The Word of God must be brought to the unsaved by the regenerated persons who can testify to the power of the Word and the Spirit in their own lives. 1 (1 Thessalonians 1:5)
That power is activated by the Holy Spirit.
The difference between mere indifferent reception of the Gospel and active effectual acceptance is a work of the Holy Spirit. 2
The power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ caused changes in the Thessalonian Christians.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:1-6, Paul recalls how Christians in Thessalonica had responded when they first heard the gospel, what kind of individuals they had become as a result of believing the gospel, and how effectively they had spread the gospel. He sums up their experience as having left paganism behind to serve God and to look forward to Jesus’ return.
Proclaiming the Gospel Causes Changes
In our culture, there is an overflow of information or entertainment that often only amounts to mere words. But Paul did not preach a Gospel of mere words. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is more than words, it also has power.
The Gospel may come to unbelievers from your preaching. God in His sovereignty may use His own Word, no matter who proclaims it, or only reads it.
It is the business of the servants of Christ to proclaim the word of the truth of the gospel to a lost world. (1 Corinthians 1:21) God’s general method, however, is to empower devoted men to set forth the Word with clarity and in the energy of the Holy Spirit.
The mere statement of gospel truth, apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, is not likely to produce results like those that were seen in Thessalonica.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ Has Power
The message of Jesus Christ has power. The Lord Jesus told His disciples, “. . . but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (NASB Acts 1:8)
It has power for miracles; power for wonderful signs from God; and best of all, it has the power to change minds, hearts, and lives.
Some claim that “in power” in verse 5 refers to miracles that accompanied Paul’s preaching, although none are mentioned in the Book of Acts. 3
But the NIV Study Bible says the power refers to the power of the Holy Spirit that also resides in the gospel itself. 4 (Romans 1:16)
While some take the word power to mean miracles, John Calvin extends the word to apply to the spiritual power of doctrine. He says, “It is the living voice of God, inseparable from its effect, as compared with the empty and lifeless eloquence of men.” 5
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message by the Holy Spirit, a living Person, who works within the hearts of the hearers, to convict, to comfort, and to instruct. If the preacher only speaks, then it is a matter of word only, but when the Holy Spirit works through the Word, a great spiritual work is accomplished.
The importance of speaking in the power of the Holy Spirit should never be ignored. To mistake human eloquence or oratory for preaching in the power of the Spirit of God is a great mistake. Someone has said that “preaching is eloquence touched with fire.”
The result of Paul’s proclamations was that people were led to trust in Christ and also received “much assurance.”
Sermons that are theologically correct but make no true application to the needs of the hearers are “clear as crystal, but cold as ice,” as someone has said. When the Word is preached in simplicity and in the energy of the Holy Spirit, those who believe the gospel receive the full assurance of faith.
The preacher who really believes what he preaches gives the message with great assurance. There is no substitute for that assurance, and if a preacher doesn’t have it, he should stay out of the pulpit.
We sometimes think too little about the spiritual operations of the Word of God. There is a spiritual work of God’s Word that goes far beyond the basic educational value of learning the Bible.
The Thessalonians Responded to the Gospel by Becoming Followers
The Thessalonians stopped following other things but followed after Paul and the Lord. Paul says that it was a good thing for them to follow him, and he wasn’t shy about saying “follow me” because he knew where he was going.
Paul’s message included an element of personal discipleship. There was a sense in which Paul personally led these Thessalonian Christians in their spiritual life. They could see his life and were invited to learn from his example. (Philippians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 11:1)
The Thessalonian Christians received the Word, even during affliction. The message they heard came with adversity, yet they received it, and Paul thanked God because of it.
When the Thessalonian Christians faced the affliction from receiving the Word, they didn’t just face it with a resigned fatalism. They faced it with the joy of the Holy Spirit.
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In conclusion, consider what the Daily Bread email message sent on 6/19/2023 says,
First Thessalonians 1:5, 6 – for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit (NASB)
From 1 Thessalonians 1:5–6 we learn that as we teach the gospel of Jesus Christ by the word and power of God, we can help others become followers of the Lord and His servants.
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- Henry C. Thiessen (revised by Vernon D. Doerksen), Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981), pg. 67.
- Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1985), pg. 251.
- Henry H. Halley, Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992), pg. 625
- NIV,” International Bible Society, The Holy Bible, New International Version, Study Bible (Zonderman Publishing House copyright 1973, 1978, and 1984.), pg. 1861.
- John Calvin, 1 Thessalonians 1:4, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cal/1-thessalonians-1.html