1 Thessalonians 5:9, 10
For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,…
To some it may seem superfluous that a Christian apostle, writing to the members of a Christian Church, should say, "God appointed us not unto wrath." But the import of this declaration is made apparent by what precedes. St. Paul has been contrasting the condition of the sons of light with that of the children of darkness. Among the latter are to be found all degrees of that conduct which bides under the cloak of night - from the carelessness that sleeps, down to the debauchery that is awake only to cause its own shame. Such things must bring wrath in "the day of the Lord" (ver. 2). But Christians are called to quite another life. They are not destined to wrath. Let them, therefore, not behave as the sons of the night, but in a way that is worthy of their call to salvation, with sobriety and confidence, strong in faith and love, and rejoicing in hope (ver. 8).
I. THE DIVINE APPOINTMENT TO SALVATION.
1. It springs from an august Source. God appoints to salvation. He has a hand in our destinies. We are not left to discover a way of escape from ruin for ourselves. God has interfered for our deliverance.
2. It is determined by a firm ordinance. God "appointed." This word signifies prevision, arrangement, definite order. Redemption is not an irregular makeshift brought about by a hasty after-thought. It enters into the calm, eternal thoughts of God, and takes its place in the orderly disposition of the Divine government.
3. It aims at securing a large result. When God makes bare his arm and settles a solemn appointment, this must be for some adequate result. The object must be large to justify so large an action. Here it is nothing less than perfect deliverance from the ruin of sin. Salvation is not a technical phrase. It is too big a word to be defined by a theological sentence. It is deliverance all round - from root and fruit of evil, from wrath of justice, from penalty of law, from tyranny of Satan, from vice of heart, from judgment without, from corruption within.
4. It is to be personally accepted. We are appointed to "the obtaining of salvation;" for
(1) though ordained by God, it is not enjoyed by us until we have personal experience of it;
(2) this personal acceptance depends on our own will and act;
(3) the full consequences of the Divine ordinance of salvation are still future.
II. THE METHOD OF ACCOMPLISHING THIS DIVINE APPOINTMENT.
1. It is secured by the mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus it is to be obtained "through" him, which means
(1) that the salvation itself is brought about by the action of Christ; and
(2) that it becomes ours when we are united to Christ.
Now each of these points has its own distinct position in the great work. Too often they are confused together. It is not necessary for us to comprehend all that Christ does. Our part is to see that we are united to him. He will do his part whether we understand it or not.
2. It involved the death of Christ for us. So much we know as a fact, whatever theory we may have as to the bearings of the crucifixion upon the process of redemption. And it is the great fact which is of supreme importance to us. It is unfortunate that abstract propositions concerning the theological aspects of it should confuse our vision of the simple, touching statement, "He died for us."
III. THE END FOR WHICH THIS DIVINE APPOINTMENT IS MADE.
1. This is flint we may live in fellowship with Christ. Strictly speaking, the fellowship with Christ is given as the object of the suffering of death by Christ. But the earlier part of the passage shows us the Divine appointment of salvation as secured through Christ. Putting the two together, we see that salvation is worthless without the life in Christ, as well as that salvation is only possible to those who are in fellowship with Christ. Salvation is in itself a negative term. Bare deliverance is of little use unless some good is to be made of the liberty and immunity. While a fellow-creature is being saved from death by drowning we follow the process with intense interest; but after his deliverance we may not feel much concern with his future career. It may be that he will make but a poor use of his restored life. If we finished the story we might find the issue to be a pitiable anti-climax. God is guarding his great appointment from a similar catastrophe. They who are saved live in fellowship with Christ. Such a life is worth securing at the greatest cost.
2. This fellowship with Christ is independent of the greatest outward changes. It remains whether we wake or sleep, i.e. whether we live or die. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,