“For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans…“
For you, brethren,
Paul appeals to them as brothers in Christ. He entreats them on the ground of their spiritual accord in Christ.
became imitators of the churches
The New Testament always uses the word “imitators” in a good sense (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1; Ephesians 5:1; Hebrews 6:12). An imitator is a copyist, someone who mimics. The idea is more than just following any old pattern; the idea is to follow an authoritative pattern. Imitation involves responding to the principle, as well as copying the behavior. Our authority rests on the superiority of our models (1:6). Discipleship implies conformity to a standard.
“I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:14-16).
“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus.
The Thessalonians were to imitate the churches that were “of God” and “in Christ Jesus.” All churches share in common the blessed privilege of union with Christ.
Judea is in southern Palestine, one of the provinces of Israel. Like the Thessalonians, churches in Judea suffered persecution for their faith.
For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen,
The Thessalonians were to learn from the adversity suffered by their countrymen. The word “suffered” occurs 42 times in the New Testament, mostly concerning Christ’s sufferings and those of His people (Acts 9:16; Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 1:12). Suffering here has to do with suffering for becoming Christians. Their persecutors may have been Jews (Acts 17:5,13).
Suffering is a mark of those who follow Christ. Often our most bitter enemies are our neighbors because our lives stand in stark contrast to their lives.
just as they did from the Judeans
Christians in Judea suffered from the prejudice of Judean Jews. Thessalonians endured persecution from their Jewish neighbors in Thessalonica.
“But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people” (Acts 17:5).
There is always a price to pay for aggressive commitment to Christ.
Every generation of churches that are aggressive with their faith face persecution. The gospel is not popular when it tells people that they need a Savior because of their sin. This assaults human pride. “Why do I need a Savior? I am a good person. I live a moral life.” Those faithful to Christ will not allow other people’s pride to intimidate them into not sharing their faith.