First Thessalonians: 1 Thessalonians 1:3-The Thessalonians Responded Obediently to the Gospel Lesson # 8
1 Thessalonians 1:2 We thank God always for all of you as we mention you constantly in our prayers, 1:3 because we recall in the presence of our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (NET)
1 Thessalonians 1:2 We make it our habit of always giving thanks to the one and only God (the Father) on behalf of each and every one of you because we constantly make it our practice of bringing each and every one of you into remembrance during our prayers. 3 Specifically, because we make it our habit of remembering in the presence God, our Father, your work, which was produced by your faith, as well as your labor, which was motivated by your divine-love and also your perseverance which was produced by your confident expectation of blessing from our Lord Jesus Christ. (My translation)
1 Thessalonians 1:2 asserts that Paul, Silvanus and Timothy made it their habit of always giving thanks to God the Father on behalf of each and every member of the Thessalonian Christian community.
Then, the reason is giving for this thanksgiving, namely that they constantly made it their practice of bringing into remembrance each and every member of the Thessalonian Christian community during their corporate prayer meetings.
Now, 1 Thessalonians 1:3 identifies specifically what these three men remembered about the Thessalonians which caused or prompted them to always give thanks to the Father for them during their prayer meetings.
They did so because they made it their habit of remembering in the presence of the Father their work, which was produced by their faith, as well as their labor, which was motivated by their divine-love and their perseverance which was produced by their confident expectation of receiving blessing from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, Paul, Silvanus and Timothy were in effect giving thanks to the Father because they remembered the Thessalonians positive response to their gospel message or in other words, they remembered the Thessalonians obeying their Spirit inspired teaching which was reflected in their godly behavior.
The prepositional phrase emprosthen tou theou kai patros hēmōn (ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν), “in the presence God, our Father” speaks of Paul, Silvanus and Timothy remembering in prayer the Thessalonians while in the presence of the Father.
They were in the holy of holies because of the substitutionary spiritual and physical death of Jesus Christ on the cross and this identification with Him in these deaths as well as His resurrection and session at the right hand of the Father.
The expression tou ergou tēs pisteōs (τοῦ ἔργου τῆς πίστεως), “your work, which was produced by your faith” refers to the Thessalonians’ Christian service and specifically, it refers to their service for God, each other and the non-Christian community.
When the Thessalonians’ faith is mentioned, it does not refer to justifying faith but rather the Thessalonian’s post-justification faith in the Word of God which is indicated by the fact that Paul associates their faith with work, which refers to their Christian service.
The Thessalonians’ faith in the Spirit inspired teaching of Paul, Silvanus and Timothy enabled them to perform work, which was produced by the Holy Spirit and resulted in their obedience to the Spirit’s commands and prohibitions which were communicated to them by these three men.
Now, 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10 as well as 1 Thessalonians 3:6-10 also mention the post-conversion faith of the Thessalonians in the Spirit inspired teaching of Paul, Silvanus and Timothy.
The expression tou kopou tēs agapēs (τοῦ κόπου τῆς ἀγάπης), “your labor which is motivated by your divine-love” also speaks of the Thessalonians’ service or work on behalf of the Lord but from the perspective of the difficulty of their service.
Here it refers to the Thessalonians serving God, each other and those outside of the Christian community while experiencing persecution and which service was motivated by their love for God.
In other words, their Christian self-sacrificial service was motivated by God’s self-sacrificial act of sending His one and only Son to the cross for them while they were His enemies and which act manifested His attribute of love (cf. 1 John 4:7-21).
Thus, the Thessalonians love for each other demonstrated their love for each member of the Trinity and is divine in quality and character love.
This is indicated by the fact that their love for God, each other and the non-believer was the result of them responding by faith to the Spirit’s revelation in the gospel that the Father sent His Son to the cross for them when they were His enemies in order that they might possess an eternal relationship and fellowship with Him.
This love for God, which is the result of responding in faith to His love for them, was demonstrated by the Thessalonians obeying the command love one another which originated with the Father (cf. John 13:34; 15:12; 1 John 3:11, 23, 4:7, 11-12, 21).
This command was communicated by His Son through the Spirit to His apostles who in turn then communicated by the Spirit to the church.
Paul speaks of the Thessalonians’ divine-love in 1 Thessalonians 3:6 as well as in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10.
“Your perseverance” (tēs hypomonēs: τῆς ὑπομονῆς) speaks of the Thessalonians remaining faithful to the Lord by being obedient to the Word of God despite the obstacles in life such as the old sin nature and the cosmic system of Satan.
It refers to them bearing up under intense pressure and not quitting on God and depicts them as enduring undeserved suffering on behalf of the communication of the gospel.
This perseverance depicts the Thessalonians as staying disciplined and subjecting themselves to the will of God, which demanded the acquiescence of their will to the Father’s will.
It conveys the idea of Thessalonians not permitting adverse circumstances to get them to surrender or quit on the plan of God and describes their triumphant confident expectation of reward and blessing in the midst of adversity.
It expresses the attitude of the Thessalonians as soldiers of Jesus Christ who in the thick of battle, are not discouraged and never quit but rather fight on courageously whatever the difficulties.
1 Thessalonians 2:14 speaks of the Thessalonians’ perseverance in the face of persecution.
The expression tēs elpidos tou kyriou hēmōn Iēsou Christou (τῆς ἐλπίδος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ), “which is produced by your confident expectation of blessing from our Lord Jesus Christ” refers to the Thessalonians’ confident expectation of receiving blessings from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Specifically, these blessings they were confidently expecting to receive from the Lord were in the form of receiving a resurrection body at the rapture of the church as well as rewards for faithful service at the Bema Seat.
This confident expectation empowered the Thessalonians to remain faithful and to persevere in serving God, each other and the non-Christian community despite persecution and hardship.
The prepositional phrase tou kyriou hēmōn Iēsou Christou (τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ), “from our Lord Jesus Christ” indicates that the Thessalonians’ confident expectation of receiving a resurrection body at the rapture of the church and rewards for faithful service “originates from” the Lord Jesus Christ.
This interpretation is supported by the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ will give them a resurrection body according to Philippians 3:20-21 as well as rewards for faithful service at the Bema Seat according to 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 and 2 Corinthians 5:10.
The Thessalonians’ confident expectation of receiving a resurrection body from the Lord Jesus Christ at the rapture and rewards for faithful service at the Bema Seat is alluded to in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 when this verse refers to the Thessalonians waiting for the Father’s Son from heaven.
Now, if you compare 1 Thessalonians 1:3 with 1 Corinthians 13:13, the reader will notice that they both contain three words, namely, “faith,” “love” and “hope” and in fact, these three appear in 1 Thessalonians 5:8.
In 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul is putting love last because he wants to emphasize that when the Corinthians are perfected in a resurrection and living in the new heavens and new earth, there will be no need of faith because what they look forward to in faith would have been fulfilled in their perfected state.
Their hope or confident expectation of blessing would also have been realized in this perfected state but love would always remain because this is how God and the members of His family function toward each other always.
Now, 1 Thessalonians 1:3 mentions faith before love because the Thessalonians faith in the Spirit inspired teaching of Paul, Silvanus and Timothy resulted in obedience to the commands and prohibitions which they communicated to them.
These commands and prohibitions can be summarized by the command to love God and to love one another and by exercising faith in the command to love one another, they were demonstrating their love for God (cf. John 14:15; 1 John 4:21).
Therefore, the Thessalonians’ faith in the command to love one another resulted in the practice of God’s love amongst each other.
Lastly, hope or confident expectation of receiving blessing from the Lord is put last since it is related to the completion of the plan of God for the Thessalonians.
They would persevere and remain faithful if they possessed a confident expectation of receiving a resurrection body from Jesus Christ at the rapture or resurrection of the church which is what John taught in 1 John 3:2-3.
Anticipating receiving a resurrection body motivates the child of God to live a godly life and faithful service, which results in rewards.
If the Thessalonians persevere and thus remain faithful to the Spirit inspired apostolic teaching of Paul, then they would receive rewards at the Bema Seat as well.