2016-05-29 - 1 Thessalonians Study
Letters to a Young Church ~ Who are the Models?
As proof of the reality of the Lord’s work in the lives of the Thessalonians, Paul gives an example of changed behavior, their imitation of the lives of others. Their work, labor and endurance did not come out of thin air, but was the product of their following the examples that they observed, and the empowering work of the Holy Spirit within them.
It’s interesting to note that Paul first points out that the walk of the Thessalonian’s was modeled after himself, Silvanus and Timothy - and then says that they imitated the Lord. Paul of-ten stresses the importance of following Christian examples, including himself.
“I urge you, then, be imitators of me.”...“Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong” (1 Corinthians 4:16; Galatians 4:12).
Here, we may want to draw the conclusion that it was with intent that He put himself and the others ahead of the Lord. It is obvious that Paul based his life on the example of Christ.
“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
But it seems that it is easier to model one’s life after someone we had observed directly, as opposed to someone about whom we have been taught. For the Thessalonians, they had observed Paul and the others in action, they had been taught of Christ but most likely had never observed Him first-hand. For us, the example is often our follow believers. For them, the model is us.
Nevertheless, the Thessalonians are praised for imitating Christ, as well. It may be easier to follow men, but they are still men, and so the ultimate example, the ultimate role model is to be Christ.
“ … But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” “… A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
Since we call ourselves Christians, then it is mandatory that we pattern our lives after Christ. But finally, the real issue, the real commendation comes to the Thessalonians not just because they imitated those whom they should, but that they strove to walk in a worthy manner regardless of their circumstances. It is one thing to strive to follow after an example when there is no cost, to commit to a way of life when it is comfortable. It is entirely a different matter, to walk after Christ in the midst of trials. They had been willing to be obedient, though they paid the price for their testimony. They obeyed in spite of severe suffering.
The word here is thlipsis, which refers to tribulation. The quality of their walk was not tied to their circumstances. The Christian life is to be lived in such a way that it is not overcome by the “realities” of life.
“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:2–5).
The reason that they were able to not only receive God’s Word, and to imitate the examples of the three missionaries in spite of their circumstances, was because they were given joy, as a work of the Holy Spirit. Their behavior, which could only be deemed irrational by a fallen world, that is holding to beliefs that could lead to persecution was itself proof of the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and the ultimate confirmation of their having been chosen by God to salvation.
To be continued.
All verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise noted.