We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer. (2 Thessalonians 1:3-5)
A Model Congregation
The church of Thessalonica is one of the finest examples of a New Testament church. Often they are remembered by Luke’s remark about the brethren at Berea being ‘more noble’ than those of Thessalonica because they searched the scriptures daily. However, the brethren at Thessalonica have two letters written to them preserved throughout history complimenting their strong example of faith (unlike the books of Berea?). The commendation of Paul to the church north of Athens can well be a pattern for the church today.
Their faith was growing exceedingly. This was not a stagnant church. Here were people of God who were searching, learning and growing in the foundation of their faith in Jesus Christ. Sacrifice for truth was a large part of their life. Faith was growing even as they had to endure persecution. Complacency is the enemy of truth and in the depths of suffering; they were increasing in their faith exceedingly. There was an abundance of growth among the people as they grew in the grace and knowledge of Christ. A strong and vibrant congregation is manifested by the spiritual desire of its member to share together in faith for the purpose of growth.
The faith in Thessalonica is seen in how they loved one another. Their love for one another was active, vibrant and growing. They increased in their love on a daily basis. It is easy to say that we love our brethren but the congregation at Thessalonica enjoyed a growing love. This love was a directional expression of their heartfelt care for others. The love Paul commends them about is a love that was abounding toward (key word) others. Love can never be defined by words only. It is understood by action. God’s love is not just words; it is the gift of His Son. The church at Thessalonica was a group of people that showed their love to one another as they grew together in the grace of God. Remember this was all being done in the face of persecution.
Their faith was growing and their love for one another was abounding. No wonder the apostle would boast of them among other churches. The church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ was a church Paul used to glorify to other churches of the New Testament pattern. Here was a group of people that were models of faith and love and the purpose for which Jesus died. In the face of persecution, they were steadfast in their example of holding forth the banner of truth. Their faith was on the solid rock of God’s word. What a great church these people were.
Models are given so that we can follow the same pattern. The church in Thessalonica should be that pattern for the church today. This church was on fire for the Lord. It was evident their faith was growing. It was clear the love in this congregation was busting out of the seams. They were not satisfied with the status quo. Many churches today are existing just for the purpose of existing – not so the Thessalonians. Their desire was to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost. The city of Thessalonica knew there was a group of Christians in that city. And the Christians in the church at Thessalonica loved one another. That love was growing, active, seen in the lives of each other caring for one another, expressive, pure – abounding toward everybody. This congregation was on fire with love.
Maybe what the church needs today is some persecution. Then our faith will grow exceedingly and our love for one another may abound. Let’s not wait for that to happen. Grow in grace today. Grow in love today. What a difference it will make in the local congregation.
The church has no greater need today than to fall in love with Jesus all over again. (Vance Havner; 1901-1986)