World English Bible translation
2:13 For this cause we also thank God without ceasing, that, when you received from us the word of the message of God, you accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which also works in you who believe. 2:14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the assemblies of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus; for you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews; 2:15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and didn't please God, and are contrary to all men; 2:16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved; to fill up their sins always. But wrath has come on them to the uttermost.
The "cause" that the apostles were praying for was the maturing of the faith of the Thessalonians that they might be worthy of the God that has called them out of darkness. They had responded to the apostles as those who speak the words of God.
We treat people's words very differently. Those writers and speakers who we have heard before and respect carry greater weight. A child can hear his father's voice calling to him in a crowd. A trained dog will obey the commands of his master and not that of a stranger.
The apostles praise the Thessalonians because they heard the message for what it was, the word of God. And this word is an active word that continues to work in their lives. God's words affect us and stick in our minds. Even when we drift toward sin, the word of God pulls us back as a lifeline on a drowning man.
In hearing this word and responding to it as to the words of God, the Thessalonians also became imitators of the churches in Judea. They were being criticized and ridiculed by their countrymen just as the Jewish believers in Christ had been treated by their countrymen. There was no difference in this regard between Jew and Greek.
Verses 15 and 16 are difficult verses for some. It is always tempting to only allow ourselves to see one side of God. There are times when I feel only love and compassion from God. There are times when I feel very distant from Him and that He must have no use for me whatsoever.
But, God is more complex than we would like Him to be. God is a God of love, but He is also a God of judgment. Some Jews had received the word and became united with Christ. Some of the Jews had rejected Him and sought to persecute His followers. For believers He has become Lord and Savior. For those who reject Him, He has become the stumbling block over which they fall.
Nor is their attitude a new one. Their fathers and forefathers had rejected the prophets that had come before the Lord. And even now, those who rejected the word of God sought to keep it from going forth to the gentiles. Their hearts were far from God.
But, God has always retained a remnant of His own. His message will still be carried out from generation to generation. And now, from the remnant of those who believed from the old covenant, the word was going out to the entire world. The time had come at last for the gentiles to be brought into the household of God.
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