Studies in I Thessalonians (part 6)

Tom Bentley

Before proceeding to verse 6, allow a reflection on verse 5. The "assurance" of which the apostle speaks, is not referring to the presence of the Lord with the preachers or anything of that nature, rather it is the personal conviction and unfaltering confidence on the part of the preachers that as they preach God is saving souls. So then verse 5 relates to the Preachers whereas verse 6 pertains to the People. Retain this for further reference.

Verse 6 "And ye became followers"- mimetes is from mimeomai ‘to imitate’ and that from mimos ‘mimic’ or ‘actor.’ These Thessalonians became imitators not of their own volition, for the word ‘became’ is in the passive, but by an act that was wrought by a power outside of themselves. This reflection of the servants and of the Saviour in the lives of these new converts was accomplished by having received the Word of God and by fulfilling the counsels of God therein revealed. The preachers themselves had done this in their own experience, and in the most perfect sense it was seen in the Lord Jesus who received the same Word of God without reserve and with full resolve in its accomplishment.

The word ‘received’ (dexamenoi) is used for the reception of a guest (cf Luke 10:8,10; Heb. 11:31) hence it conveys the thought of extending a welcome.’ But in doing so it involved the saints in severe affliction and tribulation (thlipsei, ‘pressure’ used in 3:3,7). That this may be clearly understood, it is proper to attribute to the expression a concessive concept which interprets the participle aright and indicates then, the welcome extended to the Word was not merely at their conversion, though that was true, but in their ongoing spiritual development. Paul knew that in their conversion the fires of affliction would be fanned by the enemies of the Gospel (See Acts 17:6) which he enters into ever so feelingly in chapter 3. That persecution would also involve alienation, causing division within the family framework is readily understood, as anyone who has served in a strongly heathen orientated land has found. However, the consolations of God are never small, for they experienced a joy which the Holy Spirit inspired and imparted, thus stimulating their progress in spiritual experience. There was fruit already manifest in their lives which the Holy Spirit graciously produced.

Verse 7 "So that ye were ensamples" - The Imitators became imitated and that extensively in ‘Macedonia and Achaia.’ The plural ‘ye’ (humas) embraces all in the assembly at Thessalonica. Note the strong form of the verb ‘ginomai’, "to become" denoting something decisively and actively accomplished by them. "Ensamples" is from tupork the singular form of "example," which means ‘to strike,’ and so the mark of a blow, as in John 20:25. The figure resulting from this operation image as in Acts 7:43, or the mold used in Rom. 6:17, to quote some mentions, is used of the Apostles (Phil. 3:17; 2 Thes. 3:9).

Timothy and Titus are exhorted respectively to be typical expressions of truth (1 Tim. 4:12; Titus 2:7) and so are elders (1 Peter 5:3). But only here is a collective company of saints thus identified, which is truly complimentary. "To all that believe" translates pasin tois pisteuousin, but note the definite article before the verb in order to form a substantive; so it can be translated, "to all believers" or "to all the believing ones." What a range unfolds before our eyes while at the same time noting how specific the Apostle is as he appends the qualifying phrases in the locative case. This heightens his understanding of the actual nature of the two Provinces at that time which were separate entities. Later their status would change due to a reformation of their territory.

Verse 8 "For from you sounded out the word of the Lord" - To collect the foregoing development of Paul’s thought, it would be helpful to summarize it in this way:

Verse 5 The Word TO them - v. 6 The Word IN them - v. 7 The Word THROUGH them - v. 8 The Word FROM them. Note specifically the use of the verb ‘to be’ and its particular form: v. 5 "our gospel ‘became’ unto you"; "what manner of men we ‘became’ among you" v. 6 "And ye ‘became’ followers" v. 7 "ye ‘became’ ensamples."

The reverberations encircling these provinces informing multitudes of the dramatic power of the Gospel in the lives of the Thessalonians is graphically conveyed by the word Paul uses:

‘sounded,’ which denotes a loud, unmistakable proclamation which is the root of our English word ‘echo.’ Here is a vivid word which, in its present tense, denotes the continuing activity of the reverberating report. The Thessalonians not only became models of the truth (v. 7), but also messengers, and so ought we.

"The word of the Lord" is a most authoritative description of the Gospel, denoting not so much the message about Him, though that is included, but affirming that the message came from Him. Cf. 2:13 for a similar phrase, ‘the word of God.’ Thessalonica as a city had many advantages which favored this rapid spread of the news. Could it be that it had reached even the capital itself? In Acts 18:2 while in Corinth, from where this epistle was written, Paul received Aquila and Priscilla from Rome? It is probable they also brought word, encouraging the apostle with the effectuality of his Macedonian triumphs. "Your faith to God-ward" emphasizes the direction of their ongoing faith. It was God at the beginning and it is God still. Actually the case denotes limitation, that is, God and no one else. And also that it is constantly moving face to face with God, as Abraham (See Rom. 4:20-21).