“God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2: 13b).
What an amazing statement! God ‘from the beginning’ chose us for salvation. What does this mean? Does it mean that God, from the beginning of time, chose me (us) to be saved? Does it mean that what I have done or been in this life has had no effect on my salvation? No, not at all. This would be the heresy of “double-predestination” which teaches that God, from the beginning, chose some people to be saved and some to be condemned. No. What we do, what we choose matters. Free will, the ability to choose right and wrong, good and bad, is the hallmark of what makes a human being, created in the image of God. That’s why Moses exhorts the Hebrews: “I call both heaven and earth to witness this day against you, I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse: choose thou life, that thou and thy seed may live; to love the Lord thy God, to hearken to his voice, and cleave to him; for this is thy life, and the length of thy days, that thou shouldest dwell upon the land, which the Lord swore to thy fathers, Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, to give to them” (Deuteronomy 30: 19-20 LXX). What do we learn from this? We learn that God made promises to His people, but the fulfillment of those promises depended on the behavior, the choices, of the people. And what were those choices? 1.) To love the Lord; 2.) To listen to what He says and do what He tells you; and 3.) Cleave to Him. That means to be close to God, to be inseparable from God, to be intimately and eternally united to Him.
So let’s return to the Apostle and today’s epistle verse. What choices does St. Paul lay before us? He tells us that God chose us all to be saved “through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” In other words, God’s promise of salvation depends on our choices and our behavior, just like the ancient Hebrews. And what are they? “Sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” This reminds me of another place in Scripture where the Lord said: “the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (John 4:23). Sanctification by means of the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, and believing (and speaking) the Truth, these are what Christ and the Apostle both recommend for salvation. Righteous living attracts the Holy Spirit, and constant attention to the Scriptures, the services, the prayers, the fathers, inform us as to what and Who the truth is. “Many are called but few are chosen” the Lord says in another place (Matthew 22:14). It means that everyone has been invited to salvation, but most have not accepted the invitation (see Luke 14: 16-24).
So, as the Letter of Barnabas instructs us, “It behooves us therefore to...search out the things which have power to save us. Let us therefore flee altogether from all the works of lawlessness, lest the works of lawlessness overpower us; and let us loathe the errors of the present time, that we may be loved for that which is to come” (Epistle of Barnabas, 4:1). Amen.