When the apostle Paul visited the city of Thessalonica for the first time as a Christian missionary, he was only there for about three weeks before having to move on. Paul shared the gospel and taught the basics of the faith to the people as much as he could. But after his departure, Paul feared for the wellbeing of the saints. After all, he had not been there for long, and persecution had arisen.
Both in 1 Thessalonians and its companion letter, Paul receives word that the saints are holding strong in the faith. And this causes Paul to rejoice.
2 Thessalonians 1:3 – We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
Notice the two reasons for which Paul gives thanks here. These are things that you and I must, if we are wise Christians, want to be true of us as well. Their faith was growing abundantly. Their love for one another was increasing.
How do you help your faith to grow? This is the process of sanctification. The Christians of Thessalonica were becoming more stable and firm in their trust in the Savior. God gives us tools to help in this area for ourselves. Prayer, Bible reading, participation in worship, Lord’s Supper, Christian fellowship, all these things (and more) are part of how we are strengthened in our faith.
What actually grabbed my attention in this reading, however, was the second thing for which Paul gives thanks. Paul said, “The love of every one of you for one another is increasing.” Two things get my attention. First was the scope of the love. The love that was here was a love of every one of those people for one another. Christian love in Thessalonica was not a thing only for persons of a certain emotional makeup. NO, the reason Paul gave thanks was that every Christian in the church was loving the brothers and sisters.
Then, of course, it does get my attention that loving one another is a significant reason for thanksgiving. After all, Christian love in the body is vital to the glory of Christ spreading around the globe. Paul can speak of strengthened faith and Christian love in the same breath because both issues are absolutely necessary for the church to be what God has called her to be. We cannot have strong faith and right doctrine and these be enough to please the Lord. WE must have a genuine love for one another, or our faith is empty and many of our religious actions are meaningless (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1-4).
So, Christians, do you want to be the kind of folks for which the apostle would have given thanks? This is, after all, a thanksgiving inspired by God, so it reflects the heart of God. If you want this, then strive for these two things: strengthened faith and Christian love. Do not be satisfied with your faith where it is. Seek to grow. Participate in worship, fellowship, and spiritual disciplines. And seek to grow in your love for other believers. Do not be satisfied with an all-head and no heart or an all-heart and no head faith.