Persecution can be a two-way street. It is often provoked by malicious slander against those who have done nothing wrong. But it can also be provoked by inappropriate actions on the part of believers (1 Pet. 3:13-16, 4:12-16). It is very likely that the disturbance in Thessalonica was prompted not only by the jealousy of Paul’s opponents but also by the inappropriate actions of the new believers. The two letters to the Thessalonians reveal that Paul had major concerns about the lack of appropriate public behavior by some in the church.
Paul urges the Thessalonian Christians to live quiet lives and behave properly among their Gentile neighbors (1 Thess. 4:11, 12 NKJV). He admonishes the unruly among them (1 Thess. 5:14 NKJV). He commands them to avoid those in the community who are disorderly (2 Thess. 3:6, 7 NKJV). And he notes that some members of the church are not only disorderly and idle but have become“busybodies” (2 Thess. 3:11). Thus, some members were not only troublesome to the church but also to the wider society. The persecution in Thessalonica was malicious, but there was blameworthy behavior among some new Christians, as well.
How was Paul’s experience in Berea different from that in Thessalonica? See Acts 17:10-15. What’s the message for us in that difference?
The Bereans were eager to know more about God and to better understand their Bibles. But while they listened with much openness, they also tested everything they heard from the apostles on the basis of what they found in their own study of the Old Testament.
This is an example for us. We can be open to new ideas, but we must always test these ideas on the basis of the teachings of the Bible. We have many things to learn and many to unlearn. At the same time, we must be careful to avoid error, as it will lead us away from truth.
While troublemakers from Thessalonica soon inserted themselves into the Berean situation, the Jews there did not close their minds to the new message; indeed, “many of the Jews believed” (vs. 12). While it was thought expedient for Paul to move on to Athens, Silas and Timothy were allowed to remain in Berea in order to encourage and strengthen the new believers.
What are some examples where the Christian church acted in ways that were clearly in the wrong? What lessons can we learn from those mistakes? Bring your answers to class on Sabbath.