3 Marks of a Healthy Christian – 1 Thessalonians 1:1-3

remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 1:3

Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians was probably written about 20 years after Jesus ascended to heaven.  You can read about the founding of the Thessalonian church in Acts 17:1-9. A good theme for this letter is, “Walk Worthy in light of Christ’s return.”  The letter is fundamentally about what we call sanctification. Sanctification is the process of becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. It is how a Christian grows in Godliness or grows in grace.

After a short greeting, Paul begins his letter with thankfulness for the young church.  Verses 2-10 are a description of the things which brings Paul to lift up his soul in thanksgiving to God and bless God for the work of grace in the Thessalonian church. Paul did not just thank God for things which can be seen as resulting from the common grace of God; Paul’s thanksgiving was for things which can only be owed to the special grace of God in His saving power. These are the fruits of sovereign grace, not just “decisions”, which also help to form as a standard and goal for Christians to emulate and evaluate themselves by.

In verse 3 we see three specific virtues for which Paul gives thanks: FAITH, LOVE & HOPE.  Albert Martin calls them, “The three Crown jewels of Christian virtue.”  In several other places in the NT, Paul mentions these three great jewels of Christian virtue. (Colossians 1:3-5 and the classic 1 Corinthians 13:13, to name a few)

Based on verse 1:3, what was the object of the Thessalonian’s faith, hope and love?  It was not blind faith, or faith in faith, wishful thinking, positive thinking or groundless optimism. It was specifically faith, love and hope “in the Lord Jesus Christ.” How are you doing in these areas? Does your faith produce works? Does your love produce labor? Does your hope make you steadfast and persevere?

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1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 Faithfulness in Ministry

From John Angell James, “Christian Love” (1828)

Oh! what churches we would have, if Christian love had its full scope! The PASTOR would labor with the most earnest, indefatigable, and unselfish zeal for the eternal welfare of the flock; and make it evident that compassion for souls, and not filthy lucre, was the impulse of all his conduct. Affection would beam in his eyes, and breathe in his spirit, while “the law of kindness” would dwell on his lips. He would preside over the people in the meekness of wisdom; and, instead of proudly lording it over God’s heritage, he would rule them in love. He would be gentle among them, “as a mother feeding and caring for her own children.” Instead of being provoked by any little unintentional infringement on his rights, or disrespect to his dignity, he would bear with that which is the result of ignorance, and wisely and meekly reason with those who wronged him. Over all his talents, however brilliant, he would put the ‘garment of humility‘. And, with respect to all his success, however great, he would speak in the language of modesty. He would neither envy his more gifted or successful brethren, nor proudly vaunt over his inferiors. To all under his pastoral care, even the most illiterate and poor, he would conduct himself with the humility and love of true benevolence, put the most favorable construction on the actions of his people, repose in them an honorable confidence, labor to correct their errors, whether doctrinal or practical, and have no greater joy than to see them walking in the truth!

Christian love would also dictate to the PEOPLE towards their minister, a line of conduct no less pious than amiable. It would lead them to attach themselves decidedly and warmly to his person and ministry; to demonstrate in every possible way their sincere and cordial wish to promote his comfort; to abstain from everything that would grieve his mind, and by every means in their power to promote his usefulness. It would not allow them to be offended by his faithful rebukes—but cause them to submit, with Christian frankness and humility, to his cautious admonitions and reproofs. Christian love would lead them to interpret, in a favorable manner, any little neglects, or unintentional offenses—and would make willing and reasonable excuses for his seeming inattention. Christian love would cover, and not expose—his minor shortcomings, faults and foibles. Christian love would lead them to manifest a fitting respect for his office and opinion—and, while it would leave them in full possession of entire freedom of thought, and manly dignity of conduct, would still prescribe that humility and respect, which the Scriptures claim for those who are set over them in the Lord.