Paul begins his first letter to the Thessalonians by giving thanks to God for their “work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in [the] Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 1:3). These three characteristics gave evidence to the “power” of the Holy Spirit witnessed by Paul in the lives of the Thessalonians. They also form the basis of his exhortations to them in the rest of the letter. Let’s learn more about these characteristics with some help from the NKJV Ancient-Modern Bible.

The NKJV Ancient-Modern Bible by Tyndale includes articles, quotes, and biographies of Christians from the history of the church. Keep reading to have your faith, love, and hope fueled by their insights and examples.

Introduction and Purpose

Paul wrote this Epistle to commend the Thessalonian believers for their faith, hope, and love. He exhorted them as a father to live worthy of God’s calling. Then he encourages them to remain pure, to persevere in their faith, and to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ. He urges the Thessalonian believers to “watch and be sober” in steadfast faith as they anticipate the Lord’s coming.

Scripture consistently pairs faith and action, for what we believe impacts how we behave. Paul reminds us that God calls us into a new kingdom and into His glorious way of life in Christ. Therefore, we should live in a way that’s worthy of the One who has called us. Such a life is a life of holiness: one that avoids sexual immorality, does good to others, and walks “properly toward those who are outside” (4:12).

Matthew Henry offered encouraging words about the pursuit of steadfast faith on display in 1 Thessalonians: “The apostle prays that they might be sanctified more perfectly, for the best are sanctified but in part while in this world; therefore we should pray for, and press toward, complete holiness. And as we must fall, if God did not carry on His good work in the soul, we should pray to God to perfect His work, till he presents us faultless before the throne of His glory . . . We need no more to make us happy, than to know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is an ever-flowing and an over-flowing fountain of grace to supply all our wants.”

Purpose: Paul wrote this Epistle to Christians in Thessalonica to reinforce what he had taught them concerning the Christian faith and to encourage them as they awaited the future hope Christ promised.

Jack Hayford on God’s Love in the Gospel

For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.

For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

1 Thessalonians 1:5, 9-10

A powerless gospel is ignorable. As the Holy Spirit confirms our witness, signs and wonders follow. As we declare the Good News of Christ, the demonstration of a believer’s changed life testifies to the mighty work of God’s Spirit. The fruit of joy in a person’s life is not the result of happy or pleasing circumstances. It is not subject to temporary emotions. Joy is the deep-seated knowledge of God’s love for you, God’s never-ending process of redemption at work within you, and the ultimate triumph of His love and grace that make you His child. Believers will not suffer God’s wrath when judgment comes to earth at the end of time. The patient expectation of His coming and the faithful pursuit of ministry by His people focus the attention of the church on its Savior and mission. This is the essence of preparation for the Second Coming.

John Calvin on Our Salvation

You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

1 Thessalonians 2:10–12

Paul presents in a few words the sum and substance of his exhortations, that, in magnifying the mercy of God, he admonished them not to fail as to their calling. His commendation of the grace of God is contained in the expression, “who has called us into His kingdom.” For as our salvation is founded upon God’s gracious adoption, every blessing that Christ has brought us is comprehended in this one term. It now remains that we answer God’s call, that is, that we show ourselves to be such children to Him as He is a Father to us. For he who lives otherwise than as becomes a child of God, deserves to be cut off from God’s household.

Matthew Henry on Receiving the Word of God

For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. So that you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans.

1 Thessalonians 2:13-15

We should receive the word of God with affections suitable to its holiness, wisdom, truth, and goodness. The words of men are frail and perishing, like themselves, and sometimes false, foolish, and fickle; but God’s word is holy, wise, just, and faithful. Let us receive and regard it accordingly. The word wrought in them, to make them examples to others in faith and good works, and in patience under sufferings, and in trials for the sake of the gospel.

Murder and persecution are hateful to God, and no zeal for any thing in religion can excuse it. Nothing tends more to any person or people’s filling up the measure of their sins, than opposing the gospel, and hindering the salvation of souls. Many abhor the pure gospel of Christ and hinder the faithful preaching of it. But those who forbid the preaching of it to sinners, to men dead in sin, do not by this please God. Those have cruel hearts, and are enemies to the glory of God, and to the salvation of His people, who deny them the Bible.

John Chrysostom on Enduring Trials

Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. In fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know. For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.

1 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Do you see how God permits trials, and by them stirs up and awakens the disciples and makes them more energetic? Then let us not sink down under trials: for He Himself will “also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13). Nothing so makes friends and rivets them so firmly as affliction; nothing so fastens and joins the souls of believers; there is nothing is so timely for us teachers in order that the things said by us may be heard. For when the hearer is living an easy life, listless and indolent, those who try to teach him only annoy him. But when he is in affliction and distress, he longs to hear his teachers. For when afflictions distress his soul, he seeks comfort from all directions in his affliction. And the preaching brings no small comfort.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Love

But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

It is God’s own undertaking to teach such love. All that human beings can add is to remember this divine instruction and the exhortation to excel in it more and more. When God had mercy on us, when God revealed Jesus Christ to us as our brother, when God won our hearts by God’s own love, our instructions in Christian love began at the same time. God was merciful to us, we learned to be merciful with one another. When we received forgiveness instead of judgment, we too were made ready to forgive each other. What God did to us, we then owed to others. The more we received, the more we were able to give; and the more meager our love for one another, the less we were living by God’s mercy and love. Thus God taught us to encounter one another as God encountered us in Christ.

Augustine on Hope

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

And you should not grieve as the heathen do who have no hope, because we have hope, based on the most assured promise, that as we have not lost our dear ones who have departed from this life but have merely sent them ahead of us, so we also shall depart and shall come to that life where, more than ever, their dearness to us will be proportional to the closeness we shared on earth and where we shall love them without fear of parting. Paul didn’t just say that you may not be saddened, but that you may not be saddened as the heathen are, who do not have any hope. It is unavoidable, after all, that you should experience saddeness; but when you feel sad, let hope console you.

Charles Spurgeon on Staying Awake

Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.

1 Thessalonians 5:6–8

Christians who isolate themselves from others and walk through life alone are likely to be drowsy. But if you fellowship with other Christians you will stay wide awake, will be refreshed and encouraged, and will make faster progress on the road to heaven. Yet as you meet with others to discuss the ways of God, take great care that the subject of your discussions remains the Lord Jesus. Let your eye of faith be continually focused upon Him, let your heart be full of Him, and let your lips always speak of His great worth.

Dear friends, if you live close to the cross, you will not sleep. Constantly strive to deepen your understanding of the true value of the place where you are going. If you remember your destination is heaven, you will not sleep along the road, and if you remind yourself that hell is behind you and that the Devil is pursuing you, you will not linger. Would a killer fall asleep, knowing his avenger is close behind him and that the city of refuge is just ahead? Dear Christian, do you desire to sleep while the pearly gates of heaven are open before you, while the songs of angels await your voice, and while a crown of gold awaits your head? No! Instead, through saintly fellowship continue to “watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Matt. 26:41).

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