The first time Paul and Silas went to Thessalonica, their visit was cut short by violence (see Acts 17:1-9). But their brief ministry there “was not in vain” (v.1). Having come from Philippi where they were beaten and jailed for preaching Jesus, and knowing that the same thing was likely to happen in Thessalonica, they made the most of their time. Paul and Silas boldly presented the gospel, God saved “a great many” (Acts 17:4), and then the missionary duo was “torn away” and smuggled out of town to safety (v.17). Their visit did not last long, but the Lord had done a lasting work in the new believers of Thessalonica — their fledgling church was immediately missional, reaching out to pierce the darkness around them with the light of the gospel (see 1:8).
How did this church become so effective so quickly? I think it was due to four things. First, they eagerly accepted the Word of God. Paul and Silas only poured the truth into their lives for a short time, but their teaching found receptive hearts and the Word of God went to work to change them from the inside out (v.13). God’s Word can have that affect in your life as well, depending on how you receive it.
Second, soon after they were saved they began to experience persecution at the hands of angry Jews. This suffering caused them to rely completely on Jesus, and their faith was strengthened as it was formed under pressure. Paul noted the similarity between the persecution of the original church in Jerusalem and the new church in Thessalonica (v.14-16). Just as the original church thrived in spite of intimidation and suffering, the Thessalonian believers were doing more than fine by the grace of God. If someone is discouraging your faith or some problem is making your life miserable, this time of suffering could be a time of great growth for you. Remember that Jesus is enough and God will have the last word (v.16)!
Third, this church became effective so quickly because of the purity of the message and the integrity of the messengers that got them started. When Paul and Silas came to Thessalonica they were not out to make a name for themselves, but for Jesus (v.5-6). They were not peddling a product for personal gain, but introducing a Person — the Lord Jesus — for His glory (v.2-3)! They did not water-down the message to make it more pleasing to people; they preached the pure gospel, which required that they talk about sin and judgment and the cross (v.4). God blesses when we keep the message pure and simple. It is His gospel that saves, not our personalities or persuasive words.
Last, God used the sincere, Christlike love of Paul and Silas to set the tone for the church. Mark their words in verses 7-12: they were gentle, affectionate, and encouraging. They treated the newborn believers with the tenderness of a nursing mother (v.7). If we treat each other with that kind of love, our unity will be deep and strong — and our mission will be unstoppable.