Saturday, 8 July 2017
For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, 1 Thessalonians 2:14
Paul just spoke of the favorable reception of the gospel message by those in Thessalonica, receiving it as the word of God. In that reception, they then spiritually joined together with the church in a sobering way. He explains this beginning with, “For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus.” Paul is showing that there is a spiritual bond which has arisen between these Gentiles and those Jews who first received the gospel in Judea and who established churches there.
However, he is careful to note that they are being compared to the churches in Judea which are “in Christ Jesus.” The word “church” in Greek is ekklésia. It simply means an assembly or a congregation. To a Greek who had never heard of Jesus, it wouldn’t carry the meaning of “church” at all. And so for Paul to say ekklésia, but to not include the term “in Christ Jesus,” could mean pretty much any assembly in Judea, even a synagogue.
He is specific with his words to ensure that those in Thessalonica understand that their actions imitate the actions of the Christian churches of Judea. He then next explains what that imitation is by saying, “For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans.”
The book of Acts precisely details the ill treatment of the Jews who received Christ Jesus. They were made to suffer in various ways because of this newly found faith. Even Paul persecuted the churches, probably more than anyone else. It is this persecution by one’s own countrymen that Paul highlights as a bond of imitation between the church in Thessalonica and that in Judea.
The word he uses to describe the countrymen of those in Thessalonica is sumphuletés. It is a word used only this once in the Bible, and it indicates “of the same tribe.” Those who were close and of the same stock persecuted them in the same manner as the Jews who followed Christ were of the same stock as those by whom they were persecuted.
But there was an underlying truth which is often seen in the book of Acts. It was originally the Jews of the surrounding areas who spurred the Gentiles on to persecuting their own countrymen. In other words, the persecution normally originally stemmed from the Jews because of their hatred of the message of Christ. They would rile up the Gentiles to persecute their own countrymen, just as they themselves did to their own countrymen in Judea.
Life application: It is often the case that the most vehement resistance which Christians face, either directly or indirectly, comes from one’s own closest relatives. If you are facing this type of hatred, or even persecution, remember that it has been going on since the beginning of the church. Pray for them, don’t be contentious with them, and know that you are in the company of 2000 years worth of saints who have done likewise. It is to be an expected part of the life of faithful believers in Christ Jesus.
Heavenly Father, for those of us who have called on Christ Jesus as Lord, there are some who have family and close kinsmen who are actually hateful of their faith. In some instances, they are even persecuted – verbally or worse – simply because of a love of Jesus. Give those facing such trials the wisdom to handle things well, and to not lose their own testimony, but to stand firm on their faith while demonstrating patient love and kindness. Help each of us in this. Amen.