During my message on Sunday, I made the point that Christians, who love one another, encourage one another. Hope is a team accomplishment, and we are more likely to persevere through affliction when we are confident that others stand behind us. Less obvious, but certainly not less important, is how others impact our standing before God
The apostle Paul’s written affection towards the Thessalonians reveals that he feared for them because their wellbeing reflected on him. In chapter 2 he writes, For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy (1 Thess 2:19-20). This is quite a startling statement for the apostle Paul, the same man who resolved to boast in nothing but Christ (1 Cor. 1:31). The same man who insisted that a person is saved by faith alone and remained adamant that works are no reason to feel confident before God (Eph 2:8-10). Our only confidence is in Christ alone! He then says, For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord? (1Thess 3:8)
How can Paul affirm salvation by faith alone, and then insist that his accomplishment among the Thessalonians assures his position before God? The explanation is quite simple really; we just need to separate cause and effect. The cause of our salvation is the finished work of Jesus. The effect of this salvation is that we become a transformative influence in the lives of others. We are saved when Christ touches us, and our faith is validated by the lives we have touched. The fruit of his faithfulness confirms his faith. The Thessalonians progress in faith comforted Paul because it gave evidence that the Holy Spirit was at work in and through him.
What about you? Is it possible to validate your faith without influencing others? I suppose. Those who are in solitary confinement or are isolated in some other way will demonstrate their faith however they can, but this exception is so rare that scripture doesn’t even address it. The overwhelming instruction is this—we, who by faith love God, prove that faith by loving others. And we can rejoice in the successful outcome of their life in Christ because it is a demonstration of the genuineness of our own faith.
This means that we cannot accept new life from Christ and then bury the gospel in our own hearts. For if we are devoted to Jesus, his love in us will lead us to love others. So if you want to test your faith, look at its fruit. Faith is evident in the faithfulness it produces.