Follow a Worthy Example

By Brendan Pratt
The church of Thessalonica was a church worth celebrating. It was a church these brothers and sisters were proud to be part of, but it was a church that obeyed the will of God in their lives. Though Paul was encouraged by them, they still had things to learn which is part of the reason Paul seems to write to these believers. At the beginning of this letter, Paul is still a model to them for what it looks like to live like Jesus.

The Christian is a Person of Prayer

Paul writes to them, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers,” (1 Thessalonians 1:2, ESV). It has been said before that prayer to a Christian is like oxygen to a human being. Prayer is to be part of the life of the believer, and Paul is modeling that by praying for them. He prays for them often and says he is constantly mentioning them in his prayers. They are on his mind often, and he is thankful for them. It shows us an example to pray for our fellow believers not just every once in a while but often. It is part of the gospel believers share that we love one another enough to pray for one another.
“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 1:3, ESV)
There are three details Paul mentions about his remembrance of them.

  1. Their work of faith
  2. Their labor of love
  3. Their steadfast hope in Jesus

If these three qualities were evident in the life of churches today, there would be stronger churches in the world. Christian prayer, by contrast, is powerful in that it is directed to a powerful God. He lays out several truths in this section saying he knows God has chosen them because of the powerful transformation that had taken place in their life. The gospel he preached came to them with the power of the Holy Spirit and conviction. There is evidence of the outward transformation that took place because of the inward transformation that happened in their heart. “Faith,” “love,” and “hope” are not some invisible qualities that bear no relationship to the real world. They are vibrant realities that express themselves visibly. What did this do in the church of Thessalonica?

Their Faith was Known Everywhere

8 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
The church of Thessalonica was sharing their faith with those around them. Keep in mind that they were facing persecution because of their beliefs, but this still did not stop them from sharing the good news of Jesus. People not just in their local context, but across the globe were hearing of the obedience of the Thessalonians. Sure, this could be an exaggeration and not everyone heard, but it seems that people not close to Thessalonica were hearing about their obedience. It is the heart of Christian discipleship that the beginner imitate the teacher. In the case of Thessalonica, they imitate Jesus and the Pauline team and thus provide a model for other Christians. Nevertheless, it is not simply the Christian ethic that the Thessalonians determined to follow. They also imitated that which evangelistic Christians like Paul, Silas, and Timothy were doing. They were determined to follow Jesus, and their lives showed the radical gospel transformation that took place in their life.

What Does This Mean For Us?

I think Christians would claim that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I think we would confess that God is unchanging. I think we would claim that we have the Holy Spirit living within us. I wonder if we live like we believe those truths. I think reading about the church in Thessalonica believed these truths and their lives reflected it. I think we can learn from the believers in Thessalonica and take God at His Word and live like it.