WHAT LESSONS CAN WE LEARN FROM THE CHURCH IN THESSALONICA?
The Lord’s church in the city of Thessalonica began when Paul and Silas preached there (Acts 17). Later it was blessed to receive two inspired letters from Paul (1 and 2 Thessalonians). From the message of those two epistles, we learn some great lessons. I am going to highlight briefly some of those, and I encourage you to study them on your own – dig deeper for valuable instruction.
√ People remember us. Good, bad, or ugly, they do not forget what they see in us. “. . . remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope . . .” (1 Thessalonians 1:2,3).
√ A good example is a powerful influence on other Christians. “So that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe” (1 Thessalonians 1:7). From the context, what do we learn were some of the ways in which the saints in Thessalonica had been good examples?
√ Every congregation needs to be evangelistic minded. “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth . . .” (1 Thessalonians 1:8). This was a new local church, but apparently the saints got involved in spreading the gospel without delay after they were converted!
√ It is not enough to cease doing the wrong things. We also must begin to do (and continue doing) the right things. “. . . how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9).
√ Although there is a sense in which we are “waiting” for Jesus to come again (“and to wait for His Son from heaven,” 1 Thessalonians 1:10), the church in Thessalonica was working while it waited. Should we not do the same, working while it is still day? (John 9:4).
√ The church in Thessalonica needed to be nurtured in order to mature properly. All Christians need to be established, comforted, and encouraged. “. . . we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children . . . and sent Timothy . . . to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith . . . Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 2:11; 3:2; 5:11). These thoughts do not imply that we ought to “baby” people, but rather we should pay attention to what they need for their spiritual development.
√ In a world filled with hatred and many folks who, truthfully, are not easy to love, it is possible for you and me to be loving people. In fact, we must be such people! “But concerning brotherly love . . . you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren . . . But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:9,10).
√ It is possible for saints to continue to grow in love and in other traits (look at the last passage above, 1 Thessalonians 4:10). God wants us to continue to grow! The church in Thessalonica was a growing congregation. “. . . your faith grows exceedingly , and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
√ While we focus on carrying the gospel to lost people, the spiritual needs of Christians must be met also. Sometimes that can be a time-consuming, energy-draining, challenging task. It requires discernment to recognize just who needs what. “. . . warn those who are unruly, comfort the faint-hearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
√ There is always the potential for a congregation to be deceived, be pulled away from the truth, and suffer shipwreck. No congregation is exempt from such a threat. That danger existed in Thessalonica, even though the members had grown in faith and love. “. . . we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter . . . Let no one deceive you by any means . . .” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).
√ Christians need to be reminded of what they have already heard and learned. We sometimes must hear things more than once before they sink in (and hearing it twice is no guarantee!). “Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?” (2 Thessalonians 2:5).
√ It is pure fantasy for one to imagine that a congregation can exist and avoid totally the development of any disorderly activity. “For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner . . .” (2 Thessalonians 3:11).
√ Sometimes exhortations and warnings are not enough. “. . . warn those who are unruly . . .” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Some situations develop to the point that stronger action must be taken for the good of the sinning person(s) and the entire congregation. “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly . . . And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed” (2 Thessalonians 3:6,14).
√ Thessalonica was located in Macedonia. As one of “the churches of Macedonia” which are mentioned in 2 Corinthians 8:1-3, the Thessalonian congregation not only was involved actively in evangelism, but in benevolence as well. This clearly shows that a local church can do both. And, the saints did at least part of it while they were in “deep poverty” (2 Corinthians 8:2). Think about it.
— Roger D. Campbell