- Lesson 12 in the BaptistWay Press Connect360 unit “Living in the Spirit” focuses on 1 Thessalonians 1:2-6.
In verse 3, the Apostle Paul presents a triad of three common characteristics of the Christian life: faith, love and hope. First, Paul commends these believers for their activity and work that flows from their lives of faith. They have faith, and it is showing itself through corresponding actions that are the natural result of their faith. Faith is believing that God is who he says he is, and that God will do what he says he will do (cf. Hebrews 11:6). But faith is more than intellectual belief. Activating faith is similar to getting married. Intellectually, you believe that a person is “the” person with whom you wish to spend the rest of your life. While this is important, merely believing that doesn’t make you married. Faith also has an emotional or affective aspect; you really want to marry the person. So, you believe it intellectually, desire it emotionally, yet you aren’t married until you volitionally choose before God and witnesses to commit your life to the person. So real faith moves you to do something that demonstrates that faith.
Labor of love
Next, Paul commends them for their labor of love. Labor does not create love; rather, love motivates labor. The believers didn’t labor to get love or make someone love them. They labored because they loved others and delighted in showing them the love of God. Herein lies the difference between indentured servitude, and loving service. It is a small, and yet earth-changing shift. It requires a change of attitude. It is the difference between “having” to do the dishes and “getting” to do the dishes; between “having” to take out the garbage and “getting” to show your love by gladly carrying out the trash. One is duty that leads to resentment; the other is love that leads to willing service.
Christians may sacrifice on many levels to show their commitment and love to Christ. But we don’t sacrifice in order to get Christ’s love. We already have his love. We are already chosen by God, and beloved of God (1:4). It is precisely because the Lord of the universe already loved us so much that he left heaven’s life of ease and splendor, to lower himself and become a human. He obeyed the Father and went to the cross on our behalf (Philippians 2:5-8). Furthermore, he who knew no sin, willingly took our place on the cross, paid the debt of our sins, became sin on our behalf, so we could become the righteousness of God in him (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). We love him, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Hope in Christ
The third part of Paul’s triad is endurance, which was inspired by hope. In the Bible, hope is based upon a firm and future reality, not merely wishing the unlikely to happen. Hope in the Bible always has an object, i.e., has a yet to be fully manifested reality. For Christians, our hope is in Jesus Christ, who is much more than a wish and a prayer. We have hope to keep going when the going gets tough, because Jesus kept going when the going got tough. Jesus knew he was going to suffer and die a cruel death on our behalf. Did he turn back or quit? No. Jesus set his face as flint on his last journey, uphill, to a hostile Jerusalem, where he would be brutalized, falsely accused, whipped, scourged, stripped naked and hung on a cross to die for the very people who were doing these things to him. Jesus lives in the believer, and his love is poured out in our hearts. He gives us the power to be obedient until death.
Christians also have the sure hope of the resurrection of Jesus. He said that because he lives, we too will live, even if we die (John 11:25). Therefore, we are assured that our labor in the Lord will not be in vain.
Compiled by Stan Granberry, marketing coordinator for BaptistWay Press.
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