Faith, Hope, and Love (1 Thessalonians 1:3)

Gratitude has a reason. We give thanks for people or because of something they have done. After an accident or during a severe illness or in the aftermath of catastrophe, we give thanks simply to be alive.

Paul, Silas, and Timothy are thankful for the Thessalonian Christians. Their reason? “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes. 1:3). Faith, hope, and love are hallmarks of authentic Christianity (1 Cor. 13:13), and they marked the lives of the Thessalonian. For that, the missionaries express gratitude. The seed of the gospel they planted in Thessalonica had grown into a healthy tree.

Let’s take a closer look at faith, hope, and love.

First, work produced by faith: In Ephesians 2:8–9, Paul contrasts faith to works: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith…not by works, so that no one can boast.” Here, however, he brings them together. “Faith, not works” is Paul’s slogan when it comes to how God justifies sinners. But “Faith produces works” is Paul’s slogan when it comes how justified Christians live. Immediately after arguing that we are justified through faith not, not work, Paul writes: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (2:10).

Second, labor prompted by love. The Greek word for “labor” is kopos. It seems to be used in two senses. On the one hand, in 1 Thessalonians 2:9, it refers to “toil” the missionaries performed in order to support themselves “while we preached the gospel of God to you.” On the other hand, in 3:5, it refers to the missionaries’ “labors” of evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. To which does kopos refer in 1:3? Probably the former. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6–15, the missionaries contrast their “toil” with the laziness of a few Thessalonian slackers. Such hard work earns Christians a good reputation, makes them financially independent (1 Thes. 4:9–12), and makes it possible for them to share their surplus with the poor who want to but cannot work (2 Thes. 3:6–15).

Third, endurance inspired by hope. The Greek word for “endurance” is hupomonē, which derives from the two words for “remain” and “under.” When trouble comes, Christians can remain under it without being crushed by it because of their hope. Hebrews 12:2 says of Jesus, “For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame.” Christians follow his example. But they know that suffering does not have the last word, in Christ’s life or our own. Hebrews goes on to say that Jesus “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Like Christ, those who endure “will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). Christ is our example and hope.

Faith works. Love labors. Hope endures.

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