1 Thessalonians 1 | The Work of the Gospel
1Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
2We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers,
- We get to see the real heart of Paul here for other believers, and especially to those he ministered to. He thanks God for them, mentions them in prayer and remembers them before God.
- As believers we would do well to have a greater spiritual concern for each other, to remember each other in our prayers and thank God for each other.
3remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Paul remembers three things of the Thessalonian church:
- ‘work of faith’
- work = ergon (ergonomics – efficiency in work) speaks of a profession/work. The result of the gospel in our lives is that we have a ‘work of faith’. Our lives become characterised by gospel centred activity
- Illustration – looking at my busy diary and wondering what on earth I would do with my time if I wasn’t a Christian!
- ‘labor of love’
- labor = kopos (beating, sorrow, trouble) speaks of being heavy hearted because of our love for others. It is a love that we labor in and allow ourselves to become heavy hearted by the sin and darkness in this world
- It is also a deep love for God that allows us to endure suffering and hardship because we love him.
- We use this as a phrase about hard work which we enjoy or love. Our faith/life is a labour of love!
- ‘steadfastness of hope’
- This speaks of a constant, enduring and patient hope. Hope is crucial because it provides purpose and meaning to all that we do, to our work of faith and labour of love
- The steadfastness of our hope is what ensures that we live productive and fruitful lives. One who is not steadfast and who is wavering will be unproductive because our hope fuels and motivates our faith
- Hope says “it will be worth it”
4For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.
- Our salvation (election) is shown by the evidence and work of the gospel in our lives
- ‘not only in word’ – it was not just the words of Paul and the apostles which brought salvation, it wasn’t just their well reasoned argument and winning them though logic and persuasion
- The evidence of the gospel should be power, the presence of the Holy Spirit and full conviction – it is not just something we believe to be true in our heads, but that we know to be true in our spirits and feel to be true in our soul
- In this way, the gospel is all consuming, it consumes our entire being
You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
- Paul makes it clear and will explain further (in chapter 2) that they did not come with trickery but were transparent and sincere with their message.
- The great reception of the gospel is down to the presence of the Spirit, not the performance of their preaching
6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
- Another evidence of true gospel work is that received the word in much affliction, yet with great joy. They were willing to suffer hardship straight away on account of the gospel, and yet this was accompanied by a deep joy from the Spirit
- In this way the Thessalonians imitated/mimicked both the apostles and even the Lord Jesus Christ, by embodying the word of God with great joy despite much affliction
- The Thessalonians became an example/model to other believers – the work of the gospel in their lives is a useful example of how to discern true gospel work – this is what true gospel work looks like!
8For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.
- The word of the Lord ‘sounded forth’ from them, but this was not through preaching, just the knowledge that they had fully received the word! Paul then says ‘your faith has gone everywhere’, not that the gospel has gone everywhere. True gospel work is influential and creates ripples
- It can never be underestimated what the effect of true gospel passion has. Other people’s faith are stirred to action and hearts are opened to the gospel just with the knowledge that others are fully embracing the word with all their heart, soul and mind
- Let us be known as a people who embody the living gospel, that our faith would go everywhere and influence many
9For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
- One final piece of evidence of true gospel work is putting away sin, turning from idols (the images of sin) to serve the living and true God
- The image of turning is like being in a car and realising you are going in the wrong direction, so then needing to turn around to go the other way. This is what life looks like when we pursue holiness, we put sin behind us.
- We do this being conscious of God’s wrath to come on sinners, but placing our hope in Jesus Christ who delivers us from that wrath
- A major theme in this letter to the Thessalonians is the coming of Jesus Christ, and having a sure expectation of that reality.