by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 3 Study # 2 July 13, 2014 Dayton, Texas
14 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:
15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:
16 Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
1901 ASV Translation:
14 For ye, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judaea in Christ Jesus: for ye also suffered the same things of your own countrymen, even as they did of the Jews;
15 who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove out us, and please not God, and are contrary to all men;
16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved; to fill up their sins always: but the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
I. You Were Made to Become...
A. This is the ninth time Paul has presented what has happened as a "...made to become..." issue.
1. This is a strong reinforcement of the "thanksgiving" thesis wherein God is seen as One Who has done a powerful and good thing "by grace". He is seen as the One behind all of the "...made to become..." issues in this letter.
2. As in 1:6, so here in this text, the Thessalonians were "made to become" imitators.
a. In 1:6 it was "imitators of us and of the Lord" by "having embraced" the Word.
b. In this text it is also through the "embracing" of the Word as God's Word that pushes the "imitation" process. But this time it is "imitation" of God's "churches" which are in Judea.
B. The "becoming", driven by the reception of the Word asfromGod, is " an imitation" of certain of the churches of the God.
1. That "churches" is plural moves us away from the impression that the Judean believers were all "one" church, headquartered in Jerusalem. Apparently the "mega-church" of the early days of The Church did not last long. Apparently the believers began to meet together in smaller groups in multiple geographical locations throughout Judea.
a. It is highly likely that the "mega-church" reality was unsustainable in the setting of Judea.
b. "Mega" is proving to be unmanageable in any kind of biblical form. Just the one principle of accountability (pretty much jettisoned in the American churches) would eat up all of the time and complicate all of the processes of the dealings that are involved in dealing with people in the reality of their depravities and immaturity. "Mega" simply assumes that a host of biblical mandates will go begging simply because masses of people cannot be effectually guided into legitimate discipleship in "mega" settings.
2. That Paul singles out the churches that are in Judea because their example fits the situation that the Thessalonians faced indicates that at least one thing did make the "churches" a "unit": "suffering".
3. That they are called "the churches of the God ... in Christ Jesus" indicates two crucial elements of unity in the face of diversity: their identity as "called out assemblies"; and their position in Christ Jesus".
a. The term "church" was coined to indicate a group that had been subjected to a "call" that resulted in the isolation of the group's participants from other groups.
1) The root of the word is the contextually familiar word kalew that forms the basis for Paul's characterization of The Gospel as "A Summons" ( para + kalew ) in 2:3; the characterization of a father's dealings with his own children (again para + kalew ) in 2:12; and the characterization of God as "the God Who is calling you" ( kalew ) in 2:12.
2) The naming of the people of God, "The Church", indicates that we are to be as clear as we can be on the fact that God is the Initiator Who issues the "summons" into His kingdom and glory (2:12) that forms the foundation of the Promise of Eternal Life.
b. That "the churches" are "in Christ Jesus" is also a signal regarding what we must hold as foundational and retain it in a firm grip: The Summons is a call to believe the Promise so that the "believer" can be transported from his/her position "in Adam" to a new and better position "in Christ Jesus", the King of the aforementioned kingdom.
1) The Summons is the root of the identity of "the summoned" and is, at root, a call to believe that God will fundamentally alter the ground upon which the "believer" walks.
2) Being "in Christ Jesus" is not merely a position. It is a "state of being" wherein "the summoned" live by means of divine commitments made in terms of promises to be believed so that they govern the loves, the thoughts, the reasoning, the choices made, and the actions taken.
C. At issue: "suffering the same things".
1. The "things" are presented as a plural reality: many particulars of "suffering".
a. That this is so is seen in the fact that things believed automatically insert new attitudes, choices, and actions in the "believer".
b. Life is filled with moments of "attitude, choices, and actions" and these factors affect the people around us.
c. Because the faith alters so many individual actions taken, it is automatic that the reaction of those who are affected will also contain many instances of imposing suffering on those daring to take such actions.
2. The deep antagonism of legalists toward God is no small matter. These people are so absolutely committed to their pride that it is a deep affront to them that "churches" exist that are absolutely committed to the Grace of God. The auto-response is one: try to force those "believers" to give it up.
3. The reference to "your own countrymen" is significant.
a. This is the only place in the New Testament that this word is found.
b. The issues that immediately come to mind are "culture" and "long held common identity". These are not small things. Those who become "counter-culture" and are "made to become" a completely different "identity" are regularly subjected to persecution by the majority.