13 ¶ For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. 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.
Modern versions remove, “their own,” from before prophets in verse 15. Paul, while pointing out the persecution that the Thessalonian Christian suffered in a Greek and Roman world, also pointed out the Jewish persecution of the early church. His statements are prophetic in that the Jews have suffered horribly as a people for two thousand years.
In verse 13 Paul remarks how the Thessalonians were moved by the word of God, accepting it as from God rather than just the philosophy of men. They believed and God worked in their hearts. The link between belief that is generated within one’s self and faith that is a gift from God, as explained in Ephesians, is very important. They didn’t believe because they were “good people.” They believed because the gospel is true. Faith was given to them and the word of God did a work in their hearts because of their belief.
17 ¶ But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. 18 Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? 20 For ye are our glory and joy.
Compare the triumphant ending of this and chapter one. As Paul reveals his desire to come to visit the Thessalonians and his frustration that he had been hindered in doing so by those persons stirred up by Satan he calls the fact that he knows the Thessalonians belong to Christ, to be revealed at His coming, Paul’s hope, his joy, and his crown of rejoicing. This is something that every Christian knows who has led someone to believe in Christ and heard them say that they have accepted Him, received Him, or been born again. It is a feeling almost as good as your own salvation experience. The joy should come not at just having someone say a formula prayer but at discipling them and watching them grow. Too many Christians leave their spiritual children in the street.
Remember that the command from Jesus Christ to His disciples was not simply to get someone to say a 1-2-3 repeat after me formula prayer.
Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Notice the words, “teach,” and “teaching,” in those verses? “Discipling” one convert can take years and come in stops and starts but it is essential in doing justice to the intent of the gospel, to save people and to make them useful vessels for God’s will in saving others and living lives separated unto God. Paul’s crown of rejoicing is knowing that the people he has taught are going to be translated, raptured if you will, by the Lord Jesus Christ.
The simplest thing that you can do with a new Christian is to teach them how to let God speak to their spiritual heart by His words in the Bible. Teaching them to read God’s word, to pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit, and to let God work in their heart gives them the solid foundation that will prevent them from being blown about by, “every wind of doctrine.”
But, if you don’t know how to or haven’t cared enough to read your Bible from cover to cover or heard it read from cover to cover how can you teach anyone anything but a few select points you’ve heard from a preacher but can’t back up, defend, or explain because you don’t know where or how they are established in God’s word? There is simply no substitute for having God speak to your heart directly without commentary, man’s opinion, or man’s agenda by reading or hearing the words He has given by inspiration and preserved in His Bible.
God’s word speaks to a believer’s heart on subjects that are personal to that believer and may not have anything to do with the meaning of the passage they are reading. I recently, during a sermon given faithfully from the Bible, on one issue, was given overwhelming peace by God regarding a subject completely unrelated to the sermon. But, by hearing God’s word and thinking on it I was given a blessing that helped me in a huge way get through a crisis.
We must teach new believers how God’s word can instruct, can teach, can comfort, can exhort, can correct, and can change us. We can have that joy, that crown of rejoicing, when we leave behind what Paul did, one or more Christians standing against the world and their flesh, feeding on God’s word every day, rejoicing in the Lord, and standing on His promises for them. Imagine the greater victory of rather than just knowing you prayed with twenty strangers for salvation you never saw again that you taught and discipled ten strangers who became friends whom you communicate with regularly clearly having the power of God in their lives.