2 Thess 1:3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. NIV
As Paul addresses the Thessalonians in his second letter, he immediately commends them for growing in two areas, faith and love. If I had only two opportunities left in my life to teach biblical truths, these are the two I would pick. I cannot think of any two doctrines that are more critical to our relationship with Christ than these. They are linked together in eternal significance.
Whenever we see the word faith (you can substitute trust), we must remember that it means faith in Jesus Christ. Faith must have an object. Whenever we say things like, “my faith got me through this difficult situation,” we are really saying it is our trust in Jesus that got us through. Otherwise we are just commending ourselves. I did it because I have faith. Without an object, faith is worthless. With the wrong object, it is just as worthless.
If I put my faith in the wrong God, I am going to be sorely disappointed. The only God who can be trusted is the true and living God, manifest in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is the God of the Bible. It is our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation that begins our relationship with Him and it is our faith in His continued work in our lives that deepens our relationship with Him. This is what Paul is commending these believers for. Their trust in Christ is growing stronger and stronger.
The evidence of this growing faith is seen by their increasing love for one another. Growing in faith will always bring about more love. More love for Him and more love for others. There is no greater evidence of our growing relationship with Christ than the law of love working in us.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment of God was, he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matt 22:37-40)
Paul said in 1 Cor 13:1-3, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
Did you read that closely? Even if you gave up your life, if it was not out of love for Christ, it gains nothing! Now you can see why this is so important. It is also important to know what type of love Paul is speaking of. We use the term love so loosely today that it hardly has any meaning. When I say, “I love my wife,” it does not mean the same thing as, “I love ice cream.” I may love them both, but certainly in a different sense.
In 1st Corinthinans 13, Paul is describing what love is and what it is not. Many teachers have well said, that since the Bible teaches that God is love, this passage describes God. The Greek word for love here is agape. It is benevolent, unconditional love. I like to say it is “love without expectation of anything in return.” Did you know that it is the same word that Jesus uses in the Matthew passage? In other words, we are to love God and our neighbor unconditionally.
Jesus told His followers that the world would know that they truly were His disciples by their love for one another. The apostle John sums it up this way, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:7-12)
Do you want to know if you are truly growing in your faith in Jesus? Read 1 Corinthians 13. Does that describe you and your relationships with those around you, especially your brothers and sisters in the Lord? If not, confess that to Him and ask Him, by the power of the Spirit, to increase your agape more and more. Then you must choose to follow His leading. It is not about how you feel; it is about surrendering to the one who you have put your trust in for salvation, justification and sanctification.
God bless you