Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
1 Thessalonians 1:4
I could hardly believe the verse above when I read it, so I read it again. I checked it out in the original language, and the KJV translation stood firm. The apostle had just said to the Thessalonians, “I know you’re elected!” What could be such strong evidence of salvation that Paul could make such a statement? Well, we don’t have to wonder because the chapter spells it out for us. The following ten items evidence regeneration in the life of an individual:
1) Working faith (v. 3) – This reveals true faith as Jm 2:17-20 tells us; in contrast, “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” When we read the list of past possessors of faith in Heb 11, we find that faith to be active. “Abel offered” (v. 4), “Noah…prepared” (v. 7), and “Abraham…went out” (v. 8). Notice in the each of these situations, true faith was evidenced by the action!
2) Loving labor (v. 3) – There are many that will labor, doing so tirelessly, but with what motive do they labor? Many do so only for their own gain. They are incapable of serving as instructed in Gal 5:13: “…by love serve one another.” True love manifests itself in the giving of ourselves unselfishly for the brethren. This pattern follows the example of Christ (1 Jn 3:16). 1 Jn 3:17-19 says loving in deed and truth evidences that we are really of the Truth!
3) Hopeful patience (v. 3) – These don’t give up, but patiently press on because of hope in the Lord! The labor in our last point doesn’t wear out according to Rom 2:7 because there is a hope beyond this life! These don’t wear out over time because there is a patience in this hope in the Lord. They have no doubt that the Lord will save. If things get tough, there is a calm assurance that the Lord will not forsake. They have hope, so they are patient, not anxious. As in Is 40:30-31, “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” True hope in the Lord produces patience!
4) Effectual preaching (v. 5) – One thing we are assured of concerning those hungering and thirsting after righteousness is that they shall be filled (Mt 5:6). The apostle had assurance of their election because of the preaching done among them. It was powerful, Spirit-led, and in assurance (or “entire confidence”). Paul said, “I knew God was feeding you through me! The time I spent among you was one in which I was clearly led by the Spirit and confident in what God would have me to say.” Not just once, but repeatedly among them, the preaching was powerful. True belief among the congregation prompts a mighty work in the pulpit. The opposite is also true according to Mt 13:58 where the Lord in his own country “did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” Paul said that wasn’t the case in Thessalonica, but the word was effectual (1 Th 2:13).
5) Godly imitators (v. 6) – They followed the pattern of godly men and so were in fact following the Lord. Paul said in 1 Co 11:1: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” The Thessalonians were looking for others obedient to God and were imitators of them per 1 Th 2:14. Who do you pattern yourself after? Who do you want to be like? Is it the famous, the talented, the wise men of the earth? Are you driven by a desire to be recognized as they are? Do you copy their style, their mannerisms, etc., or are you more interested in being like that humble, lowly saint you see serving God with no desire for anyone to notice? Are you patterning yourself after those that are in Christ’s pattern set forth in Ph 2:7 as He “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant”? The evidence of being a son is that you are an imitator of the Father (Jn 5:19)! We can’t say it in the perfection that Christ could, but in one sense, though imperfect, when people see us, they should see the Father!
6) Joyous affliction (v. 6) – This characteristic doesn’t come from Adam!! We’re not talking about short-lived and easy affliction. It’s described as “much,” yet their joy was steadfast. There were no stony-ground hearers who “when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.” (Mt 13:21) Just being afflicted was evidence of spiritual life (2 Ti 3:12), but the fact that they rejoiced in it was especially revealing of their hearts! There’s something different about a person that will pray and sing praises to God after being beaten and thrown into prison. (Ac 16:23-26) like Paul and Silas. After being beaten and forbidden to preach Christ, the apostles rejoiced they were deemed worthy to suffer shame for Christ’s name (Ac 5:41). The believer can rejoice in affliction because of the privilege to suffer for Christ and because of the effect if will have in his life (Jm 1:2-3)!
7) Living examples (v. 7) – The natural result of point 5 (imitating godly men), is that we become examples for others to follow. There’s an issue if we don’t progress to this point. The Hebrews are rebuked in Heb 5:12 for only being students (followers) and not teachers (examples). Paul told the Corinthians that they were living epistles known and read of all men (2 Co 3:2). For a true believer, the word not only gets into his head but also his manner of life. The fact that others were looking to them as a pattern reveals growth and maturity, which is the evidence of healthy spiritual life (Eph 4:12-15).
8) Outward confession ( v. 8 ) – True salvation isn’t only a heart experience. It begins inwardly but progresses outwardly (Rom 10:10-11). Paul didn’t have to tell others of the Thessalonians’ faith. The word of God was like a geyser rushing out of them! When your heart is fixed on something, your mouth will declare it (“out of abundance of heart the mouth speaketh” Mt 12:34). I used to be grieved in my early Christian walk because music was such a fresh part of my past that I’d end up talking to people about it. I’d leave and think, “Where was Christ in all of that?” But in the midst of this study, a friend of over a year called me to say he had just found out I used to play in bands. He knew nothing about me except that I was a Christian! Wow! Thank you, Lord. I can see progress, but I want to be more like Christ. If your path intersected His, you were going to hear the word!
9) New creation (v. 9) – Some turn to God but not away from idols. That’s not regeneration! Regeneration is a new creature or creation wherein old things have passed away and all has become new (2 Co 5:17)! The one looking back isn’t fit for the kingdom (Lk 9:62). Jesus said in Lk 14:33, you must forsake all you have to be His disciple. The Thessalonians did, and they never looked back!
10) Waiting pilgrims (v. 10) – The idea conveyed here is one of not simply waiting but a longing for the Lord Jesus. The Interlinear Bible translates it as, “eagerly to await His Son”. They were as Paul in Ph 1:23 as he desired to depart and be with Christ. They were like the faithful in Heb 11:16 who didn’t feel at home here but were seeking a better, heavenly country. Rev 22:20 expresses the cry of their hearts for when the Lord says, “Surely I come quickly,” they promptly reply, “Amen! Even so, come Lord Jesus!”
If these things be in us, it leaves little doubt of our election. So, are they in us? “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” (2 Cor 13:5) If Christ is in us, we will be stamped out in His pattern. “…give diligence to make your calling and election sure…” (2 Pet 1:10)