When Paul arrived in Thessalonica, he presented the gospel first to Jews in the local synagogue, as he often did. Some believed, but others responded with hostility, stirring up mob violence and driving the apostle out of the city. When he moved on to Berea, they followed him there and did the same, although many of the “more noble” Berean Jews trusted Christ (Acts 17:1-14).
This is one reason why Paul wrote specifically about persecution by the Jews in today’s reading. The Thessalonians had responded positively to the gospel, for which Paul was thankful. They’d accepted the good news in faith not as a merely human phenomenon but as the living and powerful word of God. As such, it was “indeed at work in you who believe” (v. 13; see also Heb. 4:12). As a result, the believers in Thessalonica had become a model for churches throughout the province of Macedonia (1 Thess. 1:7–8).
All this was true despite persecution (2:14–16). Just as the Judean churches endured suffering at the hands of the Jews, so also did the new Thessalonian church endure suffering at the hands of their fellow Gentiles. Paul’s Jewish enemies were likely behind this, as they’d been earlier (Acts 17:5–9, 13). They weren’t content to stop at rejecting the gospel themselves: They worked actively to block the Gentiles from even hearing it, and thus, “they always heap up their sin to the limit” (v. 16).
Even so, Paul didn’t hate his fellow Jews—far from it. Though he faced their failures and sins squarely, he loved them dearly and longed for them to be saved (Rom. 10:1–4). The Thessalonians could take comfort from the fact that their suffering wasn’t unique. Other believers had also been persecuted, and yet God would always triumph!
>> The Thessalonian church looked to the Judean churches as a model to imitate (1 Thess. 2:14). In the same way, mentoring relationships between older and younger believers are key in today’s church.