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Yeshua the Christ. Romans 5:1 ESV

The logical sequence is that faith precedes justification. Many Scriptures state that faith is the response of our heart and mind to the divine call to believe in Christ (Acts 16:31; 1 Cor. 1:9). Therefore, faith should be positioned in the broad outline between calling and justification. In the application of salvation, this gives us the logical sequence of (1) foreknowledge, (2) election, (3) state of death, (4) calling, (5) faith, (6) justification.

To Salvation or Justification, we could add Adoption. The place of adoption in the order of salvation may be understood from an exegesis of John 1.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13 ESV

John states that as many as received Him are given the right to become children of God. The Greek word translated as "right" (exousian) has the meaning of the legal word "authority"; it is referring to the legal act of God's grace in adoption. Therefore, John is teaching that faith is the necessary logical precondition to adoption. Since being adopted into God's family would presuppose that a person's sins are forgiven, and he is accepted by God as righteous, it is logical to assume that adoption follows salvation.

The New Testament also speaks of positional sanctification as synonymous with salvation.

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV

"Through sanctification by the Spirit"—"sanctification" is the Greek word hagiasmos from hagiazo ("to consecrate, set apart, sanctify"). It carries the idea of a "setting apart" from the secular to that which is holy or reserved for God's special purposes. This is positional sanctification.

So far in the "Ordo Salutis" we have eternal love, choosing, state of death, effectual

calling, faith, and salvation. What's next?

7. Glorification.

To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Yeshua the Christ. 2 Thessalonians 2:14 ESV

"So that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Yeshua the Christ"—the purpose of this calling is that the Thessalonians might share in the glory of our Lord Yeshua the Christ. This is the same glory John wrote of in 1 John 3:2.

Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2 ESV

"But we know that when he appears"—the word appears here is phaneroō. Here it refers to the return of Yeshua in the future (from the first-century readers' perspective). We could translate this as: "But at the second coming."

So, when the second coming happened, John said, "We shall be like him."  Who are the we? John is talking to first-century saints. He tells THEM that when the second coming happens, THEY will be like Christ.

John said that "we shall be like him"—the word "like" here is from the Greek word homoios which means similar (in appearance or character). So, homoios means similar and not exactly the same. We are now like Christ in that we share His righteousness.

When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:4 ESV

Believers, Christ has been revealed, he has appeared, and all believers have been glorified! Glorification is nothing more than dwelling in God's presence. Christ is our life. He is in the presence of God, and, therefore, we are in the presence of God (i.e., in glory).

To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Yeshua the Christ. 2 Thessalonians 2:14 ESV

"Our Lord Yeshua the Christ"—"Lord" is the covenant name for Yahweh in the Tanakh. This may be rendered "He exists, He will exist, He causes to exist, He is." When the New Testament authors used this term for Yeshua, it was one of their ways to identify Him with Yahweh of the Tanakh.

What are the practical applications of understanding the order of salvation? A person's beliefs about salvation will have practical effects in all of his Christian activity. When he understands that salvation is God's work, he will not be so caught up in methods or programs for witnessing because he knows that only the Holy Spirit can create new life.

When we know the truth about the biblical order of salvation, we won't be led astray by false teaching like universalism because we will understand that faith precedes salvation. A person must believe the gospel in order to be saved. We also understand that God does not love or save everybody. Christ did not die for everybody and everybody will not be saved.

An understanding of the "Ordo Salutis" should cause a deep attitude of gratefulness to God. We didn't deserve to be justified because we deserve wrath, but God in His love reached out to us and made us alive. This is the gospel. The gospel is: "God saves sinners."

Apart from His work of giving spiritual life, no one would have ever sought Him, and everyone would die in his sins. A true understanding of the "Ordo Salutis" will humble us as nothing else can and bring the heart into lowly submission and profound gratitude before God.

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