Faith, Love, and Hope
1 Thess. 1:3 (KJV)
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;
In the verse above, Paul remembers three things about the Thessalonians. He recalls their “work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope.”
The word “of” in these three phrases is the Genitive of Origin, which means that “of” indicates the source or where something comes from. The Thessalonians’ motivation to work came from their faith. Likewise, their motivation to labor came from their love, and their ability to have patience came from their hope.
Going further, it should be noted that faith, love, and hope all require an object. We do not just have faith. We have faith in something. We do not just love. We love someone or something. And we do not just have hope. We hope in or for something.
If we read on to the next clause, Paul provides the needed object. Their faith, love, and hope were all “in our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Thessalonians had faith in Christ and from this faith they derived a desire to work. So too, they had a love for Christ and placed their hope in Him, which motivated a desire to labor and have patience.
Note carefully that for these believers everything began with Christ as the object of their faith, love, and hope. He is the one in whom they placed their faith, love, and hope. This internal orientation then manifested itself outwardly in their work, labor, and patience. This reality forms a distinctive characteristic of the Christian life. We will use the first phrase, “work of faith,” as an example of this uniquely Christian characteristic.
Work of Faith
The close association between work and faith is taken up in some detail in the book of James and is most informative.
James 2:14-26 (ESV)
14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
15If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
19You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
20Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
25And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
James makes his point unambiguously: What a man believes is inextricably linked to what he does. In fact, James tells us faith that does not produce a corresponding response is both “dead” and “useless.” This truth is not hard to grasp. If you awake and believe your house is on fire you will not roll over and return to sleep. True faith produces action. This being the case, our works become the proof of our faith. Actions, it would seem, not only speak louder than words, but are also more truthful. This basic truth explains why the Thessalonians’ faith moved them to work. They truly believed in Christ and so could not help but to work.
With the link between faith and works established, we may now move on to a specific example of faith manifesting itself in works.
Eph. 6:5-8 (ESV)
5Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,
6not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,
7rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man,
8knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.
Paul, speaking of the relationship between an employee and his employer, gives several instructions. Believers are to obey their employers as they would obey Christ: sincerely and with a good will. Further, we are to render good service because we know that ultimately Christ will reward us for the good things we do. Thus, in all reality, we are working for Christ not man.
Col. 3:22-25 (ESV)
22Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.
23Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
24knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
25For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
Here, in Colossians, Paul makes the same points regarding work, but he adds more: “the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done.” Christ is the one who will reward us for the good we do. He is also the one who will punish us for the wrong we do. This is why we are actually working for Christ and not for our earthly employers. This makes it much easier to understand why Paul says “obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling” in Eph. 6:5.
1 Tim. 6:1 (ESV)
1Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.
Here, Paul adds yet another reason for our obedience to employers. As believers, our behavior reflects upon our God and what he teaches. Our poor behavior will cause others to reject both.
Titus 2:9-10 (ESV)
9Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
And finally, Paul adds one last reason to carefully watch our actions with regard to employers: “so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” The word “adorn” means to decorate and so figuratively means to “make beautiful or attractive.” Our behavior is to be such that it makes God’s teachings appealing to outsiders.
When we put these four sections of scripture together we can start to see the Christian distinctive take form. When you, as a believer, go to work every day, you go with a certain frame of mind. You know that it is Christ who will both reward and punish you for what you do. As such, you are aware that you are actually working for Christ and not for a company or a manager. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you are aware that your performance will reflect directly onto God and what He desires to teach men. You hold this knowledge and the mental outlook it creates because of your faith is in Christ and what He taught through His apostle, Paul, in the above scriptures – and so you perform your work accordingly.
Compare this distinct Christian outlook with that of the unbeliever. What outlook does he go to work with? His faith is not in Christ, so what motivates him to work? For the praise of men? So he can gain a promotion or a raise? Maybe he goes to work because he can find no better employment.
Compare these two outlooks carefully. Note that whatever motivations an unbeliever may choose they are all external. That is, they are all subject to life’s changing circumstances. What if he works hard in order to receive a promotion, but he is passed over? What if his manager is harsh and unfair towards him? Will these circumstances not affect his work?
The believer, on the other hand, has an internal motivation, his faith is in Christ, which is not subject to outside circumstances. His manager may be unfair, but that has nothing to do with why he works. He may be passed over for a promotion, but that has nothing to do with why he works. The believer, because of his faith in Christ and the motivation to work which this creates, is able to transcend external circumstances. The unbeliever, on the other hand, is always subject to his circumstances.