Does Paul Thank the Thessalonians for their Work of Faith?
Visitor Responds to the post "Is Faith a Work?"
Visitor Question: In Thessalonians Chapter 1 Verse 3 Paul thanks the Thessalonians for their "work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope".For what is he thanking them and why?
Context suggests that faith begets work, love begets labor, and hope begets endurance. Faith, hope, and love - the spiritual gifts. In Paul's 1st Letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes the spiritual gifts and defines love as the greatest of the three. If faith alone is the prerequisite for salvation, then where falls hope and love and how do you reconcile Paul's ordering of the gifts in Corinthians with the concept of faith alone? Are we to assume that the gifts of hope and love also resultant of grace, or are they borne of faith or are they given independently? As spiritual gifts, are hope and love also to be differentiated as recieved involuntarily by the faithful and therefore not available to all? Finally, is it possible to have these gifts bestowed upon you and yet to refrain unintentionally from acting upon them? Thank you, Mike
Response: Mike thanks for your post.
You may wish to take a closer look at the passage in 1 thess you cited:
I Thess. 1:2-4, Paul states "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God."
You asked why Paul thanks the Thessalonians for their work of faith ... but does he say this? Look more closely. He does not say he thanks the Thessalonians, but rather, that he thanks God for their work of faith. So Paul is grateful to God for what they did. This is profound. Why doesn't he thank the Thessalonians for it? Because Paul is not looking to the secondary source of faith but to the fountain, the real source, which is God Himself.
Then Paul later in the same book in I Thess. 2:13 adds: "And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers." Take note that it their reception of the Gospel that is the cause for which Paul is thanking God! Paul puts in God's account man's initial reception of the Gospel.
Still more of the same type of data is added in 2 Thess. 1:3: "We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.." Here Paul continues the same pattern as his previous statements, showing that this is not a mistake. He declares that he "ought to" (i.e. is obligated or constrained) to thank God, so not only is God to be thanked for the fact that a man possesses faith and love, God is also to be praised and thanked when that faith and love increases in the lives of believers. God is responsible, therefore, not only for the initial presence of faith and love, but also for it's maintenance, perseverance and fruitfulness during trials and afflictions (also see II Thess. 1:4).
Finally, 2 Thess. 2:13-14 goes on even more deeply in the same vein: "13But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Consider this question. Can you sincerely look to God and pray, "thank you Lord for all that you have done for me, except for my faith, which is something I came up with on my own. Such a statement would be blasphemous, yet it is the result of believing that we are the authors and finishers of our own faith.
John 6:28, 29 ""What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" 29Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."
While faith is something we are commanded to have, only God can grant what He requires in Jesus Christ.