1 Thessalonians 2:14-16
For you, brothers, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus…
They were able to imitate the patience and constancy of the Judaean Churches under great persecutions. These Churches were referred to probably because they were the oldest Churches, and the most severely persecuted.
I. IT IS A HIGH HONOR AS WELL AS PRIVILEGE FOR CHURCHES TO BE SELECTED AS PATTERNS OF PATIENCE TO OTHER CHURCHES. "For ye, brethren, became followers of the Churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus." We are first to be imitators of Christ, then of all who follow in his steps, who keep on "looking to Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2). There were many Churches in Judaea, for Christianity was founded by Jews; its first converts were Jews; its first martyrs were Jews; and the Churches among them rejoiced in the fellowship of Christ, as the Source of their life and comfort.
II. THE PATH OF THE THESSALONIANS WAS ONE OF SEVERE TRIAL AND CONTINUOUS PERSECUTION. "For ye also have suffered like things from your own countrymen, even as they from the Jews."
1. They had received the Word "in much affliction." (1 Thessalonians 1:6.) The first outbreak of violence against them occurred after their conversion (Acts 17:5). They belonged to one of those Churches of Macedonia of which the apostle long afterwards wrote to the Corinthians as "enduring a great trial of affliction." It came from their heathen countrymen.
2. Their trials attested the genuineness of their conversion. The heathen would have had no quarrel with a dead faith. The Thessalonians did not "sleep as did others." They discovered by sharp experience that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12).
3. Their trials involved the precious experience of a "fellowship in Christ's sufferings." (Philippians 3:10.)
4. Their trials manifested at once the strength of their faith and their Christian constancy.
III. IT WAS SOME COMFORT TO THE THESSALONIANS TO KNOW THAT THEY WERE NOT THE ONLY SUFFERERS FROM THE FURY OF PERSECUTORS. "Even as they have of the Jews: who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and drave us out." This terrible invective against the Jews illustrates the saying that the apostle often "goes off at a word." It recalls the language of Stephen before his murderers (Acts 7:52). The malignity of the Jews against their believing countrymen was extreme.
1. The Jews were murderers of Jesus and the prophets. Though the Savior was executed by the Romans, the responsibility of the terrible deed rests on the Jews, who "fur envy" delivered him up, and "killed the Prince of life." They likewise killed their own prophets, whose very sepulchers they afterwards built and garnished. What wonder, then, that the Thessalonian converts should escape!
2. The Jews, though zealous for God, did not please him. "They pleased not God," but rather provoked him to anger by their unbelief and their wickedness.
3. They were at cross-purposes with all mankind. They were "contrary to all men." They were anti-social, exclusive, and bitter, so that the heathen Tacitus could describe them as "holding an attitude of hostility and hatred to the human race." But it was specially manifest in their resistance to the calling of the Gentiles - "forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved. The Acts of the Apostles supply abundant evidence of this fact.
4. The end to which all this wickedness toward God and man was tending. "To fill up their sins at all times."
(1) God often allows nations to complete the sum of their wickedness before bringing upon them final retribution. "The iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full" (Genesis 15:16).
(2) The judgment upon the Jews was at hand - "but the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost." "There is now nothing between it and them." The destruction of Jerusalem was still future, but "the days of vengeance were already come." The fire was already burning, which would never be quenched till the vengeance was complete. The apostle seems to regard the moment of the rejection of the Messiah as marking the outpouring of the Divine wrath. The history of the Jews from that moment is a significant commentary on the passage. - T.C.
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: