1 Thessalonians 1:3
Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ…
In writing to the Corinthians St. Paul singles out three Christian graces for supreme honor - faith, hope, and love. Here he selects the same three graces, but not simply to praise them for their own inherent merits. They are now regarded in their energetic operation, as powers and influences; and the fruits of their activity are the subjects of the apostle's thankful recognition. He makes mention in prayer of the work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope.
I. CHRISTIAN GRACES ARE ACTIVE POWERS. They are beautiful in themselves, but they are not to exist solely for their own beauty. Flowers are lovely, but the object of the existence of flowers is not that they may dream through the summer hours in their loveliness, and then fade and wither and die. They serve an important end in the economy of plants by preparing fruit and seeds.
1. The active operation of Christian grace glorifies God. While dwelling only in the depths of the soul, quiescent and secret, they do not show forth the glory of God. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit" (John 15:8).
2. The active operation of the Christian graces is a means of benefiting our fellow-men. Faith, love, and hope are not given to us for our own enjoyment only. They are aids for our mission in life - the mission of serving God by serving mankind. We must let them have their perfect work, that this mission may be fulfilled.
3. The active operation of the Christian graces is a proof of their vital health. "Faith apart from works is barren" (James 2:20). By the fruits they bear we know how far we have the graces within us.
II. CHRISTIAN GRACES HAVE THEIR SEPARATE SPHERES OF ENERGY.
1. Faith has its work. When we both believe and actively trust in the helps of the Unseen, we are encouraged to use them, and when we yield ourselves in faith to the will and law of the Unseen, we learn to obey the authority above us. Hence the work of faith. This is characterized by decision - it is no wavering, hesitating, intermittent activity - by calmness and by energy.
2. Love has its labor. Labor is harder than work. It implies great effort, toil, and trouble. Love goes beyond faith and undertakes greater tasks. But with love "all toil is sweet." An enthusiasm amounting to passion characterizes this activity and distinguishes it from the sober work of faith. Love to God and love to man are necessary for the hardest work. It was not mere faith, it was love, that inspired the awful toils and sacrifices of Christ.
3. Hope has its patience. This is the passive fruit of Divine grace. It is not therefore the less important, nor does it therefore show the less energy. We need strength for endurance as much as strength for action. Christian hope manifests its energy by unflinching perseverance in spite of present crosses and distresses.
III. CHRISTIAN GRACES MUST CO-OPERATE FOR THE RIPENING OF THE FULL CHRISTIAN LIFE. St. Paul rejoices that all three of the primary graces were in active operation in the Thessalonian Church. Characters are too often one-sided. Faith is hard if love is wanting. Love is weak and wild if it is not supported and guided by faith. Hope is an idle dream without these two graces, and they are sad and gloomy if they are not cheered by hope. As the cord is far stronger than the separate strands, faith, hope, and love united produce energies many times greater than the results of their individual efficacy. The perfect Christian character is the character that is developed into rich fruitfulness on all sides. All the colors in the bow must blend to produce the pure white of saintliness. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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;