FAITH AND LOVE
If we have a bird’s-eye view of 1 Thessalonians, we shall see that the first three chapters make up one section, and the last two chapters make up another. We have seen that this Epistle has a basic structure containing three elements: the work of faith, the labor of love, and the endurance of hope. Paul speaks of this in 1:3: “Remembering unceasingly your work of faith, and labor of love, and endurance of hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father.” With this structure as a basis, Paul says in 1:9 and 10 that the believers turned from idols to serve a living and true God and to wait for His Son from the heavens. In chapter two we have the fostering of a holy life for the church life. This fostering is the work of a cherishing mother and exhorting father. The result of the proper fostering is that we walk worthily of God, who calls us into His own kingdom and glory (2:12). In order to have such a walk, we need to be perfected in our faith, and we need to increase and abound in our love. In chapter three Paul is deeply concerned about the Thessalonians’ faith and love. According to 3:10, his desire was to perfect anything that was lacking in their faith. Yes, the Thessalonians had faith, yet it needed perfecting. Paul longed to see them in order to perfect what was lacking in their faith. In 3:12 he goes on to say, “And the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love to one another and to all, even as we also to you.” As believers, we all need to be perfected in faith and to increase and abound in love.
In verse 13 of chapter three we see the specific reason we need to be perfected in faith and to increase and abound in love: it is that the Lord may establish our hearts blameless in holiness. The establishing of our heart is the issue, the result, of the perfecting of our faith and of the increase and abounding of our love. The Lord is doing a work of building. This building work is to establish our heart. Our heart needs to be built up, to be established blameless. Later we shall seek to explain what the word blameless in verse 13 means.
In 3:13 Paul says that the Lord will establish our hearts blameless in holiness. He does not say that our heart will be established blameless in purity or in cleanness. The New Testament emphasizes the matter of a pure heart. The Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). Paul exhorted Timothy to be with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart (2 Tim. 2:22). Furthermore, in Psalm 51:10 David prayed that the Lord would create in him a clean heart. Why, then, does Paul not say blameless in purity or in cleanness, but instead says blameless in holiness? The reason is that the book of 1 Thessalonians is on a holy life for the church life. The conclusion of the first section of this Epistle, composed of chapters one, two, and three, is that the Lord will establish our heart blameless in holiness.
I believe that we all have faith, love, and hope. We have turned to God from idols, we are serving the living God, and we are waiting for the coming back of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, we have faith, love, and hope, and we have the turning, the serving, and the waiting. But we still need to be perfected in our faith. In 1 Thessalonians faith refers to our believing ability and also to what we believe. Faith, therefore, is a great matter. The aspect of objective faith, the things we believe in, is a vast field including many things. The messages we have put out over the years have covered different matters in this field of faith. These messages show us how much the Christian faith, Christian belief, comprises. It even includes the matter of the mingling of the Triune God with saved and regenerated human beings.
Through the preaching of Paul, the Thessalonians heard the gospel. This means that they heard the faith. Not only did the Thessalonians hear the faith—they received it. However, because Paul was with them such a short time, approximately three weeks, he could not have presented all the contents of the New Testament faith. No wonder he was eager to visit them and see them face to face in order to speak further to them concerning the faith and to perfect them in the faith. Like the Thessalonians, we also need to have our faith perfected.
The Thessalonians had faith and also had love. As believers in Christ, we also love one another. The divine love is without measure; it is immeasurable. Hence, we need to increase and abound in our love.
If we are perfected in our faith and if we increase and abound in our love, we shall have a living, a daily walk, that is worthy of God’s calling. If we would have this kind of living, the Lord must set our heart on a fixed foundation. This is to establish, to build up, our heart.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 20, by Witness Lee)