…to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 2:14
Look carefully at the progression of thought that Paul has said in the previous verse and in this one –
God from the beginning chose you
Through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth to which He called you
By our gospel
He uses a neuter relative pronoun, translated here as “which.” As the preceding nouns (salvation, sanctification, and belief) are either feminine or masculine, he is not referring to any of these individually, but rather to all of them together. As Charles Ellicott notes, it is “the general state of life which is compounded of these three notions – ‘to which thing He called you.’” He then notes that, “The election or choice takes place in eternity (2 Thessalonians 2:13); the call is at that point of time when the men first hear the gospel. (See Romans 8:30).”
This wonderful insight, which is confirmed in the tense of this relative pronoun, clearly shows that the Calvinist view on predestination is wrong. Though God chose in eternity past, the process is also clearly based on a presentation of the gospel in the present of the believer. God calls each by the gospel. If no gospel presentation is given, salvation will not occur. As Paul says, “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Paul shows that God calls us to salvation, sanctification, and belief by the gospel “for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” There are actually several different possibilities as to how this final clause is translated –
1) “…for the purpose of an acquisition of glory to Jesus Christ.” This seems to indicate that the gospel was given in order for Jesus to accumulate glory. It is true that Jesus indicates that He is glorified in His disciples in John 17:10, but this doesn’t appear to be Paul’s intent as he writes.
2) “…for a glorious possession of Jesus Christ.” This would show that the intent of our salvation and sanctification is so that we would become subjects of Christ in His kingdom. It is true that this will occur. Christ is our Head and we are His people, but once again this doesn’t seem to be what Paul is thinking of.
3) “…to be possessors or sharers in the glory of Jesus Christ.” This appears to be what is on Paul’s mind. He relates this idea to the saints at several times in several distinct ways. For example, in Romans 8:17 he says that we will be “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” Paul is an apostle who is, at this time, telling his readers what lies ahead for them because of the process that they have gone through, and continue to go through.
Life application: God has a plan. It is a plan which was in His mind before He created anything. We must understand this, and in understanding it, we can be assured that everything is exactly as it should be. However, we also need to understand that His plan is being worked out in the stream of time. The means of salvation is given in His word – a presentation of the gospel message. That message must then be received by the hearer of it. There is no external forcing in this process, but rather a free-will decision by the believer. Neither Paul, nor any other writer in the Bible, ever hints that we are “regenerated in order to believe.” Be sure to open your mouth and speak. People need to hear the word, and they must respond to what they hear.
Lord God, thank you for having granted us the choice to believe Your message or to reject it. This then places all the glory on You for those who receive it, and it places all the responsibility for failing to act upon those who reject it; thus giving You the glory even in their rejection. Nobody will be able to say, “It’s not fair!” on that great day when we stand before You. You are sovereign, and You are gracious. Glory to You in the highest. Amen.