5:24 What God will do is not specified. But the context is his sanctifying and his keeping (v. 23).
5:24 faithful The new believers at Thessalonica endured persecution even without the presence of Paul and his companions (see 3:9 and note), demonstrating God’s faithfulness.
5:24 calls you. This, as every time the divine call is mentioned in the NT, refers to God’s effectual call of His chosen ones to salvation (cf. 2:12; 4:7; Ro 1:6, 7; 8:28; 1Co 1:9; Eph 4:1, 4; 2Ti 1:9; 1Pe 2:9; 5:10; 2Pe 1:10). The God who calls will also bring those whom He calls to glory and none will be lost (cf. Jn 6:37–44; 10:28, 29; Ro 8:28–39; Php 1:6; Jude 24).
5:24 As a believer pursues the Christian life, he can be assured that God is faithful and that he cannot do it himself but that God will do it.
5:24. God will give believers all they need to be blameless at His coming. That is what Paul means when he says, He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. Paul is not promising success here. He is promising that God will give all that is needed so that believers might achieve what He has just commanded.
5:24 As we learned in 4:3, our sanctification is the will of God. He has called us to eventually stand blameless before Him. Having begun this work in us, He will finish it (Phil. 1:6). He who calls us is faithful to His promise.
5:24. The same God who calls a Christian will perform this by the Holy Spirit who indwells him. God is faithful to bring to completion the work He has begun in believers (Phil. 1:6). God does not save a person by grace and then leave him alone to work out his Christian growth by works (Gal. 3:3). As God calls and justifies by grace, He sanctifies by grace too.
5:24. The follower of Christ is never left alone: The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Here is great comfort and assurance. We are never abandoned. God’s faithfulness is the undergirding of our faith. Our hope and trust are placed in a trustworthy God. The call of God is not separated from his faithful enabling. In our struggles we can rest in him.
5:24 “Faithful is He” This functions both as the second descriptive title (cf. Deut. 7:9; Isa. 49:7; 1 Cor. 1:9; 10:13; 2 Cor. 1:18; 2 Thess. 3:3) and as a characteristic of YHWH (cf. Ps. 36:5; 40:10; 89:1, 2, 5, 8; 92:2; 119:90). The believers’ confidence is in the established, settled, unchanging character of YHWH!
© “He who calls … He also will bring it to pass” The third descriptive title, “He who calls,” always refers to God the Father (cf. 2:12; 4:7). This verse refers to the believers’ election plus glorification (cf. Rom. 8:29–34). It focuses on the trustworthy God who initiates and perfects (cf. Phil. 1:6; 2:13). Our hope is in God’s trustworthiness to keep His promises.
24. A wonderful expression of assurance follows. What Paul has expressed so strikingly is a wish, indeed, but not a mere wish. It is a wish which, by God’s sovereign grace, will attain certain fulfilment:
Faithful is he who calls you, who will also do it.
The Thessalonians need have no fear. The One who calls (ὁ καλῶν timeless present participle) them (see on 2:12; 4:7; 2 Thess. 2:14) will also certainly complete what he has begun with respect to them (cf. Phil. 1:16). He will surely sanctify and preserve them. He is faithful (πιστός), to be trusted (cf. 1 Cor. 1:9; 10:13; 2 Cor. 1:18; 2 Thess. 3:3; 2 Tim. 2:13). What he promises he does.
Ver. 24. Faithful is He that calleth you.—
The faith of man and the faithfulness of God:—1. The highest object of man’s existence is to hold communion with God. For this his nature was framed, and in this alone will it find repose. 2. But the vital tie that connected us with heaven is broken. We are as a limb of the body separated by paralysis, or any other internal cause, from the benefits of the general circulation. God is the heart: we have insulated ourselves from God, and deadened the nerve that conducted his influences. We have a name to live but are dead. 3. This is a state of things deeply to be lamented; but no one ever lamented that the brute creation was shut out from the converse of angels—because there are no faculties in brutes that point to a higher destiny; no traces of a fall, nothing about them which makes it a practical contradiction that they should be as they are and yet what they are. But even in the natural man there are faint gleams of a something over and beyond his present state, a perpetual unhappiness, proving his designation for a different state of things originally. 4. Now without some notion of the extent of the loss, you can never estimate the value or nature of the restoration. It is by the length of the dark shadow that you compute the height of the elevation beyond it. It is by summing up the long catalogue of woe that you will be able to conceive the importance of that manifestation of mercy, whose object is, by the descent of God, to bind once more the broken links of communion. 5. The nature of this restoration. Man is separated from God as a criminal, and as unholy; the communion is restored by free pardon on God’s part for Christ’s sake, and the acceptance of that pardon upon man’s, and by the process of sanctification which makes a lost and ruined soul at length “meet for the inheritance of the saints.” 6. Of this union with God the first great characteristic must be one which concerns both intellect and heart. It must behold God’s holiness, justice, and mercy, and must love the holiness, dread the justice, desire the mercy. This complex act of knowledge and affection is faith. 7. But in every perfect union there must be mutual confidence, and a strict fulfilment of enjoyments on both sides. If man be trustful, God must be “faithful.” This is the affirmation of the apostle. Thus faith in man and faithfulness in God are the two members of our spiritual harmony.
- The Divine faithfulness is gloriously characteristic of the spiritual system to which we belong. No words can go beyond the confidence of David in the faithfulness of God, and no doubt high and spiritual meanings belong to his expressions of such confidence. Holiness was to be the foundation of all, but yet a holiness triumphant in visible majesty and regal pomp. But the faithfulness of our text has exclusive reference to sanctification. It was no relief from temporal evils that Paul promised; the mercy of God might send them to the lions; it was still His mercy, if it but kept them unspotted from the world. How many are content with such faithfulness as this? Is this the tenor of your prayers? Is your heart busy in pleading with God His own eternal faithfulness in behalf of your sanctification and spiritual safety?
- The Divine faithfulness extends to the whole man. The entire, if feeble humanity, is sheltered under this canopy of Divine protection. The body is subdued into its place as minister to the soul; the soul is guarded from its own special corruptions; and the spirit is preserved undecayed amid an hostile world. Of a surety the sacred Trinity that occupies the throne of heaven will not forget this humble image of Their ineffable mystery. Surely the soul will be preserved by that creative Deity who first infused it into the frame; the body by that Eternal Son who was pleased to assume it; and the spirit, by that ever blessed Spirit who bestows it and may well guard His own inestimable gift.
III. This faithfulness is of Him “that calleth you.” It is a fidelity to His own gracious engagement. He without destroying human freedom or responsibility, of His free grace commences, continues and ends the whole Christian work. Yet so faithful is His compassion that He represents Himself as bound and tied to the impulses of His own unconstrained mercy. There is no bond but His own love, yet that bond is stronger than iron; and He, whom the universe cannot compel, commands Himself.
- With such a God, such promises and faithfulness, why is there a delay in appropriating so great salvation? If we believe that these things are true where is the earnest active faith, and where the life that answers to it? (W. Archer Butler, M.A.)
God’s faithfulness:—Grandly did the old Scottish believer, of whom Dr. Brown tells us in his “Horæ Subsecivæ,” respond to the challenge of her pastor regarding the ground of her confidence. “Janet,” said the minister, “what would you say, if after all He has done for you, God should let you drop into hell?” “E’en’s (even as) He likes,” answered Janet. “If He does, He’ll lose mair than I’ll do.” At first sight Janet’s reply looks irreverent, if not something worse. As we contemplate it, however, its sublimity grows upon us. Like the Psalmist she could say, “I on Thy Word rely” (Psa. 119:114, metrical version). If His Word were broken, if His faithfulness should fail, if that foundation could be destroyed, truly He would lose more than His trusting child. But that could never be. “For ever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness is unto all generations.” Well then might Janet encourage herself in the Lord her God, and say, “God hath spoken in His holiness; I will rejoice.”
Assurance of victory:—I can never conceive that it dispirits the soldier, when he is fighting, to tell him that he must win the victory. This is what Cromwell’s ironsides said when they saw the great general riding along the ranks, “ ’Tis he!” they said, “ ’tis he!” they felt the victory was sure where Cromwell was, and like thunderbolts they dashed upon their enemies, until as thin clouds before the tempest the foemen flew apace. The certainty of victory gives strength to the arm that wields the sword. To say to the Christian you shall persevere till you get to the journey’s end—will that make him sit down on the next mile-stone? No; he will climb the mountain, wiping the sweat from his brow; and as he looks upon the plain, he will descend with surer and more cautious footsteps, because he knows he shall reach the journey’s end. God will speed the ship over the waves into the desired haven; will the conviction of that on the part of the captain make him neglect the vessel? Yes, if he be a fool; but if he be a man in his wits, the very certainty that he shall cross the deep will only strengthen him in time of storm to do what he would not have dreamt of doing if he had been afraid the vessel would be cast away. Brethren, let this doctrine impel us to a holy ardency of watchfulness, and may the Lord bless us and enable us to persevere to the end. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Paul affirms God’s faithfulness (5:24)
Having expressed his double prayer for the thorough sanctification of the Thessalonians, he feels the need to remind both himself and them of the ground of his bold request. It is the call of God, which is a call to holiness (4:7; cf. 2:12) and the faithfulness of God to his called, covenant people. God upholds those whom he calls, and fulfils that which he has promised. We can rely on his steadfast love, which never fails but endures for ever.
24. The prayer is offered in the certainty that it will be answered‚ a certainty that arises because God is faithful (cf. 1 Cor. 1:9; 10:13; 2 Cor. 1:18; 2 Thess. 3:3; 2 Tim. 2:13; Heb. 10:23; 11:11). Cf. Chrysostom: ‘This happens not from my prayers, he says‚ but from the purpose with which he called you’ (cited in Frame). God is the one who calls you, where the timeless present participle (not ‘called’) draws attention to God in his capacity as Caller. This is followed by an unusual absolute use of the verb do (there is no it in the Greek). This puts the emphasis on action, on ‘doing’, and this is strengthened by the ‘also’. The faithful Caller will also act.
Faithful is he that hath called you. As he has shewn by his prayer what care he exercised as to the welfare of the Thessalonians, so he now confirms them in an assurance of Divine grace. Observe, however, by what argument he promises them the never-failing aid of God—because he has called them; by which words he means, that when the Lord has once adopted us as his sons, we may expect that his grace will continue to be exercised towards us. For he does not promise to be a Father to us merely for one day, but adopts us with this understanding, that he is to cherish us ever afterwards. Hence our calling ought to be held by us as an evidence of everlasting grace, for he will not leave the work of his hands incomplete. (Psalm 138:8.) Paul, however, addresses believers, who had not been merely called by outward preaching, but had been effectually brought by Christ to the Father, that they might be of the number of his sons.
24 It is of high interest that Paul concludes his prayer for them with an affirmation regarding its being realized. It has to do not so much with their effort—although he surely expects them to do their part—as with God’s own faithfulness. The bottom line for Paul in all such matters is that God is completely trustworthy, not only “worthy” of our “trust,” but absolutely to be relied on to carry out what has been promised. And here, for the first time in his letters, we are brought face to face with God’s calling them to be his people and God’s own readiness to complete what was begun by the Spirit. For the Thessalonians this is the needed reminder that neither their “sanctification” nor their being “preserved blameless” for the Parousia is dependent on their own personal struggling for it, but on their trusting the God who has already called them to himself, and who will thus bring to pass in their lives what God has begun. In the end everything depends on the single reality that God is absolutely faithful.
24 Paul’s prayer is no despairing wail, but a cry of faith. He is supremely confident that what he has asked will be done, and this verse reveals that the ground of his trust is the nature of God. As we saw on the preceding verse, Paul was sure that the Thessalonians would be able to obey his injunctions because their resources were in God. Now we see that he is sure that God will indeed supply their need in this matter, because he is “faithful.” Centuries before, Abraham had asked, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25). Through all the intervening years the conviction that God can be depended on had sustained men and women of faith, as, indeed, it does to this day. It is not in the unstable qualities of people that trust must be placed, but in the eternal faithfulness of God. Paul does not mention the name of God, but proceeds to characterize him as “the one who calls you” (see on 2:12; 4:7–8). There may be something of a hint that God’s call is always sounding in the ears of his people, so that the present call that they hear is their guarantee that God will see them through. Or it may be that God is being spoken of as “the Caller,” the God who habitually calls to himself those whom he will have.
But God, besides being a Caller, is a Doer (cf. Phil. 1:6). The end of the verse fastens attention on this aspect of his being. The verbal idea is emphasized in the Greek in two ways, by the addition of “also” (God not only calls, he also acts; NIV leaves the word untranslated) and by the omission of the object (there is no “it” in the Greek). There is no real doubt as to what the object is, and its omission has the effect of fastening attention on the verb “do.” The God to whom Paul prays is not a God who is inactive or ineffective. Paul thinks of him as one who will certainly bring to completion that which he has begun. “Does he speak and then not act?” (Num. 23:19). Because he is the faithful One, and because he is the One who has called them, the Thessalonians may know that he will do perfectly all that is involved in their call. It is profoundly satisfying to the believer that in the last resort what matters is not his feeble hold on God, but God’s strong grip on him (cf. John 10:28–29).
24 To Paul, utterance of a prayer is not the end but only the means to an end. One who asks God for something can anticipate the fulfillment of his request because of God’s character: “the one who calls you is faithful.” He who issues an effectual call can be relied on absolutely to carry out his call, including among other things the sanctification and preservation prayed for in v. 23. Faithfulness is that characteristic of God that determines he will do the very thing Paul has prayed for. In his pretemporal selection of the Thessalonian church (1:4; 2:12), God had already determined to do so in his own counsels. That, however, did not render prayer for them superfluous, as human effort and application also have their place in carrying out God’s purposes.
Sanctification’s Final Security
Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. (5:24)
God who calls is also faithful to complete and bring … to pass His sanctifying purpose. Paul later expressed to the Philippians this confidence in God’s faithfulness to believers: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). That is another pledge to all believers that God has the power to guarantee their ultimate sanctification. The salvation God grants is secure—He graciously and efficaciously calls individuals (John 6:37, 44–45, 64–65), supplies them the faith to repent and believe (Eph. 2:8–9; cf. 2 Tim. 2:25–26), and provides them the grace to persevere to the glory of ultimate sanctification (Jude 24–25; cf. 1 Cor. 10:13). Romans 8:28–30 also states this pledge:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
In summary, Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians suggests a number of essential principles that all Christians need to remember concerning the sanctification process. First, experiential sanctification is inherently both negative and positive. Negatively, it involves the purging out of sin (cf. Rom. 6:6; 8:13; 2 Tim. 2:19). Scripture compares sin to leaven (cf. Matt. 16:12; 1 Cor. 5:6–8; Gal. 5:8–9), which connotes the evil influence with which sin permeates humanity. Sanctification does not remove the presence of sin, but it purges from the believer his love for sin and decreases sin’s frequency in his life (cf. Rom. 6:22; 7:21–25; Phil. 3:7–16; Titus 2:11–12). Positively, sanctification involves the renewing of the mind (cf. Rom. 12:2) and the putting on of Christlikeness (cf. Col. 3:5–17). The negative and positive changes occur as the Holy Spirit continually uses God’s Word in believers’ lives (John 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; cf. John 15:1–3).
Second, sanctification occurs chiefly in the heart, the mind, the inner being. It is not concerned with modifying one’s outward behavior—even if that behavior were in line with God’s law—apart from the changed heart (cf. Rom. 3:21–23, 28; 4:4–5; 5:1–2), nor is it circumscribing one’s attitudes and actions to an arbitrary code of ethics (cf. Rom. 14:17; Col. 2:16–23). Sanctification does affect a Christian’s outward actions (cf. John 15:4–5; Eph. 2:10), but it is essentially an inward grace. It is illustrated by what the apostle Peter wrote to believing wives: “Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:3–4).
Third, the Bible implicitly calls sanctification a beautiful reality (cf. Ps. 110:3 kjv). Holiness is the beautiful crown jewel of the Godhead, reflecting divine perfection, unmitigated virtue, absolute righteousness, and pure sinlessness (cf. Ex. 15:11; Pss. 47:8; 145:17; Isa. 57:15). Sanctification, then, is a noble experience, imparting to believers a measure of the majesty God intended for them when He created mankind in His image (cf. Gen. 1:26–27; Ps. 8:4–6).
Fourth, sanctification is an ongoing reality. At the new birth, God plants the seed of righteousness, the principle of divine life, into the believer’s heart (cf. 1 Peter 1:23–25). That does not mean he will never sin again, but it does mean he will discontinue living in his previous unbroken pattern of sinfulness and begin to live in a new pattern of holiness (cf. Rom. 6:17–18; 1 John 3:9).
Fifth, believers must remember that people can counterfeit sanctification in a number of ways. First, moral virtue can substitute for true sanctification. People can exhibit character qualities such as fair-mindedness, loyalty, civility, kindness, generosity, diligence, and philanthropy and yet at heart be unbelievers (cf. Isa. 29:13). Second, religious activity can masquerade as sanctification. For example, devoutly religious people might spend years avoiding the most heinous sins and seeking to please God by adhering to their church’s rituals and self-righteously engaging in good works (cf. Matt. 23:23–25; Luke 18:10–14). But they do it all because they are afraid of God and want to earn His forgiveness, not because they are His children who sincerely love Him for His grace. Third, outward Christian profession can appear to be genuine sanctification (cf. Matt. 23:27–28). It often parades a hypocritical type of piety that is merely superficial (cf. Matt. 7:21–23). Such false sanctification deceives not only those who witness it, but also those who practice it. Fourth, their conscience and fear of sin’s consequences often restrain people from bad behavior. Most of the time they reject sin because they fear its negative physical, psychological, or even legal consequences. They may have grown up in a Christian family in which their parents taught them biblical principles and established a doctrinal foundation that informs their consciences with moral convictions. Such people are afraid to engage in overt sin and on the exterior appear to be righteous, but only because they do not want a guilty conscience to bother them. A saving love for Christ does not motivate their behavior; instead, human fear and a sensitive conscience drive their actions.
Sixth, sanctification keeps believers from polluting holy things. “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled” (Titus 1:15). Unbelievers mock and blaspheme God and His Son (cf. Luke 22:65; Rom. 8:7; Col. 1:21; Rev. 16:9). They ridicule the things of God and the people of God (cf. Neh. 2:19; Ps. 38:12; 2 Tim. 3:3–4), which means they also ridicule and demean the Word of God (cf. Neh. 9:28–29). They pollute everything God has designed for His glory and mankind’s blessing (cf. Rom. 1:21–32), such as the beauty of creation, marriage, and friendship. By contrast, when God is sanctifying believers, they consider the simplest, most mundane things in life as holy and respect all the things the unbeliever does not (cf. Ps. 1:1–6).
Finally, Christians must remember that sanctification is God’s priority for their lives. It is His will for them (1 Thess. 4:3; cf. Heb. 12:14) and the result of Christ’s death on their behalf—“who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). All believers are to live for sanctification. They have no other goal in life than to be like Jesus Christ: “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6).
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