Text: I Thessalonians 1:1-4
I Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul is the writer.
His companions at the time he wrote this letter were Silvanus (Silas) and Timotheus (Timothy).
Paul wrote from Corinth shortly after Silas and Timothy joined him in Corinth with news from the church at Thessalonica. It was within a few months of their establishing the church in Thessalonica.
I Thessalonians 1:2 (2) We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers.
Always is at all times.
For you all is concerning all of you. Apparently, the Thessalonian believers had made quite an impression on Paul; and he was thankful that both he and the gospel message had been well received and that the Thessalonian believers had been converted.
Now, Paul did not pray non-stop, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week exclusively for these Thessalonian believers. He obviously had to sleep sometimes, and he undoubtedly prayed for some other people from time to time as well. He means that whenever he prayed for them, he always gave thanks on behalf of them. He also means that he prayed for them regularly, as a matter of habit. He had been there recently, and he had been forced out of Thessalonica because of persecution. They were certainly on his heart at this time.
I Thessalonians 1:3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father.
Remembering without ceasing (constantly) - We give thanks while we remember, We give things without ceasing and remember, or We give thanks without ceasing because we remember.
Your work of faith
Your work is your deed, action, accomplishment, or task. It speaks of what you did as a result of your salvation.
Of faith is of belief or of trust and indicates that it was the faith, belief, or trust they placed in the Lord Jesus Christ that produced their work. One is reminded of Ephesians 2:10 ,
(10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Paul also remembered your labour of love
Labour is a word meaning labor, toil, or work and indicates that the believers at Thessalonica toiled to the point of weariness in serving the Lord.
Of love indicates that it was love which produced their labor or their toil. Primarily, it was their love for the Lord which produced their toil; but it was also their love for Paul, Silas, and Timothy.
Love is the kind of love that God demonstrated when He sent the Lord Jesus Christ to die on the cross and pay for the sins of the all humanity. It is love which gives itself one hundred percent on behalf of another without expecting anything in return.
Paul also remembers their patience of hope.
Patience means steadfastness, endurance, or fortitude.
Of hope indicates that their patience was produced by hope. Hope is understood in the sense of expectation.
These people were subjected to hope, and their hope is their expectation of the completion of their salvation when the Lord Jesus Christ returns for them at the rapture when they will be made completely Christlike and will be rid of their old sin natures forever.
In our Lord Jesus Christ indicates that this hope or expectation is placed in the person and work of Christ - not only in Who He was, but also in what He had done for them on the cross.
I Thessalonians 1:4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
In verses 4-10 Paul rehearses a number of reasons he knew that the Thessalonian believers had been elected by God.
Knowing is used in the sense of seeing mentally, perceiving, or recognizing. It is used to show cause in the sense of because we know, because we see, because we perceive, or because we recognize. Paul observed this for himself and concluded that they were elect.
Brethren beloved is beloved brothers, cherished brothers, or dear brothers; and the tense of beloved indicates a settled condition. These believers had already been loved, and this love for them continued. They were loved by God as well as by Paul, Silas, Timothy, and other believers. Beloved is the sort of love which gives itself completely on behalf of another without expecting anything in return.
Of God is by God and indicates direct agency and may be understood with beloved so that it reads beloved by God, or it may be understood with election as the King James translators have translated it.
If by God is to be understood with beloved, then it is declaring that God loved them. Of course, regardless of whether by God is understood with beloved or with election, God loved them as the Scripture plainly indicates elsewhere.
By God appears in the Greek text between beloved and election and may be understood with either. Actually, both are true. The Thessalonian believers are beloved by God, and the Thessalonian believers are elected by God.
If by God is understood with your election, then it means your election by God. Although the English text is capable of being understood in indicating that they had chosen God, this is not possible in the Greek text. God the Father is the One Who has done the electing or the choosing of the Thessalonians.
Election is a term which means selection or choosing. God had chosen to send the gospel into Macedonia and then used the Macedonian vision to call Paul and his traveling companions there. God had directed their steps so that they would come to the town of Thessalonica where they would proclaim the gospel and where people would be saved.
Your could show possession, indicating that it was their election; or it could indicate the object of the verbal idea present in the term election. Thus, it is not only possible to understand it as your election but also to understand it as the election of you. In either case, God is the One Who chose or selected them. Again, it does not mean that the Thessalonian believers elected or chose God because of God is by God in the Greek text.
Similarly, Paul wrote in II Thessalonians 2:13 ,
(13) But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
Paul also wrote in Ephesians 1:3-6 ,
(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
(4) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
(5) Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
(6) To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
Paul also wrote in Colossians 3:12-13 ,
(12) Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
(13) Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
That God has chosen some, but not all, for salvation is clearly stated in the New Testament. That whosoever will may come and that God holds each one responsible for his response to the gospel message is also clearly stated. Both are actually stated in John 6:37 , All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
Although some have drawn the conclusion that, if God has chosen some for salvation, He must have chosen the rest for damnation; but the Bible does not teach this. Those who are cast into the lake of fire are cast there because of their refusal to trust Christ as their Savior. The Bible teaches that God desires that all be saved, but this could not be true if God chose some for damnation. I Timothy 2:3-4 says,
(3) For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
(4) Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
Furthermore, II Peter 3:9 says,
(9) The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
The facts that God has chosen some for salvation and that the invitation of whosoever will may come are both true, coupled with God's holding each person responsible for receiving Christ as his own personal Savior, have sparked tremendous debate in Christian circles. It must be remembered that they do not in any way contradict each other, but it must also be remembered that the human mind is incapable of fully comprehending these truths. It is like a man who has covered his head with a bag, which has a tiny peephole on one side of the bag, trying to view the universe through the peephole. His mind will never fully comprehend the universe with his limited perspective. Likewise the believer will never fully comprehend the following truths this side of heaven: 1) that God has chosen some, but not all, for salvation; 2) that whosoever will may come, and 3) that everyone will be held responsible for his acceptance or rejection of Christ as his Savior.
Believers should concern themselves with proclaiming the gospel to all and let God concern Himself with taking care of election. God will take care of His business, and believers must take care of theirs. Paul and his traveling companions knew that the Thessalonian believers had been elected by God to salvation because of their reception of the gospel. This is the only way their election could have been known.
This sermon is the 2nd part of the series, Studies in the Thessalonian Epistles. Other sermons in this series are: