Putting the Gospel on Display
Paul wrote his letter to believers in Thessolonica fighting against the influence of a hedonistic lifestyle. With great encouragement, he told the believers how thankful he was for their healthy walk of faith (3:6, “good news of their faith and love”). After he described the ways he was able to give thanks to God (1:2-4, praying, remembering, and knowing), Paul moved into explaining the reason he was able to give thanks (1:5-10). Genuinely, the believers were a living and breathing testimony of Jesus Christ as they put the Gospel on display to those without Christ.
Challenges to Thankfulness
Unfortunately, problems that robbed believers of thankfulness in Paul’s day are also problems that impact us. For instance, in light of the information highway of the internet, we often are overwhelmed with an abundance of mostly unreliable opinions. In the face of potential disaster, we become uncertain and nervous about the future. And, in a hopeless culture, we see how desperately we need hope.
The Answer – The Gospel
Because our Gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:5-10).
For the Gospel to be the answer, the Gospel must be known, and if the Gospel is to be understood, then it must be put on display. What the world must see is not unthankful, uncertain, and hopeless believers. If the Gospel does what it claims, then let it out into the visibility of the world.
Here are three facts, which Paul passes on to us that will encourage our Gospel presentation.
How the Gospel works
Paul expressed the reason he gave thanks to God; it was because of how the Gospel transformed those living in Thessalonica. Paul stated, “Because our Gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1:5). Notice, when Paul shared the Gospel, it did not come by emotion, weakness, human ability, or convenience. No, it came by divine power, as the ability to set sinners free from the enslavement to sin. It came with the power to raise those dead in sin and provide intimacy with God. On what basis is all of that authority and power? Through the work of the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit produces full conviction and assurance.
We all struggle with report after report of unreliable information. Thankfully, the Gospel has proven to be the only reliable absolute that transforms the recipient.
What the Gospel produces
Paul identifies two results from the work of the Gospel. He says, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord” (1:6), and “you became an example to all the believers” (1:7). The Gospel produces the ability to face affliction with joy (1:6), to genuinely love others (3:12), to desire to please God (4:1), to live with purity (4:7), and to live blameless (5:23).
The Gospel also produces an example to all believers (1:7). Every believer has the resurrection life dwelling in them, allowing them to reflect the product of the Gospel. It is not the intelligence or business savvy that the believer depends on; instead, it is on the outcome of the Gospel.
How the Gospel spreads
Paul made a calculated statement in verse 8 when he said about these believers, “Not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth...” The word “sound forth” is a word for reverberating, ringing out. It is like thunder nearby echoing in the sky, like the tornado warning alarms ringing loudly of impending doom. The spread of the Gospel comes when believers speak outwardly and with clarity, the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
The Gospel spreads by a lifestyle matching the reverberating exclamation of the message. Paul continued in verse 8, “but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.” The outward expression of our faith in daily living should mirror the claim of the Gospel, or it may destroy the validity of the Gospel.
What the Gospel does
Paul closed the section by declaring the definite hope that is the result of the Gospel. In verse nine, their turning to God from their idols demonstrates loudly that the Gospel does bring reasons for hope. Idols have no life in themselves, except what the worshipper pours into it. The hope is only as valuable as the value the individual makes of their hero. The product of the Gospel is transformative by the One who is the creator of all things, God.
In verse 10, Paul declared that the Gospel delivers us from the wrath to come. The deliverance is both presently and eschatologically (future). The immediate rescue is from the wrath of God against all sinners, salvation (Jn. 3:36, “whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”). The future deliverance is eternal in scope. John warned, “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15).
As being in Christ, every believer has what the world needs, the Gospel. The Gospel is reliable, the Gospel offers certainty for the future, and the Gospel is the only absolute hope. Put it on display and watch what God can do.