By Mike Willis
The church at Thessalonica manifested such good qualities that Paul held them up as an example. He said that they were “ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia” (1 Thess. 1:7). What were the attributes of that church that made them an example to others and caused Paul to commend them?
They Received the Word of God
The church at Thessalonica received what Paul preached as if it were the words of God instead of the words of men. Paul said that they “received the word of God which ye heard of us, … not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thess. 2:13). They learned that rejecting the words of an inspired apostle is the same as rejecting the words of Jesus. “He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 4:8).
These saints understood that the Lord had committed the word of reconciliation to the apostles and, therefore, they were ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-21). They received the ambassadors of Christ and by so doing also received Christ.
Their reception of the word of God caused a change in their lives. They “turned unto God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven” (1 Thess. 1:9-10). Would to God that men everywhere had the same willingness to receive the word of God as did these saints in Thessalonica.
They Persevered in the Face of Affliction
The establishment of the church in Thessalonica was accompanied by fierce resistance. Luke tells us that Paul and Silas taught in the synagogue for three Sabbaths, resulting in the con-version of “a great multitude” of devout Greeks (God-fearers) and quite a few chief women. The Jews became jealous and stirred up a riot against the Christians. They involved the local authorities in their assaults (Acts 17:1-9). After this riot, Paul and Silas left Thessalonica.
When he wrote his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul took note that they had “received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost” (1 Thess. 1:6). Soon after leaving Thessalonica, Paul sent Timothy to see how the brethren were surviving. He was concerned that the persecutions would cause some to depart from the faith, even though he had told them beforehand that these troubles would come (I Thess. 3:3-4). Timothy brought back the good news that the brethren were maintaining their faith in God in spite of their afflictions (I Thess. 3:6-8).
Because of their faithfulness in the face of persecution, this church was an example to others. “For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews” (I Thess. 2:14). Lesser saints would have wilted under the pressure, but not the good saints in Thessalonica. No wonder they were an example to others.
They Loved Each Other
When Paul exhorted them to certain forms of conduct, there were some things they did not need to be taught, because they were already known for practicing them. One of them is their brotherly love toward each other. Paul said, “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more” (I Thess. 4:9-10).
One of the marks that men are children of God is their love for one another. Jesus told his disciples just before the crucifixion, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if he have love one to another” (John 13:34-35).
This brotherly love showed itself in the actions described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 longsuffering, kindness, not en-vying one another, not vaunting oneself, not being puffed up, not behaving unseemly, not seeking one’s own, not being easily provoked, thinking no evil, not rejoicing in iniquity but in the truth, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things, and never failing. No doubt these brethren rejoiced with those who rejoiced and wept with those who were wept (Rom. 12:15).
They Sounded Out the Gospel to Others
Another reason the church at Thessalonica was commended is that they were a missionary church. They were not content to build their building in the nicest part of town, pave their parking lot, and install padded pews. They were interested in the souls of men. “For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak anything” (1 Thess. 1:7-8).
Far too many congregations lack vision in spreading the gospel. Perhaps some become content just to “keep house” for the Lord. In some local congregations, a subtle death is occurring. Churches that are not baptizing new members are slowly becoming older in age. Here is the scenario that will occur for such churches. There will be fewer children present. As the church grows older and its members begin dying, a group of elderly Christians will be left. As one by one they go down the valley of the shadow of death, the church will dwindle until only a handful is left. A church that is not converting people needs to address why this is occurring and correct its problems.
Other churches may be doing very well in their own personal development but lack vision in taking the gospel to others. The numerous appeals that others send for support are ignored. Money can always be found to work on their building, but none is generally available to provide support for a preacher working in some hard place to get the church established. No wonder the church at Thessalonica was and is such an example to others. They wanted to support gospel preaching and send out preachers to other parts of their state. Does the church of which you are a member have this vision?
Let’s learn from the example of the church at Thessalonica to improve our own service to the Lord. Perhaps the Lord will speak such commendable words about us on judgment day as Paul wrote about the church at Thessalonica.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 10 p. 2
April May 1, 1997