Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians provides us with an evidentiary list of our salvation. So, if you have ever experienced that lingering question in the back of your mind, I wonder if I’m actually saved, this post will give you the indicators of the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.
1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 ESV “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
Paul mentions three things at the beginning of his letter that give evidence to the church members’ saving faith: their work of faith, the labor of love, and steadfast hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Some have seen a contention throughout church history between faith and works, but that is not so. The same grace that produces faith for salvation in us is the same grace that evokes the desire to do good works. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are created for good works that were prepared beforehand. James said he would show his faith by the works he did. Jesus went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil. Good works are evidence of the Christian life. Love is also a fruit of salvation. Jesus said we would be known by our love and that if we loved Him, we would obey Him. Our labor of love towards one another is our willingness to expend effort on behalf of each other. We also have steadfast hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. We have hope that dispels fear of the future, fear of loss, and fear of death. The perfect love found in salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord casts out all fear.
Those are three specific pieces of evidence of salvation, but Paul doesn’t continue from there. Instead, Paul goes back to the origination of our salvation, God Himself. God has chosen us. We are chosen for salvation and good works. Peter said that we are to make our calling and election sure; the things that Paul lists in these verses are one way we can have the assurance of the Holy Spirit that we truly belong to Christ.
The Holy Spirit brought the gospel and complete conviction. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Conviction is not just to bring about salvation. Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit that keeps us on the narrow path all of our days. The enemy loves nothing more than to pull us off the course, to help us to think lightly of sin and other entanglements that take our eyes off of Jesus. Therefore, we must be diligent to heed the convicting and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. That conviction will cause us to desire to imitate Christ and other godly examples around us. Paul frequently wrote that we should imitate him as he imitates Christ. In my life, I look to the standard of Charles Spurgeon from the 1800s as a model of Christian living and future pastoral ministry. Anyone outside of Jesus will have flaws and sins repented, but they can still serve as a wonderful example and encouragement in our walk.
The Thessalonians endeavored to follow the example of Paul, and because they did, they received affliction with joy, they were an example to others, and their faith was heard about in other areas. They turned from idols and were anticipating the return of the Lord.
In our world today, we have a hard time seeing the idols in our lives. They can be sports, social media, celebrities, or anything that diverts our attention from Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
It’s easy to profess salvation yet not possess it. The evidence of possession is found throughout Scripture; actual possession is accompanied by the things Paul lays out in his letters. Take some time and reflect on the passage and make your calling and election sure. It’s not enough to have just prayed a prayer with no change in our hearts. Salvation brings about a difference in our lives. Some of these changes are instantaneous, and others are part of the process of sanctification. Like the Thessalonians, we should endeavor to follow the example of Paul and continue growing in the Lord.