Bible Study, Catholic, Catholicism, Christianity

Day 102 – 1 Thessalonians 2 – Baking a Cake

Today we read the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. Again the text contains tantalizing clues that Paul will develop later in his longer more theological letters. But let’s see what we can glean now…

First, notice how Paul views himself and his mission:

4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please men, but to please God who tests our hearts.

Paul does not go to the Thessalonians on his own authority! Paul has been APPROVED by God and ENTRUSTED with the gospel. How? When? Recall our discussions about the laying on of hands. It is the Apostles who were commissioned by Jesus to preach the gospel. It is the Apostles who ordain helpers by the laying on of hands. Recall that Paul after his conversion had hands laid on him and then travels to Jerusalem to consult with Peter and confirm his preaching. Of course, everyone has a role to play in sharing the gospel but to be a true teacher, a true pastor, a true leader or a true Bishop you must “approved” and “entrusted.”

Then there is this:

5 For we never used either words of flattery, as you know, or a cloak for greed, as God is witness; 6 nor did we seek glory from men, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nurse taking care of her children. …

11 for you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you 12 to lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

Paul compares himself to a father of the Thessalonians. Didn’t Jesus say to “call no man Father”? But when Paul declares himself a father to the Thessalonians wouldn’t it be natural for the Thessalonians to subsequently call Paul “Father”? This passage helps show that when Jesus says “call no man father” he was not putting a blanket prohibition on the use of the word. In fact, Jesus was saying the Apostles should not raise themselves up and seek praise like the Pharisees did. Notice the verses preceding Paul’s use of the term “father”. Isn’t that exactly what Paul is saying here? That he did not seek glory among the Thessalonians. Compare the above passage w/ Matthew 23: 1-11 (which I have included for reference below).

Paul continues:

13* And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14* For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus which are in Judea; for you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, …

Paul’s statement seems very natural and if don’t focus on the parts we could miss the implications. First, notice that is says the Thessalonians received the word of God which they “accepted”. Accepting is an act, it implies free will. The word of God comes to people and some people accept it and some people don’t.

Next, notice that after accepting the word of God it is AT WORK in the believers. Thus we can see that is one sense conversion (or salvation / justification) is a past completed act. At one moment you were an unsaved pagan and in the next you are a Christian. But in another sense Paul is saying that salvation (or sanctification) is also a process that works to change the believer over time. Both are true.

Next, notice that the Thessalonians “became imitators of the churches of God”. Imitators imply actions / works. It means they live their lives differently. But how does one become the “imitators of the churches…”? This implies that while on a personal level we of course should imitate the Lord and the Saints (indeed elsewhere Paul will say “become imitators of me even as I am an imitator of Christ), it also suggest that as a group we should imitate other holy churches. Paul is telling the Thessalonians that as a group they should imitate the structure and work of other churches. This is similar to what he said in yesterday’s reading.

Finally, notice that this process of sanctification and imitation is linked to suffering because the beliefs of the Thessalonians have separated them out of the old world and opens them to persecution by the Jews and the pagans just like Paul and the previous converts.

Paul continues and says

19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.

So the good Thessalonians, they will be what Paul can be proud of at the second coming of Jesus. This work that Paul has done will in some way survive into the next world. Certainly, no one would argue that the Thessalonians weren’t converted by the Holy Spirit (Paul says as much). But Paul cooperates with the Holy Spirit, he is His instrument. Paul’s cooperation genuinely adds to the work of the Holy Spirit such that Paul will be able to “boast” of it to the Lord. Here boast does not mean that Paul will merit salvation but does mean that Paul can be properly proud of the Thessalonians.

It is like a mother baking a cake. She has all the ingredients, utensils and skill she needs to bake the cake. She is completely sufficient and capable of baking the cake on her own. But her young child comes to her and asks to help. The mother lets the child add the eggs and stir the batter. The mother’s capability to bake the cake on her own is not diminished and yet the child has genuinely added to the cake. In the process of doing so the child has become more like the mother. Afterwards, the mother tells all the guests that the child “helped” bake the cake. This is the same as our relationship to Father, through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are being allowed to participate in the divine life so that gradually we are transformed into beings worthy of full participation in the divine.

For Reference – Matthew: Chapter 23

1 Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. 4* They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, * and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. 5* They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6* and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. 8* But you [the Apostles] are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. 11* He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; 12* whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

19 thoughts on “Day 102 – 1 Thessalonians 2 – Baking a Cake”

  1. “But when Paul declares himself a father to the Thessalonians wouldn’t it be natural for the Thessalonians to subsequently call Paul “Father”?”
    11 “for you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you”

    Isn’t Paul saying he’s like a father to them, not that he’s declaring himself to be the father of them? And if they started calling him father or master, wouldn’t Paul have told them what Jesus said in Matthew 23:9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ.?

    1. No, in fact Paul specifically refers to himself as Father in other passages in his letters.

      Also, read the passage in Matthew more closely. Jesus says that they (the Apostles) are not to allow themselves to be called Rabbi. Then he says that THEY (the Apostles) are to call not other men Father. Then Jesus switches back and says that they (the Apostles) are not to allow themselves to be called Master.

      Personally, I think that is an over rigorous reading of the passage but it should still be considered.

  2. I just did a search for the word father at biblegateway.com, and I cant find any reference to Paul calling himself “father” to anyone. Please link the passages to which you are referring.

    So the if the apostles are not to call other men father, why would they call a priest, “Father Frank”? Because if we are supposed to follow our superiors, and the apostles are some of the most superior, isn’t telling them not to call someone father the same as telling us not to call someone father?

    An over rigorous reading? Isn’t that what we are supposed to do, You have said many times that when Jesus said, “This is my body”, he’s saying that this is actually his flesh, yet when he says call no man father, you say it doesn’t mean that.

    1. 1. “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” 1Co 4:15

      2. Jesus says to the Apostles to call no other men Father. The context suggests call no other men outside or their group by the term father. They can can call each other Father and therefore we can call them father.

      3. I say its an over rigorous reading exactly for exactly what happened here. You have to read very specifically what is being said and extrapolate what is implied. To do so I would have to look at multiple translations and some textual criticism, which I haven’t done.

      4. Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd”, “i am the vine you are the branches”, etc. Not every time is he speaking literally, sometimes he is speaking metaphorically. How do we know which is which. The first is context. In the Bread of Life discourse, when he says, “I am the bread of life” and “my flesh is true food…” how do the people listening to him react? They are disgusted and outraged and leave. In context, they take him literally and therefore so do we. Further, this is a great example of how tradition protects the interpretation of the bible. When people disagree on the bread of life passages we can can ask how did the first century Christians interpret them. Without exception, they all say that they interpret that passage literally. Thus we know from context and tradition that the literal interpretation is correct.

      5. Finally, while I’m happy to answer any question please be mindful that when you jump around from topic to topic and throw out “what about this?” questions it requires that i start from scratch to establish the context and explain the logic and reasoning.

  3. 1. “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” 1Co 4:15

    You always say look at the scripture in context, so here’s the whole verse
    1 Corinthians 4:14-16King James Version (KJV)
    14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.
    15 For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
    16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

    Isn’t he using the example of fathers and sons as illustration on his role in preaching the gospel to Corinthians, and not as a title, like Master, Rabbi, Father, etc?

    “2. Jesus says to the Apostles to call no other men Father. The context suggests call no other men outside or their group by the term father. They can can call each other Father and therefore we can call them father.”

    Lets look at the text
    Matt 23:6-10
    6* and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. 8* But you [the Apostles] are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ.

    Your explanation doesn’t make any sense to me. Why would the apostles call each other Father (in the title sense), when Jesus tells them to call “no” man father? In the verse from Matthew, Jesus is talking about addressing people by titles, is he not? And how among the brethren, there should be no titles, since there is only one Rabbi, one Master, and one Father.

    1. “Your explanation doesn’t make any sense to me.” I should have worded that nicer. Sorry, my questions are not to poke fun or offend in any way.

  4. Paul calls them “sons” and then refers to himself as their “father”. Your King James reference doesn’t translate it that way but other translations do.

    I’m not going to debate that point about the Matthew text any longer – because I specifically said that it was a argument I didn’t favor. I was only making the point that text itself does not clearly establish a command that WE THE FAITHFUL cannot call no man father. Which goes back to your original point that the Chruch changed the scripture but the text here is not clear enough to establish that point. The phrase “call no man father” could be read as a metaphor for “do not submit to the authority of anyone else” for the Apostles are now solely under the authority of God the Father. It that context they could refer to each other by the title father bc it is not really a phrase about titles it is a phrase about authority.

  5. I appreciate your writing, but you have to concede that man is alienated from God so salvation is an act of God. I agree with good works, but works are not salvational, if so than hears my question which ones? We never do enough charity, feed enough people, care enough for the broken and hurting. When I say justification by faith alone, I’m not saying we are not called to live a life worthy of the call, but salvation is about God alone through faith alone.

    Bless you

    Dave

    1. The mystery of good works lies in our union with Jesus. As Paul says, we are Jesus working in this world. Because we are so closely united to him any good work that we do out of love for him is the same as if He had done it. Thus all our works can have infinite merit.

      This is why our free will is so fundamental to God’s plan. If I do a good work, out of habit or convenience or whatever it has no meritorious purpose or effect. Maybe I’m stopped at a red light and a panhandler come to my window. I give him a dollar b/c I am annoyed and want him to move on. Zip.

      Eventually, I realize that b/c of my love for Jesus he commands me to be charitable to others. Then, sometime later, stopped at the same red light the same panhandler approaches. I realize that as a Christian I need to help this man. This time I roll down my window and with love in my heart give him the a dollar. That good work was meritorious b/c i did it out of love for the Lord.

      “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” Mat 10:42

      its’ important to understand that “good work” can be almost anything out of love for the Father. Jesus said that the people who go to heaven are those that “do the will of the Father”. Once I asked your sister, “Did Jesus always and everywhere do the will of the Father?” “Of course”, she correctly said. But we know Jesus slept. It tells us in the Bible that he slept. Thus, sleeping at the right time is a good work b/c God wills that there be a certain time for sleep. Eating the right amount of food. Giving up a bad habit. Literally anything and everything if done with the intention to do the will of the father is meritorious b/c of your relationship with his Son.

      You sometimes speak of a metaphor that in heaven Jesus will declare us righteous but Catholics don’t see it that way. There is metaphor i have told your brother. You daughter comes to you and asks for $50. “Why do you want $50” you ask. “I can’t tell”, she says. As a parent you know. Your birthday is coming up and she is going to get you a present. You giver her the money and on your birthday she gives you a tie. Who bought the tie? In one sense you did b/c you paid for the whole thing. But in another sense she did b/c she choose it out of love for you. The fact that you paid for it does not negate her good intention. Her good intention doesn’t negate the fact that everything that was needed to buy the tie came from her Father.

      1. I understand, but the bible says no one can please God, he can only be please in perfection which is in his son. The problem is you don’t believe in imputed righteousness. To deny that is to deny that salvation belongs completely to God. God saves people, he saves them he plucks them out of the world that what imputed righteousness is. Paul argument is that we are saved despite our selves. So as much as I respect your opinion and I concede your arguments sound more just. We don’t need justice we need grace. Your view of man is not in line with the word of God, we are wretched men, who need grace, grace, grace. That is the essence of the gospel God bless.

      2. Just the other day I wrote to you,

        “We are saved by grace. Everything is grace. The idea to question our place in the universe is grace. the inclination to look to the heavens and wonder about God is grace. The gift of faith is grace. The gift of conversion is grace. The gift of worship is grace. The gift of the inclination to do good works is grace. The gift of the free will to act and do the good works is grace. But we cannot limit God! If we say we have no part in it at all, if we say we did not have the free will to choose then we have limited him. We have said that he does not have the power, authority or ability to allow free will in his plan. I will not limit Him in any way. ”

        Again, no one denies that we are saved by grace. But Jesus also says that those who will be saved are those who “do the will of the Father” and “those who follow the commandments” and those who “pick up their cross daily and follow me”. Paul talks about being “imitators” and “co-workers” with God.

        We must interpret the scripture to HARMONIZE these to seemingly contradictory teachings. The position does this by pointing out that because of our baptism we are united to the body of Christ. That union can make what would worthless acts into meritorious acts because, as Paul says, “it is not I who live but Christ who lives in me”. Through a proper understanding of they mystical union we can see that we are completely saved by grace yet at the same time empowered to do genuine good work in the world.

  6. You could not even find the kitchen if God grace didn’t steer you their. It’s only two thing when it comes to salvation.

    1 God saved me and it’s all grace!

    2 I saved my self and it’s all works.

    Their no three because the cross does not allow for another option it’s all Christ or all man, which bring me to this question if it’s all man than Christ could have skipped the cross, and just gave you free will why the death! Hear why its all him. He died for those he fore knew!

    1. Jesus is final authority period!! Anything else is just not so he’s on the throne now! He’s finished the journey until he returns.

      1. Free will is bounded up! yes you have free will, but if God gave you complete free will you would never choose him. That the point of total depravity, that where your argument with all due respect, falls apart. to recognize that humanity is dead in there trespasses, has nothing to do with limiting God, your not living in his humility. You think God gave you the grace of free will, I believe God saved me from my free will. What a gift. Praise to the king!

    1. Hear you go no problem!

      Total depravity

      Jeremiah 17:9, 10:7-8,- 14

      Titus 1:15-16
      Ecclesiastes 9:3

      Romans 1:28-31

      Ephesians 4:17-18

      Matthew 15:19

      Genesis 6:5 , genesis 8:21

      Psalms 51:5 psalms 58:3

      Proverbs 10:20, 28:26

      Now I expect you to tear them apart but I think these verse point to the fact that if God just said enjoy your free will we would naturally never come to God. Salvation is God redeeming sinners not man ability to over come sin and choosing God.

      1. Not necessarily.

        From one of my favorite Catholic Apologists

        “What would a Catholic think of this teaching? While he would not use the term “total depravity” to describe the doctrine [10], he would actually agree with it. The accepted Catholic teaching is that, because of the fall of Adam, man cannot do anything out of supernatural love unless God gives him special grace to do so [11].

        Thomas Aquinas declared that special grace is necessary for man to do any supernaturally good act, to love God, to fulfill God’s commandments, to gain eternal life, to prepare for salvation, to rise from sin, to avoid sin, and to persevere [12].”

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s