How do I know if God loves me and has chosen me?
How can I be sure God loves me? How do know I am elect? Read 1 Thessalonians 1 and ask yourself
1. Has the gospel come to me with words and with power, the Spirit and deep conviction?
Obviously, it is the norm for the elect to hear the message. Paul knows the Thessalonians are loved by God and chosen by him (5a) because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.
Some hear the gospel but it makes no difference. Mere hearing guarantees nothing. It is basic, though. All God's elect hear the gospel - may be through you or me. Have you heard?
A mother says “tidy your room”. The child does nothing. He hears but does not respond. Similarly, it is only the elect who know the word coming with power, the Spirit and deep conviction. It may not come like that at first but it will.
The elect not only hear the call to repent and believe but are able to do so. Power is vital for conversion. This is why one person leaves church untouched while another is converted.
The Spirit makes the difference. The one who breathed out God's Word, when it is preached, takes it and uses it to transform those God has chosen.
The deep conviction could be the preacher's. Preachers must be deeply convinced and convincing. What happens when someone is converted is that they also become deeply convinced of the gospel.
Are you aware of the gospel's transforming power? Of the Spirit in your life? Are you deeply convinced? You have reason to believe God loves you and has chosen you.
2. Has it come to me so that I imitate believers and Christ, welcome the message with Holy Spirit joy and have a faith that is known?
Paul not only preached to the Thessalonians, he says You know how we lived among you or your sake. It was only for a short time but it had an impact. Verses 6-8 say more of how Paul knew God loved them and had chosen them.
He says You became imitators of us and of the Lord. The people saw how Paul lived and began to imitate him. He himself was imitating Christ so they were really imitators of Paul and Christ. Another mark of one loved and chosen by God is that he begins to imitate Christ and his followers. He wants to live as a Christian and, to some extent, like Christ.
Paul also observes how in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. Acts 17 reveals the strong early opposition. Paul recalls how despite this, they welcomed the message with Spirit given joy. So, after a more general reference to the Spirit and his transforming power, Paul also speaks of how he gives joy to genuine converts, a happiness independent of circumstances, another mark of the elect. By way of example, recall Latimer's dying words, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England as I trust shall never be put out.”
Verses 7 and 8 are specific to the Thessalonians but it points to the tendency of conversion. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia - your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it …. Sometimes the faith a person shows is quite striking. What an impact the gospel has, say, when someone turns from paganism to the truth and quite suddenly. In some cases everyone knows, it seems. Whenever anyone is converted, someone will know. Real faith cannot be hidden long. Sometimes, many know of it. Do people know about your faith? It is another evidence pointing to God's love and election.
3. Has it come to me so that I have turned from idols to serve the living and true God and wait for his Son my Saviour to come from heaven and rescue me?
The final set of criteria, negative and positive (verses 9 and 10) say For they themselves (the people who spoke of the Thessalonians' faith) report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols. Many of the converted were people who daily worshipped pagan idols. Others were Jews who unknowingly worshipped demons. In each case there was a turning away from idols, another characteristic of people God really loves and has chosen.
The positive side is that they began to serve the living and true God. This is what happened in Thessalonica so long ago and what has happened to us if we are truly loved by God and chosen by him. We turned from dead, false idols to serve the living and true God from then on. Have you turned from idols to serve God? Are you serving him today? You have reason to believe God loves you and has chosen you.
The very last verse adds and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead - Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. There are several things there. Jesus is God's Son; he died and rose; he rescues from the coming wrath; he is now in heaven; he will return before the day of wrath. His servants, all those loved by the true and living God and chosen by him, wait for Christ's return. You hear of people waiting to be rescued. It is very hard, even when you know someone will come, to be patient and hold on until they arrive but that is what Christians do. Are you waiting for Christ's return? You have another reason to believe God loves you and has chosen you.