The Manner in Which the Thessalonians Received the Gospel
They accepted the Gospel and bore its burdens:
v. 13. for this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the Word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
v. 14. For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus; for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews;
v. 15. who both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men,
v. 16. forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway; for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
The apostle had just mentioned the fact that God had called the Thessalonian Christians into the kingdom of His grace. This fact causes him to launch forth into another thanksgiving: And on this account also we give thanks to God without ceasing, namely, that, receiving from us the Word of preaching, which is of God, you accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it truly is, the Word of God, who also works effectively in you that believe. Paul had come to Thessalonica as the avowed messenger of God, claiming for the Gospel which he preached divine origin. It was therefore a matter of much gratification and of sincere thanksgiving to him that the Thessalonians received the Word which he brought in the same spirit; they not only heard the preaching with the ears of their body, but they also acknowledged God as the Author and Sender of the message. Paul had not come in his own name, but as the agent and ambassador of God, and in this sense they had accepted his message and call, not as the mere word of men, but for that which it is in truth, the Word of God. This fact was further impressed upon them by the fact that they could not deny the effective working of God through the medium of the Word; they felt His power in the Word. The Thessalonian Christians were effectively and continuously confirmed in their faith by the Word of Grace which was proclaimed to them. Note: The acceptance of the Gospel as the Word of God, as the divine message for man's salvation, is essential for faith; it is this confidence which must precede and accompany the certainty of salvation.
Paul now explains why he felt justified in drawing these conclusions: For you became imitators, brethren, of the congregations of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus, for the same things suffered also you from your own countrymen, as also they from the Jews. If the Word of the Gospel had not gotten such an effective hold on the Thessalonian Christians, if they had not had the firm conviction that the Gospel was the Word of God, they would hardly have been willing to bear its burdens. But now Paul says in their praise that they have followed in the footsteps of the congregations in Judea, that they were having the same experiences in the interest of the Gospel which the brethren had that had heard the Gospel-message first. The Christians in Judea had suffered persecution at the hands of the Jews; the Christians of Thessalonica were meeting with the same treatment at the hands of their countrymen. In both cases the congregations were in Christ Jesus, united with Him in the most intimate fellowship, not only deriving their spiritual life from Him, but having their life in His sphere; in both cases, therefore, they suffered persecution, 2Ti_3:12. That is the lot of all Christians, but it is incidentally a pretty fair indication of the faith which lives in them.
In a passage some of whose thoughts remind one of the speech of Stephen, Act_7:1-60, Paul now arraigns the Jews for their stubborn opposition and hatred of the true Church: Who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets as well as they persecuted us, and please not God, and are opposed to all men, hindering us to preach to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always; but the wrath was manifested upon them to the end. It may have been that this thought was suggested to the apostle by the fact that detractors might allege his having been denounced and persecuted by his own countrymen as a point against him. But Paul shows that the hatred of the unbelieving Jews had been directed even against the Lord Jesus. They had killed the Lord Jesus Himself as well as their own prophets, 1Co_2:8; Act_7:52; small wonder, then, that they were persecuting His servant. It was evident, therefore, that their actions could not possibly be well pleasing to the Lord, that they were an abomination in his sight, that they were proving hostile to all men by their behavior. They had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, for they hindered the apostle from bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles, lest the latter should have an advantage over them in being heirs to the salvation which they rejected. By this entire list of hostile acts, moreover, they were heading toward a terrible result and end: they were filling up the measure of their sins to the very top: with every new transgression they were approaching nearer to the limit of God's forbearance. And so the wrath of God must now discharge itself; the Jews are ripe for the judgment of God, it was even then imminent, and His wrath was poured out upon them at the destruction of Jerusalem. See Mat_23:37-39; Mat_24:16; Dan_9:24. Note: The fate of the Jews is a warning example for all times, bidding all men to refrain from all enmity to the Word of God.