1 Thessalonians 2:14
For you, brothers, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus…
It often happens that suffering reveals new features of character and awakens powers before dormant. It is said that Agrippa had a dormouse that slumbered so profoundly that it would never wake till cast in a cauldron of boiling lead. So there are some natures which put forth their powers only when in extremity. The piety of God's people is often tested by affliction. The faith of thousands has sunk, while those who have borne the strain have gained an accession of moral nerve. The Thessalonians imitated the churches of God in facing the storm of persecution with unconquerable firmness.
I. THEIR SUFFERING HAD A COMMON ORIGIN. "Ye of your own countrymen" — they "of the Jews."
1. It is the unkindest cut of all that comes from the sword of our own people — people with whom we have lived in amity, but from whom conscience compels us to differ (Psalm 55:12), when natural love is turned into unnatural enmity.
2. What a revelation this of the devilish nature of persecution. Its insensate malice rudely sunders all bonds of fatherland, friendship, or kindred. The close affinity between Cain and Abel does not arrest the murderer's hand. The tender ties between Saul and David avail not to curb the mad cruelty of the king.
3. How deep and changeless is the truth — "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." The suffering that tests is still from the same source. "A man's foes are they of his own household."
II. THEIR SUFFERING WAS BORNE WITH EXEMPLARY CHRISTIAN FORTITUDE. The same thought is expressed in 1 Thessalonians 1:6. At the head of the long line is Jesus, the captain of salvation; and all whom He leads to glory walk in His steps, imitate His example, and so become followers one of another.
1. It is not suffering in itself that purifies, so much as the spirit in which it is borne. It was enough to cool the fiery ambition of the aspiring disciples when Jesus said, "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?" And yet the following of Christ in suffering is the true test of discipleship. "He that taketh not his cross and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me."
2. It is a proof of the supernatural efficacy of the gospel that it inspires so intense a love of it as to make us willing to endure suffering for its sake. The love of truth becomes supreme. John Huss, lamenting the rupture of an old and valued friendship, said, "Paletz is my friend; truth is my friend; and both being my friends, it is my sacred duty to give the first honour to truth."
3. The soul, penetrated with this devotion, will pass unscathed the fiery test. On the destruction of the London Alexandra Palace by fire, it was found that, while many specimens of old English porcelain exhibited there were reduced to a black, shapeless mass, the true porcelain of Bristol, though broken into fragments, still retained its whiteness, and even its most delicate shades of colour uninjured by the fire. So the truly good, though wounded, shall survive the fiercest trial, and retain intact all that distinguishes the Christian character.Lessons: —
1. Our love of the Gospel is tested by what we suffer for it.
2. The similarity of experience, in all times and places, is a strong evidence of the truth of the Christian religion.
3. Suffering does not destroy, but builds up and perfects.
Parallel VersesKJV: For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: