I have been enjoying 1 Thessalonians recently and thought I would share a few highlights for us as preachers. Paul was in Thessalonica for a relatively short visit in Acts 17:1-10, but the gospel hit home. As I look at chapter 1, I wonder if my expectations might be too low in preaching the Gospel today.
1. The Gospel establishes churches. Notice how Paul mentions their work of faith, labour of love, and steadfastness of hope (1:3). He may have only been there for three sabbaths plus whatever amount of time before he was chased out of town, but these new believers were already bearing fruit. At the very foundation, they were people who knew they were loved by God (1:4). The preaching of the Gospel establishes churches. We should preach the truth that can change lives as if it will change lives.
2. The Gospel is not just words. Notice how Paul describes the coming of the Gospel to these people in 1:5 – the Gospel came “not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” When we preach the message of Jesus we are just one part of a team, and the other players are impressive! There is the message itself, focusing on Jesus. There is the Holy Spirit actively driving that message home. By extension, we know that the Father’s plans and purposes are being worked out. When we preach the message of Jesus we ourselves are still part of the team. We see in 1 Thessalonians that how Paul and his colleagues were amongst the new believers was really significant. We are part of a trinitarian team when we preach, and even though we are incomparably small compared to the other team members, our part matters nonetheless.
3. The Gospel impact reverberates globally. It is easy to think of my little sermon to my little congregation in this little insignificant corner of the world. Actually, when the Gospel lands in a life it can reverberate around the world. These new young believers in Thessalonica became an example in Macedonia and Achaia (1:7) and everywhere! (1:8) When the Gospel sounded in their lives they turned from idols, to serve God, and to wait for Jesus (1:9-10). And what is more, people heard about it!
It is easy for us to think small thoughts when we preach the Gospel. This Sunday is coming. Think about the impact of the Gospel in Thessalonica – a brief visit, with much tension, and affliction for the preacher and the listeners, as well as the preacher chased out of town entirely too soon from a human perspective. Even against such odds, the Gospel impact was huge, it changed lives and that impact reverberated globally. Let’s preach in light of 1 Thessalonians 1 and dare to believe that we are participating in the transformation of lives for eternity!
FYI – I am coming to the end of this playlist of videos on the Psalms of Ascent: