AN EMPHASIS ON LOVE
In 3:1-10 Paul has mainly dealt with faith as the first item of the structure of a holy life for the church life. Beginning in verse 11 he emphasizes love: “Now our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you; and the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love to one another and to all, even as we also to you.” Verses 11 and 12 are mainly on love. The apostle’s concern for the young believers is first their faith. Following faith is love, which issues from faith and works together with faith (Gal. 5:6; 1 Tim. 1:14) as an indication of growth in life (1 Thes. 1:3). It was necessary for the Thessalonians’ love to increase, to grow. Therefore, Paul first wanted to perfect their faith and then encourage them to increase and abound in love. He knew that love would flow out of their faith. Then they would have a living in love, a love to the saints in their locality and to all believers everywhere.
In verse 11 the word “direct” in Greek is in the singular. This indicates that the apostle considers God the Father and the Lord Jesus as one. How good it is to have our way in the ministry directed by such a One! And how beautiful are the footsteps of the apostles in their carrying out of this One’s ministry for the fulfilling of His purpose!
HEARTS ESTABLISHED BLAMELESS IN HOLINESS
In verse 13 Paul concludes, “That He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” The establishing of the believers’ hearts blameless issues from faith and love, as mentioned in the preceding verses. This spontaneously produces the hope of the coming back of our dear Lord, in whom we believe and whom we love. Hence, faith, love, and hope are again the implied factors in the construction of this Epistle.
If our faith is perfected and our love grows, increases, and abounds, the result will be a hope of having our hearts established blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of the Lord Jesus with all His saints. These saints are the believers in Christ, including the Old Testament saints (Dan. 7:18, 21-22, 25, 27; Zech. 14:5). Although verse 13 does not use the word hope, hope is nonetheless implied or indicated. The establishing of a holy life for the church life is thus related to its structure composed of faith, love, and hope.
WORKING WITH NEW BELIEVERS
Paul’s way to take care of new believers is very different from that followed by many Christians today. His way is to show the new believers that they have been regenerated of God the Father and brought into an organic union with the Lord Jesus Christ and thereby have the structure of a holy life. All genuine Christians, whether old or young, have such a structure of a holy life for the church life. This life is the proper Christian life.
Many Christians do not have a proper Christian life. Furthermore, they do not have any idea concerning the church life. Many do not even know what it means to live a holy life. A holy life is a life entirely separated unto God, sanctified. To live a holy life is to have a life absolutely for God, by God, with God, and in God. This holy life is for the church life. The holy life for the church life is what Paul is covering in this Epistle addressed to new believers.
As real Christians, we all have this kind of life within us. Now we need to live it. This life has a structure composed of faith, love, and hope. Our work with new believers should foster this life; it should nourish and cherish it so that it may grow. Moreover, we must learn how to establish, strengthen, and encourage this life in its structure of faith, love, and hope.
Faith is a matter of seeing a view of the contents of God’s New Testament economy. Once we have the view, we shall believe in what we see. This faith is the foundation of our Christian life. Out of our faith love will flow forth. In the church life we are living a life of love. We should love everyone: those believers who meet with us and those who do not and also the unbelievers. This love is the issue of our faith. Furthermore, we shall then have a life that is full of hope. We are living for Christ, we are expressing Him, and we are even His Body. As we wait for His coming back, we are filled with hope. Our hope, destiny, and destination are not on this earth. They are altogether focused on the coming back of the Lord Jesus.
If we see the structure, origin, fostering, and establishment of a holy life for the church life, we shall have a direction in our work with new believers. We shall help them to realize that, as genuine Christians, they already have the structure of a holy life for the church life. Then we shall foster this life and establish its faith, love, and hope.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 14, by Witness Lee)