What do you say to brand new Christians? I see Paul saying three things to the young, young Thessalonian Christians in this passage.
1. You are off to a great start!
When you received the word, you had a lot to suffer, but you also had the holy spirit’s joy. As a result, you became a model for all the believers in both Macedonia and Achaea. For the word of the Lord has resonated out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaea; your faith has gone out to people everywhere. (1:6b-8a)
They have started strong and have so much to build on. They just need to keep on going as they have already.
2. Follow our example!
You know what sort of people we became for your sake, when we were among you. And you learned how to copy us — and the Lord! (1:5b-6a)
When you are starting something, it always helps to have an example to follow. Paul did not shy away from claiming to be such an example, and he didn’t come off as prideful either. Paul is following Jesus, so if they follow Paul they are also following Jesus. Could we say that to a new Christian? The truth is new Christians are following our examples, whether we want them to or not, whether we encourage it or not.
3. Don’t even think twice about turning back now!
They themselves tell the story of the kind of welcome we had from you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus, who delivers us from the coming fury. (1:9-10)
There is a day of wrath and fury coming for those who have rejected Jesus. The Thessalonians don’t want to fall back into that group. We see that eschatology theme coming through. Keep on going!