In the above section of Paul's first epistle to the Thessalonian church, he is commending them. First, Paul writes positively about their acceptance of Paul's message. Second, Paul is pleased that they have "become imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea." This is a statement that is easy to read quickly without giving much thought. We need to think about it.
Paul is telling the believers in Thessalonica that it is a good thing that they are imitating the original churches that came before them. The apostle saw it as a good thing that they were believing and doing the same things as the first churches (those in Judea).
What can we learn from this? Quite simply, yet profoundly, it is a commendable thing to imitate the original churches in Judea. How do we know what those churches were like? In order to know, all we have to do is read the book of Acts. In particular, Acts chapters 2-8 describe in detail the functioning of the first church (in Jerusalem).
So, in reading the scriptures we know what the first churches were like and that it is a very positive thing to imitate them.
This is extremely important as we think about the life of the church today. There is much confusion within the church as to how the church should function. If you visit ten different churches that all believe the gospel, you may find ten different things going on. On what basis do they decide what to do? It appears that personal preference and tradition rule the day.
This confusion is problematic and ironic because the scriptures give us a model to follow. The church in Acts is described in detail. There is little confusion as to what they believed and what they did. It seems obvious that what we do today should emulate the model given us.
I've heard many different people (usually pastors of traditional churches) say that it is important for today's churches to follow the commands of scripture, but that we do not have to follow what is modeled. My question is this: if we do not need to follow the model from Acts, then why was the Thessalonian church commended for imitating precisely this model?
If it was good for the Thessalonians to model themselves after what we see in Acts, then it only makes sense that today's church would be much healthier if it would do the same.
Imitation is important.