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The Gospel and the Essentials of Christian Life

T e x t: 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10

Proposition: Because the Gospel is the power of God, in Christ we can live the essentials of Christian Life.

I.        In order to live the essentials of Christian Life, we must have our work of faith in Christ vv3a &9b.

II.     In order to live the essentials of Christian Life, we must have our labor of love in Christ vv3b &9c.

III.  In order to live the essentials of Christian Life, we must have our steadfastness of hope in Christ vv3c & 10.

Scripture introduction

Many people say that they know about the Gospel and believe in it, but most of them do not show any change in their life.  It may be because they do not really understand the Gospel and believe in it or they do not know what kind of essentials they need in their Christian life.  This text will help us to understand what the essentials of Christian life are and to give us more detailed examples of the essentials of the Christian life. 

Introduction

To arouse interest

When I preached the Gospel to some people in Korea, some of them said “Oh! I like Jesus, but I do not like Christians.”  I thought about it again and again why do they say that?….. I think it is because we as Christians do not have what we must have in our Christian life.

To introduce the subject of the message

This Bible passage shows us how Thessalonica Christians displayed their Christian life.  Paul was not in Thessalonica more than three weeks to preach the Gospel.  But when they received the Gospel, their life was totally changed and everybody around them and another city was surprised because of their great changes. 

In this passage Paul praises their faith and love and hope in Christ.  They did not have faith before, but now they have faith.  They did not have love before, but now they have love.  They did not have hope in Christ before, but now they have the hope in Christ.  They had all the essentials of Christian life … faith … love … hope

Their faith, love, and hope were different from others had and it was obvious in their lives.  Paul modifies their faith and love and hope with these three words, “work” and “labor” and “steadfastness.”  These are well-matched.

Paul says that they have “the work of faith and “labor of love” and “steadfastness of hope in Christ.”  When people see the people in Thessalonica church, they easily recognize what faith is, what love is and what hope is.  It is because they practiced their faith and love and hope in their Christian life. 

To make the subject personal

If we are Christians, we also need to live the essentials of a Christian life.  Not abstract and obscure faith, love and hope, but it should be clear and obvious in our life.  If anybody sees our Christian life, they could be able to define what faith is, what love is and what hope is.  It is also impossible for us to have it by ourselves, but it is possible for us when we receive the Gospel as the power of God.  In this time Jesus Christ asks to live the essentials of our Christian life.

Proposition: Because the Gospel is the power of God, in Christ we can live the essentials of Christian Life.

 

I.        In order to live the essentials of Christian Life, we must have our work of faith in Christ vv3a &9b.

Place & Prove: Look at v3a & v9b:  “3Remembering before our God and Father,  your work of faith…..” and 9For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols..” 

Paul explains that their work of faith is “their turning to God from idols.”  This means that they have changed the object of their worship in their life.

Explanation

In some of Paul’s writings, notably Romans and Galatians, Paul sets faith and works in sharp contrast.  Romans 3:20 says “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law….” Also he says Roman 3:28 “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” 

But in 1Thessalonians 1:3 Paul says that the true faith is with work.  Without working it cannot be the true faith in Christ.  Do you think we need to do something for our salvation? Or to complete our salvation? Galatians 2:21 21I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”  The law we keep cannot save us from our sin. 

If it is right, why does Paul say “the work of faith” as one of essentials of our Christian life?

To understand this we need to know the real meaning of the word “work” in this verse.

First, Paul uses this word “work” to express the result of their faith in Christ.

In v9 Paul says that “you turned to God from idols….” They turned to God from the idols they had served.  Paul says that “they changed the object of their worship.”  Their result of their faith is turning from idols. 

1)      Turning from idols mostly means that they repented of their sin.  As the result of their faith they repented of their sin.  In Jacob’s case when he went up to Bethel, he removed the idols in his household.  That also means that he and his household repented of their sin. 

2)      Turning from idols also means that they changed their sinful habits.  In 1Corinthians 8:7 says “But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol…..” 

Corinthian Christians served their idols customary.  That means that serving idols are their sinful habits.  They could not stop serving their idol, because they were accustomed to doing so, even though they became Christian.  If we have sinful habits which we do not stop, it could be our idols in our Christian life.  But, the Thessalonica Christians changed their sinful habit serving their idol and turned to God as the result of their faith.

In v4 Paul says “4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.”  How did Paul know they were chosen and they were saved?  It is because of their changes.  We do not exactly know who is saved or not, but we can know their salvation according to their changed life.

These all of them are the result of their faith in Christ.

Second, Paul uses this word “work” because he wanted to express their work by faith in Christ. 

In v6 Paul says 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.” 

Paul says that the Thessalonica Christians imitated Paul and Jesus and they received the word in much affliction.  “The word” in this verse means Paul’s teaching about the Bible and the Gospel and “receiving” in this verse means their obedience to the word of God.  

1 Thessalonians 2:13 says “when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” 

They obeyed the word of God according to Paul’s teaching even though they got much affliction when they obeyed.  We do not be persecuted by anybody because of our obedience to God’s word, but they were persecuted when they obeyed God’s word, but they received and obeyed the word of God.  Even though we are free to obey God’s word, we do not obey the word of God because we do not want to. 

We obey God as much as we know God.  We know God as much as we obey Him. We believe in God as much as we obey Him.  We obey God as much as we believe in Him.

If we do not have faith in God, we do not obey Him.  If you do not obey God, believe that you do not have faith in God.

Hebrew 11:8 says “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” 

By their faith the Thessalonica Christians obeyed God’s word.  This is the works by their faith in God.

How great their faith is…… their faith was never abstract, but clear to understand.  Everybody could define what faith is according to their Christian life by faith in Christ.

How would we define our faith according to our life?  How could people define the faith in Christ according to our life?  Do you know why we confuse about the faith?  It is because we do not live by our faith.  Do you know why we cannot define the faith in Christ?  It is because we have not lived by the faith in Christ.  We say that “we have faith in God,” but God may say that “I cannot see your faith in Me unless you show me your faith in your life.” 

God may ask us again, “Where is your faith?”  “By your faith what did you do?”  “Did you remove your idols by the faith?”  “Did you change your sinful habits by the faith?”  God will ask again “Where is your faith?”  If God asks us like this, how can we answer Him?

II.     In order to live the essentials of Christian Life, we must have our labor of love in Christ vv3b &9c.

Place & Prove: Look at v3b &9c 3Remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love……” “9 How you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God….”  Paul says that when they returned to God from idols, they serve the living and true God and they had labor of love. 

Explanation

 

Love is the second essential of our Christian life. 

If the work of faith is the action of our faith in the past, love is the action of our faith in the present.  We express our faith in the past by the action of the love in the present.  That means if we have faith, it will be expressed by the action of our love.  If faith is the foundation of our Christian life, love is the pillar of our Christian life in Christ.  Without faith in Christ we cannot love each other.  As much as we have faith in God, we can love God and each other.

Francis Schaeffer, one of great theologians in 20th said that “Love is the mark of the Christian.”  This means that if we do not love each other in our church and in our community, we are not Christian.  John 13:34-35 says “34A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  

Francis Schaeffer explained these verses: “Upon His authority He gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are born-again Christians on the basis of our observable love toward all Christians.”  This means that our salvation may be proved according to how non-believers think about our Christian life of loving each other.

The word “love” also seems abstract, but to Paul and to the Thessalonica Christians, the word “love” was not abstract, but clear.  Paul in v3c says that “the true love must be with labor.”  That means if we love each other we must labor for each other and if we do not labor for one another, our love is not true love.

First, their labor of love was for God: In v9 says “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God……” There were a lot of persecution for the Christians, but they never gave up severing God.  Also, their labor of love was for people.  In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 Paul testifies how they served people: 8:2 says “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” 

1 Thessalonians v6&7 shows the shape of their love and how their love was great.  Paul says 6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord……. 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”  Their imitation of Paul and Jesus means that they learned the labor of love from Paul and Jesus and their labor of love became an example to all the believers.  How great their love was!! 

In the dictionary labor means “hardship” and “toil.” The word “Labor” is more substantial than the word “work” in this verse.

Labor in the New Testament is working to the point of exhaustion. 

The labor of love suggests that we must work until we are exhausted.  That means that if we really love someone, we must work for him or her until we are exhausted and sometimes until we die for them.  The best example is Jesus Christ who labored for us until He was exhausted and until He died.  He carried the Cross to the Calvary until He was exhausted and He died on the Cross for us.  His labor of love for us was completed on the Cross.

How do we know God loves us?  John 3:16 16 “For God so love the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God showed how much He loves us.  Romans 5:8 also says, “8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

If we ask God: “Lord! Show me how much you love us,” then God will instruct the Cross where Jesus His only Son died on and say “Look at that bloody Cross!  It is how much I love you.”  Jesus labored and suffered to show his love to us.  The true love must be with labor.

Paul expresses how much Thessalonica Christian served God by using the word “labor.”  They served God until they were exhausted and until they died and they served and loved each other as well. 

How do we know we love God and we love each other?  We cannot prove our love unless we serve God and one another until we are exhausted and until we die.

Labor in the New Testament is working being beaten by oppressors. 

In 2 Corinthians11:23-24 Paul says “23Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more.  I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.”  This is the labor of love and this is the true love.

Paul expresses how much they were beaten by their persecutors by using the word “labor.”  Even though they were beaten by them, they never stopped loving and serving God and each other.

In this v3 Paul uses “Agape” meaning “love.”  We know “Agape” is the true love.  In the book of Matthew and Mark, and Luke this word “Agape” is used only by Jesus, but in Paul’s letter Paul uses this word “Agape” to express his love to his gospel receivers.  This means that we can use this word “Agape” to express our love to one another too. 

You can say “Agapw su” which means “I love you.”  If you say “ego Agapw su,” this means that “it’s me who love you.” 

But, to use this word “Agape” there is some conditions. 

First, we must use this word “Agape” when we love one another unconditionally. 

This means that when we love one another, we must not think about their condition, we must not think about their appearance and we must not think about whether they are rich or poor.

Second, we must use this word “Agape” when we love one another in God’s love.

It is similar with the first because God’s love is always unconditional.  When we use this word, we must love each other like God’s love.  We cannot love each other unconditionally by ourselves, but it is possible for us when we love each other in God’s love.

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

God loves us unconditionally and God loves us who are completely unworthy.  If we know the God’s love, then we can love each other and we can use the word “Agape” to express our love to one another.

We must love God and each other by laboring until we are exhausted and until we die.  It is what God really want us to do.

Many missionaries have been killed in foreign countries so far because of their love for God and for them.  God will never forget their labor of love for God and for one another. 

III.  In order to live the essentials of Christian Life, we must have our steadfastness of hope in Christ vv3c & 10.

 

Place & Prove: Look at vv3c &10 3Remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ…….”10And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”  Like other ones, v10 supplies the phrase “steadfastness of hop.”  V10 shows us what the real hope is in our Christian life. 

Explanation

Hope is the third essential of our Christian life.

If our work of faith is the action of our faith in the past and the labor of love is the action of our faith in the present, the steadfastness of hope in Christ is the action of our faith for our future.  

The hope in Christ is the reason of the labor of love and the reason of our work of faith.  This means that because of the hope in Christ, we can live by our faith and we can love God and each other by laboring and because of the hope we can overcome the persecution.

Paul says that the Thessalonica Christians had the steadfastness of hope in Christ.  The word hope Paul uses in this verse is which belongs to Jesus. 

When Paul used the word “hope,” the word hope means two things to the Thessalonica Christians. 

The first one is the hope of God’s salvation.

In v10 Paul says “10And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Paul says that the Thessalonica Christians have the hope of God’s salvation in the last of days. 

The second one is the hope of God’s reward.

In 2 Timothy 4:8 Paul says “8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

We expect God’s reward in the last of days. 

The hope we have in Christ makes us be patient when we face difficult things in our life.

How much do we have the hope in Christ? How do we expect the reward from God in the last of days? 

The Thessalonica Christians had that kind of hope in Christ.  The hope they had was never shaken. 

Conclusion

How could they have that kind of things? Paul answers this question in v5.

Paul praises them because of the essentials of their Christian life, the work of faith and the labor of love and the steadfastness of hope in Christ.  However, Paul’s concern is not only with them, but also how they were changed like that. 

In v5 Paul says Because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” 

Paul says that they received the Gospel in power.  This means that the Gospel they received had the power.

The Bible says that the Gospel is the power of God.  Romans 1:16 says 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  Paul says “The Gospel is the power of God.”

This word “Power” shows that how powerful the Gospel as God’s power is.  The word “Dynamite” stems from this word “Power” in Greek.  This means that the Gospel, the power of God is powerful like “Dynamite.”  When dynamite blasts, it destroys everything and changes everything.  This is the power of the Gospel.  When they received the Gospel in the power, their life was totally changed.  By using the word “Power” Paul is saying to them that “Your life was changed like Dynamite changes everything.”  

How great their changes are!! How powerful the power of the Gospel is.  The Gospel itself is powerful enough to change our life, turning from the idol we have to God.  The Gospel itself is powerful enough to make us to live by the faith in Christ.  The Gospel itself is powerful enough to make us to obey the God’s word, but the most important thing is whether we receive the Gospel in power or not.

If we did not receive the Gospel in the power, let’s receive it in the power again today and let’s turn from the idol we have and let’s obey the God’s word and let live by the faith in Christ.

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