Sermons in Thessalonians #1

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Sermon #1 Principles of Paul’s Praise

Paul was writing to the Thessalonian church.  Chapter one is introduction of Paul and consists mainly of marks for which he was thankful.  He lists several characteristics of the church for which he gave praise.  This starts in verse 3.  The point of this sermon is the elaborate on these principles for which Paul gave praise. 

First, there is joy elicited from Paul.  Why would there be joy solicited from these principles?  The answer, I believe, lies in verse one: they are the church.  Now by calling them the church Paul would place them in the company of God’s chosen from eternity past.  They are the very aim and soul possession of the work of the cross.  Naturally, to the regenerate mind, there would be praise and thankfulness for them.  This joy comes through in Paul’s introduction.

Secondly in verse 2 Paul not only has joy but the urge to pray for the Church.  Interesting enough, a mark of the people of God would be joy and the urge to pray for them.  The text does not say, but I believe the mechanism of prayer for the saints is carried out in various ways.  Here, it seems that Paul’s prayer for them comes from his joy for them as a church.  Also, Paul’s praying arises from remembering their works as a church.  By remembering their work, Paul feels a sense of encouragement and hope.  This encouragement and hope are fuel for the Christian machine.

Now on to the various principles found in the text.  We will only discuss the first portion of the text in this sermon.

Verse 3 “Work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of God our Father”

Before we get into the obvious points, let us look at the not so obvious.  It is commonplace to omit phrases and totally miss the point of a passages.  I think we do this because we tend to read the scripture from synergistic glasses.  We tend to help God along with His plan, reading ourselves into passages.  That is the especially true when looking at passages like this.  Our synergism will say, well I have love, I have work and I endure.  Check three boxes and I pass the test.  Our fallen nature will suggest that if we can love enough, demonstrate adequate works, and endure, then we have characteristics of God’s elect.  I do not think this is what the passage is saying.

We must be very careful to describe what Paul is speaking about here.  In our fallen way of thinking we would be tempted to see this verse and concentrate on the work of faith, labor of love and patience as fruit of salvation.  While that is true, that is not the full meaning of the passage.  If we are not careful we omitted the words, “in our Lord Jesus Christ”.   The point the apostle is making is that the quality and character of the work, love, faith, patience the Thessalonians have originates and is energized by Christ not ourselves.  There is a vast difference in love, faith, and endurance originating from the Trinity and those qualities originating from ourselves.

When we look at the passage in that light then the focus shifts from ourselves to God.  God is the origin of the love, faith and work produced by us.  The former I have mentioned places fruit upon human ability: loving and working from human motivation.  The latter places the origin of the fruit upon the seed of the grace of God given His elect.  There is a vast and important difference between the two.  In fact, the work of the Trinity is seen in this passage.  First, God is given thanks in verse 2.  It suggests that the origin of this work of Grace in the Thessalonians is from God.  Also, it is God that elects and thus produces the fruit and this is found in verse 4.  Secondly, Jesus Christ is the vital life-energy of this work in verse 3.  Lastly, the Spirit is seen to energize the preaching and Word of God and appropriating the various characters of the believer, verse 5,6.

Now we turn our attention to the trifecta of the text: work of faith, labor of love and patience of hope.  First is the work of faith.  We have established the energy of this work comes from relationship with Christ.  I would call this the saints primer.  In the following verse Paul declares their election of salvation.  Such a high subject.  We may drown in its depth, but we shall start off with a primer.  The ABC’s of Christian infancy: faith, hope, love.

Work of faith is the subject.  The faith mentioned here is the implanted gift of God whereby we lay hold upon Christ, appropriating Him and His work on our behalf.  The evidences of this type of faith is works.  Works of endurance, repentance, love, kindness, gentleness, evangelism and the like.  The energy driving faith is from the principle of divine grace.  This character of faith is busy with kingdom work and kingdom character.  It brings the believer to priority in matters of doctrine and issues of life.  So, two concepts: the faith itself and the work of that faith.  As we see later in the chapter, the faith spoken of here is solicited by the preaching of the Word with power of the Holy Ghost verse 5.  I will leave off saying anything else as we have already stated the subject clearly.

Labor of love is the next concept.  When I see this, I think of two things.  First, the character of love that is spoken of here is of divine nature.  So, it is an alien love to us.  It is not motivated by self-glory or gain.  I Corinthians 13 is a good example explaining the various facets of this love.   Love that forgives, is kind, is patient, rejoices in the good, mourns the evil, bears, believes and hopes all things.  Secondly, the labor of that love is toward God and people.  The subject of that love is God and people that motivates the keeping of the commandments.   The aim and end of love is love God with all our faculties and our neighbor as our self.

In regard to patience of hope, I like what John Piper said in his sermon, The Fruit of Hope: Endurance, that the believer has a shall and must relationship regarding endurance.  Scripturally, the believer has assurance they shall endure till the end to inherit the Kingdom of God.  Also, the scripture says the believer must endure till the end to inherit the Kingdom of God.

This paradoxical relationship should give us both hope and motivation as a believer.  Hope in that during the most severe trials that God has promised to keep us till the end and keep us from falling.  Motivation in that during temptations that we are urged by holy fear to avoid that which would lead to sin.

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