remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Thessalonians 1:3 RSV
This remarkable Pauline triad, that is, a double triad of WORK, LABOR and PATIENCE linked to FAITH, HOPE and LOVE (1 Corinthians 13:13) with “I know thy works, and thy toil, and thy patience” (Revelation 2:2), is one of the most interesting in the New Testament.
We’re cautioned against failing to read the true meaning of [HUPOMONE], rendered PATIENCE, but meaning not a negative acquiescence, but an active, manly ENDURANCE, thus relating all three of the first triad with works, labor being intensified consistent work, and patience being unceasing work.
This sheds much light on Paul’s use of all these terms in the New Testament
For example, he even substituted “patience” for hope, as follows:
Follow after faith, love, patience (1 Timothy 6:11).
Thou didst follow my faith, love, patience (2 Timothy 3:10).
Let aged men be sound in faith, love, patience (Titus 2:2).
Although Paul never substituted works for faith, the passage here shows that the two go together; and it may therefore be accepted as gospel that when Paul mentions faith in the New Testament, it never means anything other than an obedient, working faith.
The present-day conception of subjective trust/faith is erroneous.
Other New Testament passages in which the second triad of faith, hope and love appears are:
Putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet, the hope of salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:8).
We have had our access by faith … rejoice in the hope of the glory of God … because the love of God, etc. (Romans 5:2-5).
We through the Spirit of faith wait for the hope of righteousness … but faith working through love (Galatians 5:5,6).
Having heard of your faith … and of the love which ye have … because of the hope (Colossians 1:4,5).
Your work and the love which ye showed … be not sluggish but imitators of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:10,12).
That your faith and hope might be in God. Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren (1 Peter 1:21,22).
All of the above passages emphasize the absolute union of these graces.
To construe Paul’s words, “faith apart from works” in any other manner than as meaning “faith apart from the works of the Law of Moses” is to miss his meaning altogether.
FAITH | ONE IN KIND
Significantly, there is no New Testament mention of “kinds of faith.”
The “devils believe and tremble”; and there is no evidence that the faith of devils is any different from the faith of Christians, except in this one particular of being disunited from love and hope, as well as from work, labor and patience.
The demon at Gadara cried out:
What have I to do with thee, Jesus, Son of God Most High? I adjure thee by God, torment me not! (Mark 5:7).
An analysis of the demon’s faith shows that:
(1) he believed Jesus to be the Son of God
(2) that Jesus had the power to torment him
(3) he also believed in God’s existence
(4) that there was already a “time” appointed when God would visit judgment upon wickedness (Matthew 8:29)
(5) that such a time was yet future during the personal ministry of the Lord.
Wherein is this different from what Christians believe?
Even dead faith is not a different kind, but only the deceased state of the one kind.
WORKS OF DIFFERENT KINDS
The appearance in this passage of “work of faith” emphasizes the New Testament truth of there being many kinds of works mentioned in the New Testament, thus:
The WORKS of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21).
The WORKS of people (Mark 13:1).
The WORKS of the Law of Moses (Romans 3:20).
The WORKS of moral goodness (Cornelius).
The WORKS of human righteousness (Romans 10:3).
The WORKS of the devil (1 John 3:8).
The WORK of faith (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
The distinctions here enumerated from the sacred text are the key to understanding what Paul meant by “not justified by works,” and what James meant by “justified by works” (James 2:24), there being in no sense any element of contradiction, there being two utterly different classes of works under consideration by the two sacred writers.