by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 2 Study # 4 January 12, 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. The Labor of the Love.
A. Paul's grammar is deliberate: "the" labor of "the" love.
B. "The" Love.
1. The "first love" challenge of Revelation 2:5 has been popularized for years and, probably, misunderstood for a like time frame (I had a professor in college who said "the first love" was "evangelism", an enormously flawed "interpretation").
a. By definition "first" means "first", a characterization that disallows all others.
b. Since the greatest commandment, identified as such by Jesus, is also called "the first" by that same Jesus (Matthew 22:38), it is impossible that any "other" than "the Lord thy God" can claim to be "the first love". Even without Jesus' support for this truth, it stands on its own merits: who but the most obtuse cannot see that "love for the great God, the Almighty Father" stands as "first" without competition?
2. The entire point of "love" is to put someone/something at the peak of the priority list so that he/she/it gets "first" consideration in everything. This reality is the root of the excoriation of the religious leaders by Jesus for "loving" the chief seats of the synagogue (Luke 11:43); a greater idolatry can hardly be imagined.
3. The automatic watershed of "love" for a "Greatest" is a cascading series of "loves" that are bounded by specific contextual limitations. "Love" for God automatically cascades downward to "love for His will", "love for His people", "love for His Word", "love for ...", etc.
4. The only real question in regard to Paul's meaning in writing of "the love" is whether he had the implied "ultimate love" in mind, or a contextually limited lesser "love". I see no such contextual limitation: the Thessalonians "loved" God.
C. "The" Labor.
1. Paul's term is used by him in the two letters to these Thessalonians four times, giving us a fairly clear sense of his meaning.
a. He makes a distinction in our current text between "work" (of faith) and "labor". The former indicates an expenditure of energy toward some sort of goal; the latter is more heavily invested in a driving sense of importance to that goal so that the expenditure of energy is greater and more focused than mere "work". A "labor" of "love" is an intensive effort driven by the importance of the goal.
b. In 2:9 he piles up words to make his point (labor, travail, working night and day). In such a "pile up" it would be unusual for sure to avoid words that carried the meaning of "intense" work. "Labor" is the classic term for that intensity.
c. In 3:5 he addresses the depth of his interest in whether his "labor" has been rendered vain. The greater the "labor" the more intense is the interest in whether it has been effective long term.
d. In 2 Thessalonians 3:8 he repeats his "pile up" first given in 1 Thessalonians 2:9.
2. Paul's memories of "the labor of the love" of the Thessalonians is the second reason he can claim to "know" of their "election" (1:4).
3. What is the nature of this "love"?
a. In its simplicity, it is a consideration of God's Person and interests as of primary importance.
b. From this simplicity, it splits into a myriad of detailed "labors" because there are myriads of specific applications of the Person and character of God to our circumstances in life.