… Grace and peace to you.
We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Right off the top, in these first few verses, we get hit with a Big Five line-up – five vital components of Christian life. Grace. Peace. Faith. Love. Hope.
As always, Paul starts this letter with the twin blessings of “grace and peace” – he can’t help himself. He can’t begin a letter without them. Usually he specifies they come from “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Here he simply assumes it. But this divinely-sourced blessing provides the foundation for all that follows.
The other three hallmarks of Christian life emerge as he remembers the Thessalonians themselves. Individual faces come to mind, warming his heart (we get a sense of this in the next chapter, 2:7-8). He’d been with them only briefly (Acts 17:1-10), but he’d had the joy of seeing some step into the Kingdom of light. We get a snippet in Acts 17:4: “Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.”
Even during that brief stay Paul had begun to see faith, hope and love emerging in their lives. These foundational signs of spiritual life are celebrated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 – “now these three remain: faith, hope and love.” Although he’ll go on to say that love is most crucial, he sees each as essential, expecting to see them lived out in the lives of every follower of Jesus Christ. He’d certainly seen them even in these very young Thessalonian believers.
Paul knows the foundational importance of simple faith. It’s what he’d preached to the Thessalonians, knowing that salvation is a gift of grace received only by faith, “not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:9). And yet, Paul also knew that vital faith always produces response. This is what he saw in the Thessalonians – “work produced by faith.” Very quickly they had begun to engage in activity for the Kingdom of God, bending their energy and resources toward the “good works, which God (had) prepared in advance” for them to do (Ephesians 2:10), all of it sparked and fuelled by faith.
But also fuelled by love. Indeed, when Paul thinks of the Thessalonians’ love, he intensifies his description of their kingdom activity, calling it “labour.” Although this is a synonym for “work,” it’s more intense. “Labour” has a nuance of strain, trouble and toil. Such “heavy lifting” in the kingdom is best energized by love – love poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, expressed back in sacrificial service to God himself – love prompting labour on behalf of fellow believers and anyone else who is counted as neighbour.
And even in those early days, Paul also saw hope birthed in the Thessalonians. Hope inspired endurance, which they would desperately need. Indeed, Paul had left Thessalonica abruptly because persecution had broken out from those in the local synagogue who were jealous of the spiritual response he was receiving, due to his preaching (Acts 17:5-9). As a result, these young Thessalonian believers had sent Paul and Silas out of town in the dead of night in order to preserve them from harm, even as they themselves stayed put, ready to endure. Hope in Jesus himself inspired them.
No wonder Paul gave thanks. No wonder he prayed for them perpetually.
May the grace and peace of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ also be with us. May faith produce kingdom engagement, and love prompt sacrificial labour, and hope inspire us to endurance. In Jesus’ name.
Lord, may it be. Grace. Peace. Faith. Love. Hope. Increase them in me. To your glory.
Reflect: Choose one of these five to embrace more fully today. How will you give it tangible expression as you walk through your day?
Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash