1 Thessalonians 1:6-8
And you became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.…
"Ye became followers" — imitators, or copiers — "of us." This is the first view Paul here takes of his Thessalonian converts.
1. They resembled himself and his fellow labourers. But how? In their faith, their hope, their love, and their good works. Let us enter into this thought. Man is an imitative creature. The first voluntary efforts that are made by children, are always endeavours to mimic something which they have seen. But as man is a depraved creature, and as he is exposed to bad examples in this world, as well as good, and more to bad examples than to good, he naturally follows the multitude to do evil; and the question with him, therefore, concerning anything, is not — Is it true? or is this reasonable? or is it righteous? but — "What will people think or say of me? Shall I not be seen?" Why, all the Lord's people are "a peculiar people"; and it argues much more dignity of principle and purity of motive to advance alone than under the applause of thousands. This disposition was in the case of the Thessalonians sanctified, for it was turned another way; for the men they now followed were few, compared with the rest, and they had nothing of a worldly kind to recommend them. No; they were esteemed the very "filth and offscouring" of all. Yet, with Moses, these Thessalonians chose "rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." They "esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt." Yes; with David they could say — "I am a companion of all them that fear Thee, of them that keep Thy statutes." So it always is when persons are made wise unto salvation; then they immediately see, that the righteous are more excellent than their neighbours, and that of them the world is "not worthy." Then they pray — "Look Thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as Thou usedst to do unto them that love Thy name." Then they let go the sons and daughters of folly and vice, and run and take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying — "We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."
2. They resembled the Lord also; to show the apostles confidence that they were themselves conformed to Him, and those that followed them thus far would be followers of Him. Therefore, says the apostle to the Corinthians — "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." Did he mean to place himself upon a level, then, with Christ? By no means; but to assert that he knew he was walking the same way, that he was influenced by the same principles, that he felt the same sentiments. And we must be conscious of this too. Yes; we must remember that "if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of His." But it is added, to teach us that no men are to be our examples any further than they resemble Him; that we are not to give up ourselves absolutely to any leader, however distinguished by gifts or graces. We are not to pin our faith upon their sleeve, or to determine our action by their practice invariably. No; they are all fallible. The wisest of men have their follies; the best of men have their faults; the wisest and the best of men, therefore, may lead us astray. Abraham denied his wife at Gerah; Moses spake unadvisedly with his lips; Job cursed the day of his birth; Peter said with an oath, "I know not the Man." But here we have in the Lord Jesus an infallible pattern; and therefore we may give up ourselves entirely to His direction and influence, and, as it is said, "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth."
3. They who imitated others became ensamples to others: — "Ye became ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia." It is very observable in nature that things in succession are alternately cause and effect, effect and cause. Thus, parents produce children, and children produce in time children; thus, those now obey, who by and by command; thus, learners now become teachers; and those who were followers become leaders themselves. This was the case here; from following the apostles and the Lord Jesus, they "became ensamples to all that believed in Macedonia and Achaia." Indeed, what individual is there, who is not, more or less, an "ensample" to some? Which of you is entirely isolated? Who is not seen and heard of some? Who is not followed by some? But how honourable was it for these converts! They were "ensamples," to whom? "To them that believe." Oh! it is easy for you to be "ensamples" to some. It is easy, to have goodness enough to censure and condemn the grossly wicked; it is easy, to have goodness enough to be considered righteous, when compared with drunkards, and swearers, and thieves, and robbers. But these Thessalonians were ensamples to the good, to the godly, "to them that believed"; yea, and what is more, " to all them that believed in Macedonia and Achaia"; though it is very probable that many of these had been in the Lord before them, and had believed before them. There are many cases in which "the first shall be last, and the last shall be first."
Parallel VersesKJV: And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: