1 Thessalonians 1:7-10 - The Lord’s Message Rang Out from You!
And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell us how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus who rescues us from the coming wrath.1 Thessalonians 1:7-10
A Lesson in Role Modelling
Paul praised the Thessalonians for responding to the gospel by imitating the devotion of Paul (and hence of Christ), and by becoming role models themselves. But why become a role model? Of course a life of service promotes God’s glory and our own benefit – and such should be incentive enough to live as a role model. But in 1 Thessalonians 1, Paul emphasizes how such living especially benefits our neighbours.
Paul speaks about the ever widening influence of the role modelling of the Thessalonians: “The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere.”
With Thessalonica being an important trade centre with major roads and naval access, news from this city spread fast. So also the news of how the young believers responded to the gospel by latching on to Christ in all of life in spite of strong opposition.
This rapid spreading of the report of their faith helped Paul in his work. Paul often encouraged believers in the Lord’s service by reporting to them how the gospel had taken root and bore fruit in other places (see 2 Corinthians 9:2). “But now,” writes Paul, “we do not need to say anything about you. Why not? Because it’s old news already! The other churches have heard all about your faith already!” By the report of their lifestyle that others far and wide have heard about, the Thessalonians have, as it were, stolen some of Paul’s thunder. But Paul does not mind at all! Rather, he rejoices: Without Paul himself reporting, other believers have already been encouraged by news of the work of God evident among the Thessalonians.
Here we see the importance and power of role modelling. The modelling of the Thessalonians is helping Paul in his work of strengthening the churches and spreading the gospel. Literally Paul says, “For from you has rung out the word of the Lord.” By being role models, they were spreading the Word of God. God uses also Christian lifestyle and Christian living to spread the good news and to complement the preaching. When we imitate Christ in his zeal to serve God in what we say, in what entertainment we go to, in our work habits, in the way we interact with others, in the care we show, in our humility, then we can have such a tremendously positive effect. We thereby “ring out God’s Word.”
Generally people think about outsiders when speaking about the importance of living a Christian life. However in 1 Thessalonians Paul focuses on the effect of Christian living on insiders, upon fellow believers. In the words of verse 7, “And so you became a model to all the believers...”
Just as Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to continue on with their role modelling for the sake of fellow believers, so the Spirit urges us to do the same. Some of our churches may be located in big cities, others in more isolated areas. Yet none of us live on secluded islands. The reports of our response to the gospel and of how we live and interact do not stay with ourselves or our own congregations.
We should meditate on some questions: Does our very practical everyday living, serve as a model life and an encouragement for fellow believers? More particularly, do our lives as God’s people in one congregation serve as a model and as a blessing to God’s congregations elsewhere? What report comes out of our local church? Is it a report that encourages the other churches, or does our church have a bad name? This is an important matter! Are we serving to promote the gospel, or are we demoting it by how we respond to the gospel, by how we live, by how we interact with each other, and by how we deal with issues?
Getting closer to home: how do our lives and our ways of living affect fellow congregation members? Are we role models that stimulate each other by our walk of life, or don’t we really care about how our actions and lives affect our brothers and sisters? Do we live in unhealthy competition? Do we live in bitterness toward each other? Do we seek to correct wrongs by the tit for tat principle? Or do we humbly seek to spur each other on in godly living by our humble example as to how things should thankfully be done? Do we seek to spur each other on by tactful interaction in the communion of saints, by scripturally dealing with problems, by consistent caring for sick, by genuine interest for the welfare of the lonely?
Getting more specific: How do we treat newcomers in the congregation? What about weak members, fringe members, or straying members? Does our practical way of living and interacting benefit them? Do they taste and see deep-rooted humility and thankfulness in us? Or is our humility and thankfulness just theoretical? Do we promote Christian living by humbly inviting them into our homes and letting them see and experience what Christian living is all about?
Some more questions: How do more mature members conduct themselves before the young people? Are our lives exemplary? It is a fact that young people, as they grow up, can often become deeply disappointed with older members when they see how their actions are so inconsistent with their confession. Then they can quickly write off the church as a bunch of hypocrites. Do we live lives that justify such statements? Or are we truly role models?
Does our very practical everyday living, serve as a model life and an encouragement for fellow believers?
Parents, are we good role models for our children – role models in the matters of godliness, thankful living, respectful attitude toward authorities, humble working in the congregation, proper dealing with problems in the congregation? Or do our children learn by our example to shun less likeable members, to treat authorities disrespectfully, to treat God’s Word lightly by sleeping through sermons, to gossip, to not worry about Bible study and prayer?
At this point who does not feel the shoe pinching? But knowing the gospel of the forgiveness of sins, let us not despair. Instead let’s honestly face these questions so that we may be spurred on to become ever better role models, realizing the powerfully positive effects this has for our children and our brothers and sisters far and wide. Let’s not leave the role modelling to others. Let not hockey players be the role models for our children. Rather, let us ever strive to be role models ourselves, realizing what a privilege such a position is. By living as role models we do nothing less than spread the Word of God – the Word which the Spirit uses to give faith and strengthen faith to those around us far and wide.
Let’s resolve to thankfully live as role models!