Saturday, August 09, 2014

An echo of God - 1st Thessalonians 1:6-10

"You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come." (1 Thessalonians 1:6-10)
Paul has praise for the Thessalonians response to the word of God. He says they became imitators, literally "mimics", of both Paul himself and of the Lord. Here I believe that he is referring to the Lord in human flesh, as He lived among us during His time on this Earth. The Thessalonians not only believe the Gospel in their minds but also produced it in their behavior towards God and towards one another. They became imitators of Paul in his faith and mimicked our Lord in His behavior.

Paul did  not come preaching some new philosophy or some new speculation of thought to be believed, rather, as his disciple Clement of Rome said, he "taught righteousness to the whole world." (Clement to the Corinthians, Chapter 5) Paul's message was not one that could simply be heard and believed, rather it required a response; it required a whole response from the whole person; body, soul, mind, and heart. In this way the new converts at Thessalonica became mimics of Paul and our Lord in thought and action; loving God and loving each other. In doing so, they became the pattern for other believers in their response to the gospel as well. They became the "die that was cast", the model and the mold, for others who would imitate them in their own belief and obedience.

Paul says that, from them, the word of God has "sounded forth". This Greek word means to "echo forth." God send His word into their hearts and that word echoed forth from them in the changed lives and patterns of behaviors that those around them, even the unbelievers, could see and understand, and in seeing their new outward expressions, they too came to understand the word that had so drastically changed them.

So what was the echo of the Word of God that others saw and that was reported everywhere? First, they received and welcomed with open arms those who came to bring them the words of life. Paul and his fellow workers became precious to them and their love for them was evident to all. Secondly, there was a palpable change in their lives in that they turned from the things those around them worshiped to worship the one true God. They were no longer following the patterns of this world but following the true and living God. Finally, they demonstrated patience and hope in this life knowing that one day Jesus would return to take them home to live forever with Him. This world was not their home and thus they were not bound by its trials and tribulations. Though they suffered, they suffered in hope knowing whose they were and where their real security lay. Though things did not always go their way, they had patience knowing that someone was always watching over them and would turn all things together for good in their lives. Even in triumph and success, they understood that the this world was temporary and preferred the praise of God to the praise of men. This is the true patter of conversion, the true result of one who has been touched by the Word of Truth. May it also be our response.

David Robison

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