For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
The Noble Thessalonians
Paul’s visit to Thessalonica was filled with great expectations and hope. His first preaching trip had confined his travel to Asia-Minor but now on his second trip, the Holy Spirit had brought the missionary group into Macedonia. The work in Philippi was met with great success with the conversion of Lydia and her household along with the jailor of the city and his family. Arriving in Thessalonica, Paul went to the synagogue and for three Sabbaths taught the gospel of Christ. Some of the Jews were persuaded and also a great many God-fearing Greek men and quite a few prominent women. But the Jews who did not believe caused a riot against Paul and his company causing the group to leave under cover of darkness. The people of the next city, Berea, were more open-minded than the Thessalonians receiving the word of God more readily.
Luke’s history of the church includes a commendation of the Bereans as being nobler than those of Thessalonica because they received the word with all readiness and searched the Scriptures daily to find out if the teachings of Paul were true. This creates a contrast between the people of Thessalonica and Berea because one was more accepting of the word than the other. This would change in time as Paul wrote his letter to the church of the Thessalonians while he was in Corinth. Commending the brethren of Thessalonica, Paul says they received the word of God not as human wisdom but the divine word of God. The hearts of the Thessalonians were open to the teaching of Paul only as it was examined in truth to be according to scripture. They would not accept Paul’s teaching or any other man’s doctrine as the word of men. If what was being taught did not agree with the word of God, it was rejected. Hearing the word spoken by honest men was examined in light of the will of the Father only.
An open mind to accept the teachings of God as the word of God moves men to action. The reception of the Thessalonians was not just an intellectual exercise but a life-changing moment. Many hear sermon after sermon who believe what is being taught is the truth but never take any action to change their lives. The Thessalonians not only examined the preaching in accordance with the word of God but they allowed the word to change their lives. That is the real character of allowing the gospel to effectively change the lives of those who hear the word. Paul’s desire for the brethren at Thessalonica was to abound more and more in their knowledge of the truth. His thankfulness of the Macedonian church was because the gospel had changed the lives of the people. That is the test of discipleship. Hearing alone will not save. It requires a belief the word of God is a moving and active force to recreate in the minds of men a need to be different.
The Thessalonians heard the word of God and received it on the value that was placed before them as the divine word and not the word of men. If they rejected the preaching of the gospel, they would reject God, not man. Preachers must be held accountable to preach the pure word but brethren must be held to higher accountability to act upon the word preached as the word of God and not the word of men. Listening to the gospel creates faith but faith without works is dead. Hearing the word and not doing the word is dead. The Thessalonian brethren were faithful to follow the teaching of Paul because it was the word of God. Can we do any less when the word is spoken? Welcome the gospel for what it is and act upon it. It is the word of God.