But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. – 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 [ESV]
I’ve always appreciated how God does not get distracted when he confronts Adam and Eve following their fall into sin. I know…God doesn’t get distracted no duh! What else is new? I shouldn’t be surprised at that. But I note how God confronts Adam who deflects (he supposes) to blaming God for giving him Eve. Then when God confronts Eve, she blames the serpent. So God curses the serpent. Maybe Adam and Eve are off the hook. Not so quick… God has not forgotten them. They each will hear from God. He will deal with them. They have not dodged the bullet.
In the case of the Thessalonian Christians, God has not forgotten them either. Neither has Paul. He’s dealt with the people who do hated the truth and had pleasure in unrighteousness (2:12). He has also warned them not to get distracted or deceived by the ungodly influences all around them. Now he expresses thanks to God for bringing them to faith. They were chosen to be an example for others of God’s grace and blessing. That’s what firstfruits means: there’s more to come.
In the same way that we have been warned by the preceding words, we can hear these words of thanks to God for calling us to faith. Paul expresses thanks to God that others will believe the gospel. That’s you and me, and others who will be brought into God’s kingdom.
Let’s remember how this happens. The deep and abiding love of God in Jesus for us, the Good News that he forgives us, and the blessing of his steadfast love captures our hearts. Luther speaks of being called by the gospel. It’s not through an encounter with the power, might, holiness, and righteousness of God; though that may be the prelude. God may set us up to realize our need for his grace through the message of the Law. But faith comes through the message of God’s tender mercy, eternal comfort, and good hope through grace.
To this we hold fast. It’s our turn to be reminded of this. It’s also our turn to make sure that future generations hear it as well. We may not see the fruits of our efforts, but every good work and word must give testimony to his grace and love’s work in us.