"We are thanking God always concerning you all, making mention of you in our
prayers, unintermittingly remembering your work of faith and toil of love and endurance of
expectation of our Lord Jesus Christ, in front of our God and Father, having perceived,
brethren beloved by God, your choice, for the evangel of our God did not come to
you in word only, but in power also, and in holy spirit and much assurance, according as
you are aware. Such as this we became among you because of you. And you became imitators
of us and of the Lord, receiving the Word in much affliction with joy of holy spirit,
so that you become models to all the believers...For from you has been sounded
forth the Word of the Lord...in every place your faith toward God has come out."
To "IMITATE," according to the definition given
in the Keyword Concordance of the New Testament Concordant Version, is to attempt the
same thing in the same manner. Using this interpretation, the contents of the verses
quoted above (1 Thess. 1:6-8) can be arranged in a simple chart, as follows:
THE SAME THING: RECEIVING THE WORD
Paul had perceived that the Thessalonians
had been chosen by God; this was evident from their work of faith, their toil of love, and
their endurance of expectation. For they had received the Word (as he himself had done
before them) not only in much affliction, but with joy of holy spirit. Here we, too, have
already started to imitate Paul, "on hearing the Word of truth, the evangel of our
salvation," and "on believing" in Christ Jesus (Eph.1:13).
|THE SAME THING
(the same with us as with Paul)
|THE SAME MANNER
|Receiving the Word
||In much affliction with
Joy of the holy spirit
||The Word is sounded forth.
The faith has come out.
THE SAME MANNER:
IN AFFLICTION, WITH SPIRITUAL JOY
We see from this heading that the
"same manner" is restricted to two points: (1) in much affliction, (2) with joy
of the holy spirit. No reference is made to the individual's state of mind, the length of
time involved, nor the special occasion when this happened. In 1 Thessalonians 1:6 the
"same manner" definitely allows for another time another place, another set
In the Greek, the tense of the three verbs (receiving,
hearing, believing) is the Indefinite (or Aorist). This tells us that no single act is in
view here, but rather a fact or timeless truth. Our believing in Christ Jesus is not a
mere act in the past which we may repudiate or denounce when we change our mind. Hearing
the Word and receiving it is no sham belief, but rather a fact valid for all time, for
"the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the holy spirit which is
being given to us." Ever since we first believed, we have experienced not only
affliction, but also endurance, testedness, and expectation. Because of the joy
of the holy spirit in us, "we may be glorying in expectation of the glory of God...we
may be glorying also in affliction" (Rom.5:2-5).
THE SAME THING: BECOME MODELS
When Paul writes to the Thessalonians,
"You become models to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia," it is
evident that their task was restricted to a certain time, a certain place, and a certain
set of circumstances. These were not identical with Paul's, nor are they with
ours. In a country comprising almost all the territory of today's Greece, the Thessalonian
believers had become models to all their brethren! Is this not amazing? Perhaps we are
inclined to say that they had a better chance than we have today, since we are not the
only believers in our town or state. But we should not forget Paul's service elsewhere in
Greece, such as in Philippi, Athens, and especially Corinth where he stayed one year and
six months (Acts 18:11). Considering the circumstances, we might say that the
Thessalonians had no better chance to become models to all the saints in Greece, than we
have to attempt the same thing in our own vicinity.
THE SAME MANNER:
THE WORD HERALDED, THEIR FAITH MANIFESTED
This heading shows that "becoming
models" is not a matter of quantity (models for many), but rather of quality, in that
the Word of the Lord is sounded forth and our faith toward God comes out. Even though the
Thessalonians were model missionaries for Christ in the face of furious persecution, Paul
reminds them that "we ought to be thanking God always...and pray...that
the Word of the Lord may race and be glorified" (2 Thess.2:13,3:1). For "God
parts to each the measure of faith" (Rom.12:3) which may come out into the open to be
manifested to many others or just a few, and He is also the One Who makes the Word grow,
independent of the amount of effort we may put forth in the planting and irrigating (1
Cor.3:6). Hence there can be no boasting, even if we are successful in heralding the Word
and standing by it, opportunely as well as inopportunely. When we fail in our attempt, may
God graciously grant us not to become disappointed nor to love the current eon, but rather
His advent, as an ideal soldier of Christ Jesus is supposed to do (2 Tim.4:2,5).
RESPECTABLY, ORDERLY, SYSTEMATICALLY
There are no definite rules and regulations
for the soldier of Christ Jesus which would cover every phase of life and any conceivable
action. While we are in this body of our humiliation, we are facing minor and major
choices every day. There are simple ones, such as, at what time we should get up in the
morning, what we will do first when we start on our daily job, what we will eat for lunch,
how we will spend the evening, whether to accept an invitation to visit friends, or,
instead, to study a topic of special interest in this magazine. All of these choices are
relatively simple. But there are others, more difficult, such as whether to go to college
or not, whether to plan for marriage immediately, or if it would be better to wait another
year, whether to leave town and look for another job elsewhere, or stay in the city and
spend forty hours a week in a systematic exploration of all the job opportunities in the
Some of us are apt to approach these problems in a somewhat
haphazard manner. However, even if we are pressed for time, we should follow Paul's
administrative advice, "Let all occur respectably and in order!" (1 Cor.14:40).
All our choices should be in accord with our status as beloved children of God (Eph.5:1),
Who has chosen us.
HAVING PERCEIVED YOUR CHOICE [BY HIM]
When our apprehensions were no longer
blinded by the god of this eon, and the illumination of the evangel of the glory of
Christ, the Image of the invisible God, began to shine in our hearts, we had no
choice in this matter but to accept this gracious gift, the knowledge of the glory of God
in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor.4:3-6).
We did not choose Him, for "not one is
seeking out God" (Rom.3:11); "He chooses us in Him before the disruption of the
world" (Eph.1:4), before we ever existed! It is because of His vast love with which
He loves us first, that we are saved in grace and for grace, through faith, which is not
out of us, but rather His approach offering in order to gain our affection
(Eph.2:4,8,9; 1 John 4:19).
In the Concordant Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 1:4 we
read: "As Paul reflects upon the vision which sent him there (Acts 16:9) and the
mighty power of the preaching, and their subsequent service and sufferings, he is
convinced that God has chosen them."
Hence the apostle could write to the Thessalonians,
"We are thanking God always concerning you all... having perceived...your choice [by
Him]." Since God made this vital choice for us, to our own good, how shall He not
also bestow on us an ever growing measure of insight, discernment, and perspicacity, so as
to see more and more clearly through the ramifications of a complex situation, so as to
choose wisely between standing still or moving on, going right or going left, in the face
of the various circumstances which make up a certain situation?
There is a certain parallel between the problem under
consideration, and the basic truth dealt with in Romans 8:32,35: "Surely, He Who
spares not His own Son, but gives Him up for us all, how shall He not, together with Him,
also, be graciously granting us all? What shall be separating us from the love of God in
Christ Jesus? Affliction, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness,
or danger, or sword?"
We recall the Lord's words to His disciples shortly before
He was arrested, "In the world you have affliction. But courage! I have conquered the
world." (John 16:33). Hence, even if we make a choice which is seemingly wrong,
resulting in a chain of affliction and distress, or danger, or something else, this will
never separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, Who has conquered the world.
"Nay, in all these we are more than conquering through Him Who loves us"
As imitators of Paul and of the Lord, we are not expected
to accomplish the same thing in the same manner, but simply to strenuously attempt
to do so, always endeavoring to achieve as much as God may grant us.
WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
When we were young believers and still in
our teens, we did not yet know the correct definition of "to imitate" (i.e.,
to attempt the same thing in the same manner). In those days we honestly tried to develop
a set of rules governing our behavior and deportment, by asking ourselves the simple
question, "What would Jesus do? "How would He react in the
present situation when I do not know what to do, how to decide, what to answer? It was an
earnest endeavor to be as gentle as Jesus, and at the same time, to heed the admonition of
the elders. They believed that they had patterned their lives after His, and claimed to
know the answer to any problem or questions which might arise in a teenager's life.
Disregarding their advice was considered equivalent to causing sorrow to Jesus, for it was
taken for granted that the elders knew what He would have done under the circumstances.
Their rigid rules served to perpetuate the traditions of the Christian fathers, both in
doctrine and deportment.
But no genuine attempt was ever made to actually imitate
the Lord Jesus in the performance of His duties, and to discharge them in the
same manner as He did. In those days, we were more interested in our
problems and difficulties, and we tried to project the personality of the Lord Jesus (as we
recognized it) on our own situation, thus hoping to develop for ourselves a suitable
pattern of behavior which would not offend the elders. This was far from walking in His
steps and living for righteousness, of which Peter writes in his first epistle (2:21) to
Jewish expatriates in Asia Minor:
"For for this were you called, seeing that Christ also
suffered for your sakes, leaving you a copy, that you should be following up in the
footprints of Him Who does no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth, Who, being
reviled, reviled not again, suffering, threatened not, yet gave it over to Him Who is
judging justly, Who Himself carries up our sins in His body on to the tree, that, coming
away from sins, we should be living for righteousness; by Whose welt you were
For this passage, the following exegesis is offered by the
"Following in the footprints left by our Lord while He
was on earth is often taken as the ideal of human deportment for believers in Christ. And
so it is--for the Circumcision, to whom Peter writes. His path may be copied by them,
for they find themselves in similar circumstances and under identical conditions. Not so
with the nations in this economy of God's grace. In preparing Paul for his part as the
channel through which the truth for today was to be revealed, God kept him from contact
with Christ during our Lord's life on earth, both before and after His resurrection. It
was only after His ascension into glory that He called Saul, and changed his name to Paul,
and made him the medium for the special truth which is in force during the apostasy of
"Saul's call might have occurred long before, but it
was deliberately deferred so as to conform to the truth with which he was entrusted. He,
and we, know Christ only as ascended and glorified. If we were connected
with His earthly life, then we, like the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mark 7:26) could get
nothing more than a few crumbs from Israel's board. Christ does not act in glory as He
acted on earth. Now He makes no distinction between Jew and gentile, but lavishes
unutterably greater grace on both than was possible when He was the Servant of the
"The key to conduct which pleases God is to copy His
present attitude toward us in our relations with our fellow men. It is not reasonable to
follow in His steps when He came only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and kept
Himself from contact with the outside nations. His walk in the land is no model for our
conduct outside the land. Hence we are exhorted to be imitators of Paul, as he is of
Christ (1 Cor.11:1), for he knew Christ ascended and glorified. And we are
exhorted to be imitators of God, as beloved children (Eph.5:1). Such a place we, sinners
of the gentiles, did not have when Christ confined Himself to the favored nation."