Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessaloniansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we come to 2:13—3:5, a portion of 2 Thessalonians that contains a further word of encouragement. In these verses Paul covers a number of very precious matters. In 2:13 Paul says, “But we ought to thank God always concerning you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” God loved us (v. 16), chose us from the beginning, and called us through the gospel (v. 14). He chose us unto His salvation, which is by sanctification of the Spirit, and He called us to the obtaining of the Lord’s glory. Now He is taking us on with eternal encouragement and good hope in grace.
In his word of encouragement Paul reminds the young believers of God’s selection, God’s choice. He tells them that from the beginning, that is, from eternity past (see Eph. 1:4), God chose them. It certainly is encouraging to know that before time began God chose us. This means that our being saved did not begin in time; rather, it began in eternity. In eternity past God considered us and selected us. From the beginning God chose us unto salvation.
The salvation unto which we were chosen by God is salvation in sanctification of the Spirit. Sanctification of the Spirit is the divine transformation. By this we are thoroughly saved from all old and negative things and made a new creation to obtain the Lord’s glory.
Sanctification is a matter of transformation, and transformation involves a process. Now, as saved ones, we are all in the process of being sanctified, transformed.
We may use cooking to illustrate the process of sanctification. The church life can be compared to a kitchen. When God called us and saved us, He purchased us as “groceries” from a large “supermarket.” In His “shopping” God called us. Now we are undergoing the process of being “cooked” in the “kitchen” of the church. This process of cooking is sanctification, transformation.
Because the church life is a kitchen for God’s cooking, the church will not always have an appearance that is neat and orderly. This is usually the situation in a kitchen when a good meal is being prepared. Do not expect your local church to be perfect. A kitchen is a place of process. Because of this process, many things are not ready, but they are in the process of being made ready. Sometimes I am asked how I can tolerate the situation in the church. I reply, “Why should I not tolerate it? The church is a kitchen. Wait for another period of time and you will see the results of the work that is taking place now in the kitchen.”
According to 2:13, salvation is in sanctification. This means that salvation does not immediately result in our going to heaven. No, God’s salvation is now in sanctification. God is sanctifying us. This should remind us of Paul’s word in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, where he says, “And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly.” At present we are all undergoing the process of sanctification in the kitchen of the church life. We know what it means to be cooked in this kitchen. However, those outside the kitchen do not understand what we mean when we speak of the process of being cooked.
Do not expect that everything in the church life will be marvelous and orderly. This is not the situation of any local church on earth. Furthermore, we should not think that the local churches at Paul’s time were better than the churches today. On the contrary, because our cooking has been improved, the local churches in the Lord’s recovery today may be better than the churches in Paul’s day.
Often the messy condition of a kitchen indicates that an excellent meal is being prepared. The kitchen may be messy, but the food that is being cooked will be very tasty. If you want the food in your local church to be flavorful, you must be willing for your kitchen to be messed up.
Suppose you invite me to your home for a meal. If I see that everything in your kitchen is neat and orderly, I may be disappointed, for I shall realize that there may not be much to eat. But if I see that your kitchen is messy because of all the preparations for the meal, I shall know a feast is being prepared. When no one is cooking, the kitchen may be neat. But when a good meal is being prepared, the kitchen will not be so orderly. If everything in a church is neat and orderly, this may indicate that no one is doing any cooking. This means that there is a shortage in the process of sanctification.
I can testify that the kitchen of the church in Anaheim is messy. This proves that in Anaheim we are in the process of sanctification. God, according to His selection, has placed us into the process of sanctification. In the church in Anaheim we are experiencing a great deal of cooking; we are being sanctified and transformed. Sometimes when I am being cooked, I may wonder what is happening. Then the Lord reminds me that I have prayed for transformation and have ministered concerning it. In Anaheim I may say that I cook the elders, and the elders cook me. Furthermore, the elders are being cooked by the saints. Certain brothers and sisters seem to be especially given to cooking the elders. Actually the cooking in the kitchen of the church life is not done by any human hand. Rather, it is done by the Lord according to His wisdom and sovereignty.
God has selected us unto salvation in sanctification and not merely to have our sins forgiven. There is no need to be cooked in order to experience the forgiveness of sins. We simply need to pray, “Lord Jesus, I repent. I confess that I am a sinner. But, Lord, I believe in You, and I thank You for dying on the cross for my sins.” A person who prays in this way can be saved and have the forgiveness of sins. But this is not sanctification. After we experience forgiveness, we need to undergo the process of sanctification.
The Lord intends to sanctify us, to transform us. Transformation is a process that is not necessarily enjoyable. Nevertheless, we need to learn how to enjoy the Lord even when we are being cooked.
In verse 13 Paul tells us that sanctification is of the Spirit. Do you know where the Spirit is? You need to realize that the Spirit is in you to sanctify you. In 1 Thessalonians 4 Paul speaks of sanctification, and this sanctification is of the Spirit. The indwelling of the Spirit is actually our sanctification. The Spirit indwells us with just one goal—to sanctify us, to transform us, to change us metabolically. This is sanctification of the Spirit.
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