The apostle Paul was very thankful for the Lord’s church in Thessalonica because when Paul first arrived in the city it was a very difficult work to preach the gospel there. Some of the Jews responded to the gospel, “And some of them were persuaded…joined Paul and Silas…” (Acts 17:4), but the majority outright rejected it, and in fact even went so far as to side with the criminals of the city to work with them as they attacked new believers. Luke records, “but the Jews who were not persuaded becoming envious, took some of the evil men of the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason…” (Acts 17:5). As a result of the attack and general disorder in the city over the gospel, Paul and Silas were forced to leave the city. Satan may have worked through the Jews and the criminals in Thessalonica, but the gospel had been preached, the seed had been planted, and there was now a small faithful group of Christians in Thessalonica. Paul continued to be in contact with the Lord’s church in Thessalonica and in his first letter to the church these inspired words of love and appreciation for them were written. “And how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven…” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). Paul used three action words to describe their spiritual life and they were “turn, serve, and wait”. That is the pattern for anyone that becomes a Christian that should be followed whether in the first century or in the twenty first century. Peter preached on the day of Pentecost for the people to “Repent…” (Acts 2:38). They had already expressed their belief in Jesus as the Son of God, the Christ (Messiah), and so the next logical step would be to make a change of heart and life and that is to repent. The Thessalonians had believed and obeyed the gospel and that was the process of repentance, a change of life, and as Paul said, they had “turned to God from idols”.
The Thessalonian brethren were not just baptized and then lived their lives as if nothing had happened, but as Paul wrote, they had turned to God “to serve the living and true God”. The words “living” and “true” may not have quite the impact to us in the American culture, but as these brethren had come from a culture and environment totally dominated by idolatry and all that it contained, this was a strong statement of the spiritual progress and maturity that they were experiencing. Their lives were now directed by the Word of the living and true God. Living the Christian life means having the hope of living eternally with God in heaven after physical death takes place. The Thessalonians served God “and to wait for His Son from heaven…” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). The Hebrew author wrote, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). As Christians we live having a hope based upon the faith that is the Word of God (Jude 3) and from hearing that Word (Romans 10:17). The Thessalonians now had a hope in Christ that would have been impossible for them to have before they had obeyed the gospel. They had the same hope as explained by Paul to them concerning the Christians that had already passed. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus…then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:14,17). The Thessalonians turned, served, and waited and that is what those that grow and mature in Christ do even today.