“To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith” (1 Thessalonians 1:11).
One of the problems with a word only occurring four times only in the New Testament, and no where else in Greek literature is it’s tricky to get the proper meaning correct.
This is evident in the different translations of this verse:
- NRSV – “…asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith”
- NASB – “…asking that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power”
- NIV – “…asking that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire and goodness and your every deed prompted by faith”
- Message – “…pray that God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be, pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something”
Both the New Revised Standard Version and the New American Standard Bible talk about God’s good resolve and God’s goodness. The New International Version and the Message talk about the Christian’s goodness and good ideas. The reason for this is because the referent to “good” or “goodness” is ambiguous.
Having said all that, let’s take a look at what the Greek says. A wooden translation of this says, “and he may fulfill every good pleasure of goodness and work of faith with power.”
- The Greek word for “good pleasure” is eudokia. It means good pleasure or satisfaction, but the reference is always the good pleasure or satisfaction God feels toward human beings.
- The Greek word for “goodness” is our word of the week agathosune. As we saw yesterday this goodness refers to a goodness that can only come from God.
Are you still with me? I know this is technical but I trust you are able to stay with me.
Looking at all the evidence, I think both the NRSV and the NASB are the better translations.
So, what does all this mean?
The Apostle Paul writes to the Thessalonians that God will make us worthy of his call and God will fulfill by his power every good resolve and good work by his power. This is important because the call to be good on our own power and will leads either to despair or pride.
- It leads to despair because no matter how much we try with our own power to be good, we will never be perfectly good. We will always fail.
- It leads to pride because if we think we can be good and see others who fail we end up prideful at our abilities and we look down on those who can’t seem to manage to be good.
Thank God that God promises to declare us good because Jesus did for us what we could not do on our own. Jesus’ goodness covers our failures. And Jesus’ goodness causes us to live good lives.
Because of all that God has done for us in Jesus, we can strive to live out our calling trusting that God is at work in us to make us good through the Holy Spirit. God is at work in us to make us more like Jesus. This is the work of sanctification – becoming more like Jesus.
Even though we may fail from time to time, God is never done with us. God is always at work in us to make us worthy of his call. Our starting point, because of all that God has already done for us in Jesus, is from the point of having already been declared and deemed good.
That, my friends, is truly great news!