by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 2 Study # 3 January 5, 2014 Dayton, Texas
3 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;
4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
1901 ASV Translation:
3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father;
4 knowing, brethren beloved of God, your election,
5 how that our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and [in] much assurance; even as ye know what manner of men we showed ourselves toward you for your sake.
I. Unceasing Remembrance.
A. The main verb in the sentence is "We give thanks..."; "unceasing remembrance" is a follow-up that identifies the reason for the gratitude.
B. "Unceasing" does not mean "uninterrupted"; it means "consistently". Paul did not "unceasingly remember" as a 24/7 phenomenon; rather, he "consistently" remembered at the times of his prayers. Even with this in mind, we have to understand the setting of Paul's claim: sitting in Athens wondering how it was going for the Thessalonians. This was just weeks from the time he was forced to leave. The claim of "always giving thanks" was true when it was penned; but that does not mean that the "always" continued for the years ahead. It is one thing to "remember" folks who have been recently "in mind and heart" because of close association; it is altogether another thing to "remember" everyone who once had such proximity of association over one's entire lifetime. At some point there are simply too many to "remember", and time dulls the demandingness of concern. It is one thing to "always give thanks for all of you" for a month/year/ decade; it is another thing to "always give thanks for all of you" for years and years down the road.
C. The way the verb translated "remembering" is used in the New Testament indicates that such "memories" are primary motivators to seek a solution in prayer to whatever the memories indicate as a "problem". In the case of the Thessalonians, the "problem" was the potential that they would be derailed by the difficulties that their behavior created (3:1-3).
1. This is not a small problem. People are forever being subjected to the "tests" of their "loves" and "beliefs" in order to see what it is that they "love" and "believe" at the most fundamental levels.
2. What makes the Thessalonians so remarkable is that they seemed to thrive in the conflict as though they had jumped from "justifying faith" straight into "solid sanctifying commitment".
II. The "Memories".
A. What they were.
1. Of you the work of the faith.
a. The "of you" is emphatic. The strong implication is that not everyone's response to Paul's ministry was like that response of the Thessalonians.
b. The "work" is singular; not "the works of your faith".
1) The specifics of this "work" are plural (you became imitators of us; you became examples to all who believe; your faith in God was spread abroad; etc.).
2) But this "work" has a single identity as a kind of "root" from which the plural "works" spring. That single root was the alignment of their energies with the example of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy [ye became followers of us: 1:6 (a concept further described in 1:9 as "serving the living and true God")].
a) This "imitation" has two large characteristics: the embracing of the displayed "faith, love, and hope"; and behaving according to what they saw regarding "what manner of men" Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy were.
b) This "imitation" apparently sprang out of the conflation of Romans 3-11 so that the "justification" by faith was almost immediately followed by the willing embrace of the Romans 12:1-2 principle of "total sacrifice". Many "believers" have an extended experience between the time of "faith unto justification" (that marks the entrance into life) and the time of "faith unto uncontested participation" and the mature participation in life that unreserved commitment brings. This is a key observation that those of the "lordship salvationists" tend to overlook
c. The use of the definite article in the phrase 'the work of the faith' is significant.
1) "The Faith" refers to the entirebody of doctrines that make up all of the things we are to "believe" as integrated elements of a whole. It also marks this corporate body of doctrines as the (one and only) "faith".
2) Likewise, "the work" refers to an entire complex of things "pursued and accomplished" that have a single root character: "serving the One True God". "The work" of "the faith" means that there is only one "work" that can be understood as the outcome of "believing" God. The broad outline of that "work" consists of "being imitators of Paul as he was an imitator of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
d. That Paul wrote of "the work of the faith" keeps a key element of "faith" clearly in view: it is impossible to "believe" anything without that "believing" making a direct impact upon the choices of the "believer". Every particular "truth" that is "believed" makes such an impression upon the "believer" that his/her attitudes/choices/actions are aligned with this "truth". Within the reality of this principle of "faith without works being dead" stand Jesus' words that man "lives" by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Father. There is "life" attached to every utterance of God (because they are "true") and everyone who "believes" any of those utterances enters into the experience attached by reason of faith's impact upon attitudes/choices/actions.
2. Of you the labor of the love.
3. Of you the endurance of the hope.
B. What they created (gratitude and, more than likely, petition for their continuance).