Our Gospel Did Not Come To You in Word Alone…
“Our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction” ( 1 Thessalonians 1:3). This letter of Paul’s begins with a statement of faith. It is the first time in all of Christian literature that the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love are mentioned together. “We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing, brothers loved by God, how you were chosen” (verses 1-4).
Paul says this to his Thessalonian readers to both thank them for their commitment to Christ and the work that they have done to spread the gospel to others and to remind them that the gospel they have so joyfully accepted and now preach to others is not a mere word of human origin, but that it is charged with divine power and is inspired by the Holy Spirit. We Christians two thousand and more years later, can understand the joy of Paul’s address to the Thessalonians. What we believe in is not a word of human origin. It is no mere philosophy that causes us to be so filled with such joy and conviction. It is the living word of God. It lives beyond the page, beyond the sermon. It is the power that enlivens the very life of the believing Christian.
We are called on here to remember this joy and this conviction in our world today. In many ways the world we live in now is just as pagan as the world that surrounded the Thessalonians. We are called on to have the same conviction of faith as shown by Paul and by his beloved Thessalonians. Do we believe only in a word, a compilation of wise sayings to be contemplated in the safety and quiet of our homes, our churches, or our individual hearts? Or, is our faith charged with the divine power of God? Do we live our daily lives believing that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of all that is true, good and beautiful, remains with us, here and now, inspiring, teaching, and empowering us to spread this Good News joyfully?
Can we say that we live the faith, not just “preach” it? Have we received and accepted the gospel with the same enthusiasm as the Thessalonians and gone about not only sharing our convictions but doing so in a way that is recognized by others, causing them to see how we, too, “turned away from idols” to joyfully “serve the living and true God” (verse 9)? Paul is thanking the Thessalonians for their open and enthusiastic acceptance of the gospel and for the service they have given to God in passing it on so joyfully, becoming “models for all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (verse 7). This is what we are being called to today in our own time. And our own time is hungry for seeing such faith so joyfully lived out. This is how we will bring others to Jesus. Not by word alone, but by our conviction, expressed in the very actions of our faith, hope, and love, inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Lord, we believe; help our unbelief. Strengthen us in faith, hope, and in love, so that we might be examples of the gospel to all we encounter in our homes, our places of work, and in the world at large. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen!