I know people who have greatly suffered for their faith in Jesus. From social isolation to physical persecution, the opposition they experience is extreme. I look to these people as examples. They inspire me to live self-sacrificially for Jesus. The Thessalonian church of the first-century AD was this type of example.
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:1–16. Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 2:13–16:
“And because of this we also give thanks to God constantly, that when you received God’s word that you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God, which also is at work in you who believe. For you became imitators, brothers, of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus, because you also suffered the same things at the hands of your own people, just as they themselves did also at the hands of the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and who persecuted us, and who are not pleasing to God and are opposed to all people, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles in order that they may be saved, so that they always fill up their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the end” (LEB).
When Paul and his colleagues, Timothy and Silas (also called Silvanus) wrote to the Thessalonian church, they focused on the church’s great endurance (compare 1 Thessalonians 1:6–8). Paul and his colleagues had themselves experienced persecution while in Thessalonica (Acts 17:4–10), but this did not cause those who believed in Jesus to abandon their faith. Instead, in the midst of great adversity, they latched onto faith more strongly.
Paul regularly experienced persecution when telling people about Jesus. He especially experienced opposition from his fellow Jews, like the church in Judaea did (see 1 Corinthians 11:24–25). The church in Judea proclaimed the gospel of Jesus, which meant a proclamation of salvation from sin because of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. This upset the Jewish religious establishment, which traditionally enforced regulations and laws—not grace and freedom. The upset of these regulations meant an upset of their way of life and power (compare Matthew 23).
It is with this in mind that Paul makes his remarks about “the Jews” in 1Thessalonians 2:14–16. Paul is explaining that the situation at Thessalonica is not unique and that God ultimately will deal with those who oppose his plan. The Thessalonian situation resembles what the global church is experiencing.
Persecution is to be expected for Christians (see Hebrews 11:36–40). It is not a reason to despair, but instead an opportunity to see God glorified through our lives (see 1 Peter 2:20–21).
The Thessalonian believers had faith against all odds because they knew the power of the goods news of Jesus to save. They knew that Jesus had suffered and died for them, and thus that they should be willing to do anything for him. This is how they endured.
Who are some faithful Christians, who have suffered for their faith, that are examples for you? What are some risks, for the sake of the gospel, that Jesus is asking you to take?
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