A Translation of 1 Thessalonians 1

RomansText1

“. . . constantly remembering, in the presence of our God and Father, your work of faith, the taxing labor of love, and the patient endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3)

This passage from the apostle Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians gives us insight into what excited Paul about a Christian congregation. As he spoke to the Father about his friends in Thessalonica, he remembered three specific things about their Christian faith that gave him special joy. These three areas are still signs of vitality in any Christian congregation, or any Christian family.

Paul first mentions their work of faith. While we know that it is by grace that we are saved, through faith (Ephesians 2:8), notice that Paul’s focus is the work that flowed from their faith. We cannot see faith. It is a transaction between the individual and Jesus Christ. However, we can see the results of faith that flow from someone’s life. That is Paul’s focus in this passage. He was excited about the actions of their faith that he could see.

We can easily understand his focus. Who hasn’t been excited when a Christian congregation or group steps into vital connection with the Lord, and his life spills from them to those around them. One time, I was amazed by a small congregation of Christian believers in our area. A category two hurricane had passed through our area back in 2005. I had not thought of this, but when a storm like that knocks out the electricity for a week, there are many elderly residents stranded on the third and fourth floors of their condominium complexes without elevators, lights, refrigeration, or air conditioning. This small group of believers not only knew about this, but they immediately adopted one of the condominium complexes, and went door to door to bring aid and emotional support as they could. While I knew of many congregations and individuals who did a lot after Hurricane Wilma, this congregation’s work of faith impressed me, and I still remember their work of faith until this day.

The next thing Paul remembered was the “taxing labor of love.” Without making this post longer than I wish it to be, I will simply point out that it is a miracle when a group of people truly love each other. It takes taxing labor to love the brothers and sisters in Christ who are around you. Myriads of petty irritations can cloud our vision, unless we consistently do the hard work of letting love cover a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8), Christian life and fellowship are hindered. When a congregation flows in unity, it is obvious that the taxing labor of love is being done.

The third thing that Paul remembers, is the “patient endurance of hope.” An important truth in this life, is that bad things happen. Without getting into a long discussion about why bad things happen, suffice it to say that Paul took it as axiomatic that there would be times that our hope would give us the patient endurance that is necessary during bad times. He didn’t paint a Pollyannaish picture of a world free from bad things, instead he pointed to the necessity of hope to give us patient endurance. The congregation at Thessalonica was familiar with persecution, and they would have had ample opportunity to demonstrate this patient endurance inspired by hope. Paul appreciated this patient endurance, and understood the importance of hope in producing it.

So how are you doing? How is your faith working its way out? How effectively are you laboring in love? Is your hope giving you the endurance you need? These three things are important enough that Paul singled them out. Apparently, getting these three things in place are an important part of having an effective ministry, and having people thank God for you.

Now, on to the translation of 1 Thessalonians 1.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
A Translation by Randal Cutter

1:1  Paul, Silas, and Timothy, to the assembly* of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father* and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to you and peace.

1:2  We always give thanks to God concerning all of you, making mention of you in our prayers,

1:3  constantly remembering, in the presence of our God and Father, your work of faith, the taxing labor of love, and the patient endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

1:4  We are aware, brothers loved by God, of your election,*

1:5  because our gospel did not come to you by word alone, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit, and with complete certainty, in as much as you knew how we conducted ourselves among you for your sake.

1:6  You also became imitators of us, and of the Lord, when you received the word with the joy of the Holy Spirit in the midst of much tribulation.

1:7  Because of this, you became an example to all those who believe in Macedonia and Achaia.*

1:8  For the word of the Lord rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith toward God has gone out; so that we have no need to say anything about it.

1:9  For they themselves share the report about us, what kind of access we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols; how you serve the living and true God,

1:10  and wait expectantly for his Son from the heavens, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus. He is the one who is saving you from the wrath to come.

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1:1  To the assembly of the Thessalonians: The Greek word I have translated “assembly,” is ekklesia. While we normally translate this word “church,” it was a word used in Greek culture to refer to any type of assembly. It eventually became a well-known technical term referring to churches or synagogues in the New Testament. However, in this instance, Paul is writing his very first letter to a group of brand new believers in Thessalonica. He writes to an assembly of Thessalonians which is identified with God the Father and the Lord Jesus. It is clear that Paul is identifying exactly what assembly of Thessalonians he is addressing. For this reason, I have translated as the Thessalonians would understood it, not as we now understand it.

1:1  God the Father: It wasn’t until Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians that he addresses the Father as “God our Father,” instead of “the Father.” Paul’s later usage turned almost exclusively to “God our Father,” however, in this, his first letter to any of his churches, he used the more impersonal term.

1:4  Of your election: I have translated this noun in the most literal way in English that is possible. Many modern translations substitute an interpretive phrase of what they think Paul’s words mean (“that he has chosen you” NIV), rather than just translating the bare words that Paul used. I suspect they do this to avoid the word “election,” a word that has become a much fought over theological term.

1:7  Achaia: What today is southern Greece.

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