“Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance…" (1 Thessalonians 1:1-5).
A Gracious Salutation
The Apostle introduces his letter to the church at Thessasolonica by declaring that the church is in God the Father (verse 1). This certainly elevates the church above any manmade institution, and provides great assurance and encouragement to those who are a part of it. Since the church is in God the Father, redeemed by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, it receives its security and blessing from above. Then Paul sends his greeting, "Grace be unto you, and peace." Grace is a gift, it cannot be earned. It is by grace that sinners are saved but there is an ongoing need for grace and God has promised to give it. “He giveth more grace” (James 4:6). We are amazed by the abundance of grace that God bestows on us though we are unworthy of the least of his mercies; yet he continues to give more grace.Grace is needed in every facet of the Christian life. We are all needy but God has promised to give us grace to help. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Grace is needed to serve in the kingdom, and God gives us that enabling grace. “By the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).We even need grace to sing praises to God. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16). And grace is needed to give with the proper spirit since God loves a cheerful giver: “see that ye abound in this grace also” (2 Corinthians 8:7).
A Prayer of Thanksgiving
Paul then lets the church know that he and his companions give thanks for them, pray for them and remember the good work going on among them. He first mentions their work of faith (verse 3). True faith will work. James tells us that we may claim to have faith, but if it does not produce works it is dead. Faith then has an influence on our heart, producing the right motives and attitudes; and it influences our life, moving us to do those things that are commanded. Paul then speaks of their labour of love. Love is an identifying mark of God's children. First, they love God (1 John 4:19). Second, they love each other (John 13:35). Third, they love their enemies (Matthew 5:44). What a beautiful testimony when love overflows in one’s life and abounds in a home and in a church.Then he speaks of their enduring hope. They believed in the second coming of Christ. They were looking forward to that great day when he would return, and that hope enabled them to continue on course even in the face of great afflictions. When struggling under the pressures of life it is easy to lose sight of that home on the other side, but as we recall the promises and rejoice in the hope of it we press forward knowing the best is yet to come.
A Word of Assurance
What assurance to know you are chosen of God! Election is the choice of God made before the foundation of the world to save a people according to his grace. “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." (2 Timothy 1:9).John Stott writes: “The topic of election is nearly always introduced for a practical purpose, in order to foster assurance (not presumption), holiness (not moral apathy), humility (not pride) and witness (not lazy selfishness).” The doctrine of election is not just a truth to embrace, but the truth of it should make a difference in our life.Election is unconditional. No merit or good work was an influencing factor; it was all by grace that God made the choice. Some suggest that God looked down through time and saw who would make the right decision and based his choice on what he saw. But Psalm 14 tells us that what he saw was man doing nothing good and going in the wrong direction.Election is right. The argument is sometimes made that for God to choose some and not others would be unfair. That question was anticipated as the inspired writer was moved on by the Holy Spirit, so in Romans 9:14-16 the question is both asked and answered. ““What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy”Election is certain. The elect will reach heaven. No great trouble, no great obstacle, no great failure will disrupt God's purpose to have his chosen ones dwell with him forever. “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).The question is sometimes and wisely asked, “How can I know that I am one of God's elect?” Paul says he knew those to whom he wrote were the elect of God because they received the gospel. The gospel came in power and in the Holy Ghost. Their heart was prepared to receive the message and so it was good news to them. In writing to the church at Corinth the experience is described this way:
“If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:3-6).
The message came with much assurance. They were assured of the truth which was presented to them. They believed the message that declared Christ died for sinners and that this was their only hope of salvation. They were assured that those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ have everlasting life. It was in affliction that they received the word. There was much opposition to the message and to the men who delivered it, but they received it with joy. Have you received the gospel? Does the message come to you with joy, giving evidence of your interest in Christ? Is so, then “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”