1 Thessalonians Four: Fighting for Balance

Posted: June 4, 2012 in 1 Thessalonians

I often think that the complexity of God’s Word is evidence of its divine authorship. I also think that it takes far more effort to live in a tension-filled balance, rather than to simply allow one’s theological pendulum to freely swing too far to the left or right. This is not to say that every page of Scripture seems to contradict the page next to it, because the vast majority of God’s is fairly straightforward and clear. But…there are some mysteries. For me, the biggest one, and the one that is most prevalent throughout my blog, is the dynamic between God’s sovereignty over all things, and human responsibility in all things. I wish there were an easy answer for this one, but in anticipation to objections over this very issue in Romans nine, Paul responds by simply asking, “Who are you, man, to argue against your maker?” Good point, Paul, but not the most helpful answer.

If I’m honest with myself and you, I would have to say that my pendulum, left of its own accord, swings more to God’s sovereignty than it does my own responsibility and will. But I think it’s easy to do when we see Paul saying things like “it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure.” Or to put it this way, “God is the one giving you the desire to do things for Him, and God is the one working in you to accomplish it.” Therefore, the natural conclusion is that if I don’t want to do good and godly things, and therefore I don’t desire and do such things, it’s ok because God must not have wanted me to because He never put the desire in me in the first place! I mean, right? Right??

Wrong. Totally wrong. This idea, while perhaps a logical conclusion derived from Paul’s statement there in Philippians 2:13, is wrong for this simple reason- God has given us His word, expects us to obey His precepts, gives us the power through His Spirit to do so, and maintains that we are indeed responsible for our obedience/disobedience. Otherwise, we truly are organic automatons, puppets controlled purely by God.

But that’s not what we see in chapter four of Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Thessalonica. Instead, Paul’s exhortation for them, and for us, looks like this: “Hey guys, you’re getting the hang of this Christ-following thing. Keep it up. Do it more. Continue to fight for sexual purity- that’s God’s will for you. I see the love you have for each other. Now love more.”

At the end of the day, it’s really this simple: Yes, God is sovereign. Over everything. But He’s also given us insight into His will for us, and He’s given us His Spirit to make obedience possible. Now the ball’s in your court. Will you push on, strive for holiness, devote your entire being to God in a worshipful response to His grace in your life? Or will you sit there like a bump on a log accomplishing nothing until God makes you do something?

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  1. […] REALife Theology Where reality and theology collide… Skip to content HomeAbout ← 1 Thessalonians Four: Fighting for Balance […]

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