Monday, January 07, 2008

Work of Faith, Labour of Love, Steadfastness of Hope

I have found myself often times this weekend wanting to go back to 1 Thessalonians 1, so here I find myself again, wanting to delve deeper into the study from last Friday. Today I will dwell a bit more on verses 2-3.
2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul, as the main author of this book, includes Silas and Timothy as he writes it. We see here in Verse 2 that "WE" give thanks. These three men are all thankful to God for the Thessalonican church. They constantly remember them in their prayers. And as they pray, they remember the Thessalonians for their faith, love and hope, that hope which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Darby, reminded me that Paul had written the Corinthians about faith, hope and love being pivotal parts of the Christian's life.
13So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

And this is the first thing that Paul mentions about the Thessalonican the evidence of these pivots of the Christian's life. Read what Darby says:

Here it is the life itself of the Christian in its first fresh impressions, in its intrinsic qualities, as it developed itself by the energy of the Holy Ghost on earth, the life of God here below in them, which he remembers in his prayers with so much satisfaction and joy. Three great principles, he tells the Corinthians (l Cor.13) form the basis, and ever abide as the foundation of this life-faith, hope, and love. Now these three were the powerful and divine motives of the life of the Thessalonians. This life was not merely a habit; it flowed, in its outward activities, from immediate communion with its source. These activities were quickened and maintained by divine life, and by keeping the eye constantly fixed upon the object of faith. There was work, and labour, and endurance. .....But here it was a work of faith, labour undertaken by love, endurance fed by hope. Faith, hope, and love are, we have seen, the springs of Christianity in this world.

When I was browsing the web looking for commentaries on this chapter I came again to Beckham's commentary. Who pointed my way to seeing the links in verse three.
  • Work of Faith
  • Labour of Love
  • Steadfastness of Hope
Faith is something we do. It's a work. We can choose to doubt, or to have faith.

Love is also something we's definitive action. I often have running in my head this little ditty "love is not a feeling it's an act of your will". It reminds me to show love, to not just think it, but to do it. It's a positive action. Have you ever noticed that if you deliberately care for something physically, that you start to care for it emotionally? That's how one loves truly.

And hope...well that is something we hold onto. It's hope or it's not. If one hopes, they hope with this steadiness about it. It's not something to easily let go of. How often has it been said, that when hope is gone, the people are lost. Once you restore hope, people can go on against what might seem to be insurmountable odds.

I have to admit, I found it a bit odd how this one commentary turned it around. It was like he looked at it backwards to me, Guzik said:

i. “Here for the first time, chronologically, in Paul’s writings we have this famous triad: faith, love, hope. But Paul’s stress is not on these virtues alone, but rather upon what they produce.” (Hiebert)
· Therefore, their faith produced work – as is the nature of true faith.
Their love produced labor. There are two different ancient Greek words for work: ergon and kopos. Ergon “may be pleasant and stimulating,” but kopos “implies toil that is strenuous and sweat-producing.” (Hiebert)
Their hope produced patience, which is the long-suffering endurance needed to not only survive hard times, but to triumph through them.
I don't agree with the turning it around seeing work, labour and steadfastness/patience as being the most important things to look at. it somehow seems off to turn it around and yet... I have to agree with him, it's the action that shows off these pivots of living as a Christian best. And I do suppose that one feeds off the other. as one works out their faith, their faith is increased. And one cares for those around them, their love deepens, and as one keeps on hoping, their hope increases. that all makes sense to me.

Also found this rather intensive study by a Baptist named Utley. Comes up as PDF so doing a copy and paste is not an easy task (I actually couldn't make it work). Does lots of side studies which sometime I think I might want to go through. But not right now. :) Anyways, this caught my eye in his commentary:
Each of these three phrases is in a grammatical construction that asserts that work is produced by faith, that labour is produced by love, that steadfastness is produced by hope. The focus is on active, faithful believers. Faith is always a response of God's initiating activity.
Through all of this, what do I learn?
First...without God, none of this is even possible. Not even one iota. it all starts with God.
Second...that my life as a Christian is not passive. it is something that I must work at. Not just something that I claim to be. if I love Christ...I must show it in what I do.
  • My faith must be active and participatory. Can people around me tell that my faith makes a difference in my life?
  • My love must be shown in what I do. How do I show that I love those around me? Do my actions betray what I care about? How do I show that God is the love of my life?
  • My hope in Christ must be sure and steady. How do I nurture that hope? How do I help that hope that I have endure through the "stuff" of life? How do I keep alive the hope that Christ will come back?
These questions I must answer in my life. They are pivotal in my walk as a Christian.

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