1 Thessalonians 1:3-4
Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ…
I. THE WORK OF FAITH. Faith is an active principle, and St. James has dealt with it as such, and told Antinomians of every age that "faith without works is dead." Some assert that he was antagonistic to St. Paul on this subject. But this is refuted by St. Paul's example, and by the text, which accords with all that James has written.
1. Faith is the awakening of the soul to the realities of life. To apprehend the truth is to feel its power, without the consciousness of that power life is a dream. To grasp the truths of the gospel with the hand of faith is to stir up the powers of human nature and load them with responsibilities.
2. Faith is the inspiration to discharge the duties of life. The mere sense of obligation is not enough. It is a man's duty to pay his debts whether he has the means or not. Honesty of purpose and hope of success will encourage the debtor to labour until he is able to discharge his liabilities. The work of faith, although not without its reward, is a present effort to secure future fruits. The good seed is cast into the ground in expectation of a harvest. Work follows belief.
II. LABOUR OF LOVE distinguishes between the ordinary work of the Church, and the supreme efforts necessary to maintain the Christian name. The cross was often very heavy. Fiery trials came to overcome faith, but love stood in the breach, and drove back the enemy. Where trust may fail, love never will.
1. It is a labour of love when everything seems to go against us. Peter and his fellow disciples, although they had toiled in vain all night, yet cast the net once more out of love for the Saviour. It does not appear that they believed success would attend the second effort, but they did it in loving obedience to Christ. Apostolic labours were often carried on in the same spirit. Ministers, Sunday school teachers, and Christian workers, when faith falters, should do as the second officer does when immediate danger is apprehended — send for the captain. In heavy seas let love take the command of the vessel. "Charity never faileth."
2. It is a labour of love when we are persecuted by those whom we seek to save. It is a trying ordeal to benefit others while they are injuring us. We have a severe lesson to learn when we must love those who hate us. In this the believer approaches nearer the Saviour.
3. It is a labour of love when we leave all the fruit for others to gather and enjoy. Disinterested love labours not for itself, but for those who follow. This is a grand movement in the Church.
III. PATIENCE OF HOPE. This is the climax. Work must bear fruit. The glory of God in what we do may be beyond the ken of faith. The storm may rage furiously, threatening to outdo the wisdom and the courage of love. Hope sees beyond all this to the desired haven.
1. Abide God's time. With the Lord a thousand years are as but one day. Faith may become dispirited because there is a seeming slackness on the part of God to fulfil His promise. Love may be beaten by the storm for a longer time than was expected. Hope brings forward the visions of the future to cheer the one and to strengthen the other.
2. Lay hold on God's arm. Hope feels for the strength of the Lord, and leans upon it.
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;