1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
In 1 and 2 Thessalonians Paul departs from his usual salutation. In all his other writings, he makes some reference to his apostleship. It seems that he felt compelled to defend his role and responsibility as one set apart and sent out by Jesus Christ. In 1 and 2 Thessalonians he simply signs his name, Paul. But there is also another distinctive mark of Pauline writing found in this first letter to Thessalonica. His use of the words “faith” and “hope” and “love” are prominent in this letter. Combinations of these three words are woven into Paul’s letters.
I. The Distinctive Marks of a Christian (
Paul commends the Christians at Thessalonica by reminding them that he thanks God for them, prays continually for them and remembers them without ceasing. What was it about these people that captivated Paul’s heart and mind? It was their:
A. Work of Faith (
Faith is an intangible until it is expressed. It is primarily an exercise of the heart and the mind. Someone can say he has faith, but his claim cannot be proven until there is a tangible expression of his claim.
James expressed it this way: “But if someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works” (
B. Labor of Love (
Love is an intangible until it is expressed. It is an emotion of the heart and can be very real, but it cannot be seen or known or experienced until it is expressed in some tangible way. Words alone cannot express love. Paul uses the term “labor of love” to say that real love must be fleshed out-it must be expressed.
C. Patience of Hope (
Hope is an intangible until it is expressed. Someone can claim to have hope; but if he is wringing his hands in despair, he is contradicting himself. Patience means to hold up under adverse circumstances. That is how hope expresses itself. When the world is falling apart, the person of hope continues to stand. But hope must have a source. Hope must have an anchor. That anchor is our Lord Jesus Christ.
II. The Disciplined Life of a Christian (
Paul indicates that the Thessalonians were recognized as God’s elect. This was known in large part by the manner in which they responded to the lives of Paul, Silvanus and Timothy (
Note the following indications of a disciplined life:
A. Their obedience to the Word of God even in much conflict (
B. Their exemplary lives before all in Macedonia (
C. Their faithful, global witness (
D. Their repentance toward God (
E. Their patient anticipation of Christ’s return (
III. The Devoted Service of a Christian (
True Christianity is not just turning away from sin and disobedience. It also involves a turning to God and obedient service to Him. Notice Paul said in verse 9, “to serve the living and true God.” This statement should be carefully noted in today’s culture. The syncretism of our culture is spilling over into our churches, and the idea that we Christians serve the “living and true God” is being challenged.
A true Christian should have distinctive marks that set him apart from the rest of the world, there should be evidence of a disciplined life, and he should be known for his devoted service to the true and living God.