2 “We [Paul and Timothy] had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you His gospel in spite of strong opposition.”
13 “We also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in your who believe.
14 “For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which as in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, 15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men 16 in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way, they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.”
Paul told the people of Thessalonica several things. He and Timothy as servants of Christ, suffered persecution. Yet that did not thwart his efforts to tell more people about Jesus Christ, including the Thessalonians.
Paul thanked God for the strength of conviction the Thessalonians had in the Gospel of God they brought to them. Their conviction was not to the words of man – him and Timothy – but to the words of God, which have the power to teach, rebuke, correct, and train in righteousness. [2 Timothy 3:16-17]
Because the Thessalonians listened to and were convicted and convinced by the word of God, not man, they were able to stand up to persecution. Paul said he knew the Thessalonians suffered from their own countrymen. This is the other point of this passage. Even people who are like you and from your same country and city may persecute you. Consider what is happening now in the Middle East. One branch of Islam is killing another branch. This type of thing happened in Burundi and Rwanda with the ethnic genocide.
The final point Paul made in this passage is that God is the one who will judge the Thessalonian Christians’ persecutors. “The wrath of God came upon them at last,” Paul said.
From this, what can we take away and apply to ourselves.
- · First, are you willing to endure persecution for taking the Gospel to hostile people, or at the very least to unwilling listeners?
- · Second, ensure you speak the words of God, not of yourself, so that the listeners are convicted of the Gospel and have a firm foundation for when they go tell other people about Jesus.
- · Third, realize that many times the opposition and persecution you experience while speaking the Gospel of God comes from people closest to you – family, neighbors, and countrymen. These are the people who knew you before your salvation and try to keep you in the old mold. They do not understand the new you and may persecute you for making such a strong stand on the opposite end of the spectrum.
- · Finally, Paul noted the persecutors would experience the wrath of God. Remember it is better to receive the persecution by humans than the wrath of God.
When you receive the Word of God and are convinced and convicted by it to turn to God and receive the salvation He offers, He does not give you just a little bit of salvation, but all of it. You are not just partly Christian, but 100% Christian. When God calls you His child and sends you out to testify about Him and the grace He offers through Jesus Christ, He wants you to testify effectively and loudly – with boldness. Be bold and not fear. Don’t just tell a little bit because you don’t want to offend and then be persecuted. Go without fear because you are God’s child. It is better to receive God’s praise and His protection than be accepted by the people to whom you witness.
Today, what are you going to do – speak boldly so the Word of God is heard or speak comfortable words so you are not shunned and persecuted? You have God’s power and promises in you. Stand up for what you believe.