“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” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 ESV).
Wouldn’t it have been great to receive a letter from the apostle Paul? And wouldn’t it have been wonderful to read that he constantly was mentioning us in his prayers, remembering our faith, hope and love and how these were evident in our lives. This was a privilege that the Christian in Thessalonica had – they received not one but two letters from Paul.
They knew Paul, although it seems to have been a fairly brief acquaintance. Paul and Silas arrived in Thessalonica after leaving Philippi (Acts 17:1). In Philippi they had been beaten with rods before being thrown into the inner prison (Acts 16:22-24). They undoubtedly were tired and sore when they arrived in Thessalonica, but they immediately began to proclaim the good news of Jesus in the Jewish synagogue.
For three weeks Paul was able to teach about the Messiah at the Sabbath meeting, conclusively showing from the Old Testament that Jesus was the promised Messiah. “And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women” (Acts 17:4 ESV).
But there was another result, as well. “But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd…And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea…” (Acts 17:5-10 ESV). Paul and Silas were only able to stay in Thessalonica for a few weeks but they left behind what seems to be a strong, dedicated, growing group of Christians.
Sometimes we worry about the reaction new Christians will have when there is opposition. The things that happened to Paul and Silas favorably impressed these new Christians. Paul wrote to them: “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” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 ESV).
Far from discouraging these Christians, this encouraged them to do what Paul was doing, which also brought them trouble but did not dampen their joy. In this way they became an example to Christians throughout the area. Undoubtedly, part of this example was in their faithfulness despite their persecution. But there is more.
“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” (1 Thessalonians 1:8 ESV). They followed in the steps of Paul by making sure the word of the Lord was taught throughout the area where they lived. They were so well known for this that Paul did not need to commend them to others – their lives already had!
Sometimes we get discouraged by what goes on around us and how people treat us. Sometimes we may be tempted to give up. When this happens, look to the Christians in Thessalonica – despite the hardships they went through, they were an example to everyone of faithfulness, endurance, and declaring God’s word. May that also be said of us!
Readings for next week:
21 November – 1 Timothy 1-2
22 November – 1 Timothy 3-4
23 November – 1 Timothy 5-6
24 November – Titus 1
25 November – Titus 2-3