Thessalonica: A Working Church

by Jeff Asher

The Thessalonian church was a working Church. Paul thanked God for their zeal and diligence (1 Thes. 1:8-10). Unfortunately, very few congregations are working with the enthusiasm that characterized these brethren. Let's consider their work and what made them so diligent.

They Were Workers

From the beginning they were engaged in a "full program" of work. They were evangelistic. Not only were they busy trying to convert the lost in their community, but Paul describes them as sounding out the word in Macedonia, Achaia and "in every place" (1 Thes. 1:8).

They were benevolent. The Thessalonians were included in the "great collection" for the saints in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:26). Aristarchus and Secundus were the messengers of the church in taking the collection to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). Paul characterized their giving as cheerful and a demonstration of liberality (2 Cor. 8:1). Their ready performance was used as an example to encourage the Corinthians in completing their purposed participation in the same work (2 Cor. 9:1-6).

They edified one another. The attention of the church was not turned only outward. The elders perceived their responsibility to watch carefully over the saints under their charge (1 Thes. 5:11-14). Some were weak, others were rebellious. However, all received the needed attention (2 Thes. 3:6-15).

The Working Conditions

The church at Thessalonica began in the throes of persecution. The unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica were exceedingly jealous of the success which attended the preaching of the Gospel (Acts 17:4-5). They used their influence to stir up a mob through misrepresentation (Acts 17:6-7). Paul's newly made converts and gracious hosts were subjected to assault, civil prosecution and economic persecution (Acts 17:8-9). Paul in writing of their mistreatment likened it in severity to that which he led against the churches of Judea (1 Thes. 2:14-16).

However, persecution was not all they faced—they had to overcome deep poverty (2 Cor. 8:2). Granted, their circumstances were not as dire as the saints in Jerusalem or Paul would not have solicited their participation in the collection (Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8:13-14). But, their circumstances were bleak enough that there gift was likened unto the abasement of Christ (2 Cor. 8:9). Paul in making comparison with the ability of the Corinthians describes their ability as abundance in comparison to what the Macedonians were able to do.

What Makes A Church Work?

What motivated these saints to such work, toil and endurance? What do we need to do to get God's people to work like that today in a land that is prosperous and which protects the free exercise of our religion?

The church in Thessalonica worked because they had faith, love and hope (1 Thes. 1:5). These spiritual treasures come by hearing the Word of God preached (Rom. 10:17). It cannot be preached with flattery or out of covetousness and have the desired results. It must be preached with simplicity, sincerity and sacrifice in order to succeed (1 Thes. 2:1-11). The Thessalonians received the Gospel as the authoritative message of Heaven (1 Thes. 2:13). Their hearts were open to its truth and molded by its power. The church would go to work today if the pulpits were sounding for the Word of God and not the words of men.

They worked because they had an example (1 Thes. 1:6). Paul, Silas and Timothy had demonstrated acceptable zeal for the Gospel (1 Thes. 2:9-11). They worked tirelessly. They loved the brethren unselfishly. They warned the brethren tenderly. Churches today are waxing cold because there are no elders, deacons and preachers willing to do what it takes to set the proper example. The flock will not go where the shepherds will not lead.

Thessalonica worked because their lives were transformed by repentance (1 Thes. 1:9). Paul says the Thessalonians "turned to God from idols to serve." Repentance is one fruit of the gospel (Matt. 12:41). It always results in a changed life with changed priorities (2 Cor. 7:10-11). We will not go to work for the Lord until we turn from our idols (Eph. 5:5).

Thessalonica worked because they had a heavenly goal (1 Thes. 1:10). Their toil, suffering and sacrifice were all put in perspective when viewed looking toward Glory. We would do well today to hold our cankered possessions up to heavens light and get a good look at the way things really are.

Will this congregation be a working church like the brethren at Thessalonica? It can be, but you will be the determining factor. What of your faith? Are there sins stealing your heart from God? Are you willing to be an example to others? These are the things that will make the difference.