The first 3 chapters of 1 Thessalonians give a great picture of the 4th, good soil in Jesus’ parable of the soils (Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:1-15). This young church in Thessaloniki was filled with believers who had heard the good news of the kingdom of God through Christ and had responded with faith and obedience:
1 Thess 1:6 – “You welcomed the message (of Christ) in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” The Thessalonian believers received the word with joy, like the second soil in Jesus’ parable, but unlike the second soil they withstood the pressures of “trouble” and “persecution” (Mark 4:16-17). They were beginning to exhibit a faith that endured. More than merely a human decision or evaluation, the response was marked by the Holy Spirit’s power. When people respond to God’s word in saving faith, this is a work of new birth carried out by the Holy Spirit.
1 Thess 1:8-9 – “Your faith in God has become known everywhere . . . . You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” The believers made a clean break from their idolatrous past when they embraced the one true God. In other words, they experienced conversion from one way of worship and living to another. Their purpose in life was now to serve God, being wholly devoted to Him.
1 Thess 2:13 – “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the Word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” The Thessalonians rightly evaluated the message proclaimed to them. They received it as a divine message, originating with God. They recognized the eternal risks of ignoring it and the eternal blessings of heeding it. They were like the 4th soil, the person “who hears the word and understands it” (Matthew 13:22), making the connection between its content (the good news of the kingdom of God, centered in the death and resurrection of Christ) and its implications (this is a treasure to be valued more than anything in this world, demanding an urgent and wholehearted response – see the parables of the hidden treasure and the precious pearl in Matthew 13:44-46).
1 Thess 3:6 – “But Timothy (Paul’s co-worker) has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love.” The Thessalonians were fruit-bearing soil: “Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” (Luke 8:8). The Thessalonian believers were demonstrating the two cardinal virtues of the Christian life: faith and love (Gal 5:6). Paul uses “faith” to describe the Thessalonians’ stubborn allegiance to Christ in the midst of hardships, and he uses “love” to acknowledge their affection and humility towards Paul (1 Thess 3:6b), and their concern for other believers in their region (1 Thess 4:10).
Good soil – the message of the gospel is heard, and its divine authority is recognized. A joyful response follows, which results in conversion and transformation, regardless of the opposition faced.