We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-4)
A Three-Point Church Plan
The church at Thessalonica was a well-known group of devoted, active and loving saints. Luke’s observation in the Acts of the people of Berea being more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica is dismissed when Paul writes his first epistle to the church of the Thessalonians. This church was on fire. The brethren at Thessalonica were an example of true devotion to the gospel message of Christ. They had been idol worshipers but had turned to serve the living and true God. That was a tremendous act of faith on their part in a world given over to idol worship. Their faith had sounded forth all over the world for their faithful example and diligent work. If there was a congregation of God’s people to emulate, the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ was the model. In the beginning of his letter, Paul outlines three points that made this congregation stand out.
The church at Thessalonica had a work of faith. Their faith was not contained within the confines of their assemblies. Faith was a living work in their daily lives. Surrounded by every form of idolatry the early saints rejected long held traditions and cultures wrapped up in the world of idol worship. This would have subjected them to ridicule and persecution but their faith was stronger. Paul alludes to the great amount of affliction they endured because of their faith. Families were separated as some began to believe in one Lord, one Faith and one God. The church was active in their work of showing their faith to others. Being a Christian was not a prosthetic worn on Sunday only; these Christians had a faith that was an example in all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
It was clear the church at Thessalonica enjoyed a labor of love. Faith was not alone in their labors as they manifested the spirit of Christ in helping others, sharing the gospel with neighbors and friends and working diligently in a community that was not easily accepting to the teaching of one God. Love was not passive but active. The pagans of Thessalonica recognized the life of this little church was impressed with the concern for others. A labor of love suggests a love for people. They had a concern for the needs of others and showed that love by putting forth a hand to help and a compassionate heart to lead. Neighbors might not agree with the doctrine of the Thessalonians but they would recognize the example of Christ in the lives of the brethren.
What kept the work of God in Thessalonica vibrant was the patience in hope as they served the Lord. Living in a world of paganism would bring its own trouble. Many would never be able to accept the doctrine of one God. There would be difficult days for the saints as persecution and affliction assaulted the church and its members. It was not an easy task to serve Jesus Christ but they continued in faith because they knew the word of God was true. The church at Thessalonica suffered many things because of their faith but they continued to walk worthy of God who called them into His own kingdom and glory. They looked for a home beyond the borders of this world. Their hope was set firmly in a city made without hands. Their glory and joy was found in the promise of eternal life.
The church at Thessalonica had a three-part plan and they put it to good use. It made them an example to others for their faith in the world that persecuted them. Any church today would do well to follow this model. There must be a work of faith, a labor of love and a continued patience to endure trials and tribulations so the gospel can go forth teaching others the message of redemption in Jesus Christ.