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First Thessalonians 1:5-7: The Gospel

So many people have had their lives transformed when they heard the gospel. I was not raised in a Christian home, my mom and dad didn’t go to church and I never heard anything about Christ or church as I was growing up. When I was 25 years old, through the prompting of my Christian wife, Marlena, I heard the gospel for the first time. It was explained to me and I accepted Christ on my knees in the middle of my living room floor. So I can attest to the fact that the gospel of Christ works. If the gospel worked for an alcoholic atheist like me, then it is good for everyone. Paul referred to himself as the “chief of sinners” 1 Timothy 1:15, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

If the gospel worked for the worst of the worst, I guarantee it will work for you! “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

Verse 5a: “Our gospel”

What is the gospel? “Gospel” is the translation of the Greek noun euangelion meaning “good news,” and the verb euangelizo meaning “to bring or announce good news.” Both words are derived from the noun angelos, meaning “messenger.” So the gospel of Christ is the good news of Christ’s coming to provide forgiveness of sins for all who will believe. It is defined for us very clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…”

Paul does not say, “We came to you.” He was so focused on the gospel that, when he came to town, the gospel came to town. The gospel didn’t begin with Paul, Silas and Timothy. “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12). Paul and his companions needed the gospel message just as much as those with whom they were sharing it.

“Paul reiterates again and again the simple message of the gospel of Christ. In fact, it is so simple, that it can be summarized in two points: Christ died for our sins and Christ was raised from the dead. This is the good news from God, and our eternal destiny rests upon our response to it. We either come to believe the message that Christ died on the cross, personally for our sins and was raised from the dead, and trust in Him as our Lord and Savior, or we don't. On that basis, we will either spend eternity in heaven or hell. We can be sure that the gospel is the same today as it was 2,000 years ago.” –Gil Rugh,

Verse 5b: “…in word only…” “Did not depend on mere argument.” –Knox “It was not just meaningless chatter to you.” –Tay The message of the gospel is more than mere words; it is a living, transforming message. “And for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel…” (Ephesians 6:19).

Verse 5c: “…in power, and in the Holy Spirit.”

1 Corinthians 2:4, “My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”

Preaching is a demonstration of the power of God. I am convinced that many preachers do not know what it is to preach in the power of the Holy Spirit, or what it is not!

“To me there is nothin more terrible for a preacher, than to be in the pulpit alone, without the conscious smile of God…Many congregations are doomed to listen to a powerless preacher, a man without unction (anointing), one upon whom the fire of God never seems to rest. What a strange anomaly it is to see an unanointed servant of the Living God, who is an eternal fire. How can such creatures exist?” –Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Preaching is the demonstration of the power of God. There is more to preaching than just speaking. We may have prepared the greatest sermon that has ever been prepared in the history of the church, but it can be as a killing frost if delivered without the power of God's Spirit. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, “The man should prepare his sermons and put all his ability and knowledge into them; but he should realize that unless the Spirit comes upon them, they will be of no avail.” The Spirit uses man's best preparation but it is not just preparation, but preparation plus the anointing of God.

Paul says the first piece of evidence that these people are genuine believers is the way in which they have responded to the Word of God. Many people hear the Word of God proclaimed. Two people may sit in church on Sunday, one is deeply affected; while the other falls asleep. What’s the difference. One is under the Spirit’s power, the other is not. The Holy Spirit takes the Word and applies it directly to the heart of the child of God. This presupposes that the heart is open to hear the word. I had heard many times, but the first time I really heard, when the Holy Spirit opened my heart I was saved!

“Paul said the gospel came to them with power; it made an impact. The word came with the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit used the words to convict the people of their sin, awakened them to their need for a Savior, prompted them to believe, and gave them direction for life. These things were also accompanied by deep conviction. The people were convinced that the Bible was God’s revelation of Himself and they submitted to its authority in their lives. They didn’t just believe the Bible because that is what they had always been taught; they believed it because they recognized it as truth in the deepest part of their being…When God is at work the Word of God feels like it is speaking directly to us. It is like the difference between listening to someone who is just making small talk and listening someone who is telling you how to get out of a dangerous situation. You do not pay the same kind of attention to the person who is recounting their family history to you as you do the person who is telling you about how to diffuse a bomb.” –Rev. Bruce Goettsche,

Verse 5d: “…and in much assurance…”

The gospel is a message given with much assurance. This describes the preacher who really believes what he preaches. There is no substitute for that assurance, and if a preacher doesn't have it, he should stay out of the pulpit. Preaching is not merely talking about God but in a sense is God Himself working through the message and personality of the preacher confronting men and bringing them to Himself.

Our authority is the word of God! We preachers deal with the most significant issues mortals will ever face, life, death, hope, destruction, eternal salvation, and eternal condemnation. But do we handle these issues with any passion? Do we actually believe what we are preaching? How convinced are we that hell is real for those without Christ? If our listeners doubt our earnestness, how can they believe? Jesus preached as one having authority, “And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:28,29). God's word tells us we can do the same, “Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority…”(Titus 2:15). “Those who have lost confidence in the authority of the Bible as the word of God are left with little to say and no authority for their message.”– Paul puts it plainly in 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season (When it’s popular, when it’s not popular), Convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching.” Dare to stand on the authority of God's word every time you preach or teach.

“The word of human beings, however wise in substance or eloquent in expression, cannot produce spiritual life: this is the prerogative of the word of God, which works effectually in believers. Like the Corinthians a few weeks later, the Thessalonians had proved that "the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18) –F.F. Bruce

Verse 5e: “As you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.”

You observed us! You heard us preach! You saw our manner of life! You checked out our doctrines and our practice. And for your sake we sustained difficulties, endured hardships, and were incessant in our labors. We lived the gospel as well as spoke it, and for no success or interest of our own.

The Church is endued with the spirit of discerning; and ministers should approve themselves spiritual in word and conversation, “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Romans 8:37). You saw that we were “striving together for the faith of the gospel…” (Philippians 1:27). “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Verse 6a: “And you became followers (imitators) of us and of the Lord …”

“Followers” in Greek is mimetes, emulator, imitator, a God-approved example. It is always used positively in the New Testament where it is used 7 times. Mimetes basically means to copy or imitate someone's behavior and has many related words in English - "mime" (one who acts out an imitation of another person or animal), "pantomime" (a theater production which originally was without words), "mimeograph" (a machine which makes many copies from one stencil). Webster says that to imitate means to follow as a pattern, model, or example; to be or appear like. The 1828 Webster’s even says in the definition of “imitate” that we should seek the best models to imitate, and in morals and piety, it is our duty to imitate the example of our Savior. Paul says, “Therefore I urge you, imitate me” 1 Corinthians 4:16).

The constant task of every believer is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). How does one do that? Making disciples is simply saying to those needing to grow in Christ, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). It is saying: “If you want to know how a Christian should live, watch me!” “If you want to hear how a Christian should talk, listen to me!” “If you want to see what a Christian husband or wife should be, watch me!” “If you want to see what a Christian parent should be, watch me!” That’s Discipling!

If we desire to see people live for Christ, then we must set the example. With Paul we must say, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV).

Copy the Master: “The Louvre in Paris is perhaps the most famous art museum in the world. It displays originals by such masters as Delacroix, Michelangelo, Rubens, da Vinci, Ingres, Vermeer, and many others.Since 1793, the Louvre has encouraged aspiring artists to come and copy the masters. Some of our most famous modern artists have done that and have become better painters by copying the best the world has ever known.An article in Smithsonian magazine tells about Amal Dagher, a 63-year-old man who has been duplicating art at the Louvre for 30 years. Dagher remains in awe of the masters and continues to learn from them. He said, ‘If you're too satisfied with yourself, you can't improve.’Paul instructed us to be ‘imitators of God’ (Ephesians 5:1). In his first letter to the Thessalonians, he commended the believers because they were becoming like the Lord and setting an example for others (1 Thessalonians 1:6-10).Like the Louvre copyists, we'll never reach perfection before we get to heaven. Even so, we must resist the temptation to be satisfied with our present imitation of Jesus. We need to keep looking to Him, learning from Him, and asking for His help. Let's copy the Master.” —David C. Egner, Our Daily Bread.

Verse 6b: “…having received the word…”

“Having received,” dechomai in Greek means to receive something offered or transmitted by another, to accept deliberately, readily and kindly. The picture is of one ‘putting out the welcome mat’ for God's word of truth as one would a good friend or a guest, inviting entry into one's house. The verb indicates that the reception was a voluntary and willing act on the Thessalonians' part.

“They first received it by eagerly hearing it. They wanted to know what it was all about: they were attentive to it, and wanted to understand it. When they had heard it they rejoiced, and said, ‘Oh, yes, yes, yes, this is the very thing we want!’ They embraced it. That word will do—they embraced it. They put their arms around it, and would not let it go. They were hospitable to the gospel, and said, ‘Come in, thou blessed of the Lord: come and live in our hearts!’ They assented and they consented to the word of the Lord. They first appreciated the gospel, and then they apprehended it by faith. They were like the man that was hungry in a foreign land, and he could not make the people quite understand; but as soon as ever they brought an article of food which he liked he fell to directly, and made them comprehend that he would be glad of more of that sort of thing. By his hearty reception of what they brought, the hungry man said plainly, "Bring some more of that." –C.H. Spurgeon

Verse 6c: “…in much affliction…”

“Affliction, persecution” in Greek is thlipsis, to crush, press, compress or squeeze, it carries the idea of being squeezed or placed under pressure and thus refers to intense pressure, hard circumstances, suffering or trouble that inflicts anguish, distress, oppression and affliction.

“The new believers in Thessalonica experienced severe persecution, but the genuineness of their salvation transcended that affliction so that they never lost their joy. In his second epistle Paul commends them ‘for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations (thlipsis) that you endure’” (2 Thessalonians 1:4) –John MacArthur

Tribulation-affliction is the normal lot of Christians and is a fact taken repeatedly emphasized in the New Testament. Jesus' last words to His disciples before leaving the upper room were, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may (continually) have peace. In the world you will (continually) have tribulation (thlipsis), but take courage (be undaunted, of good cheer); I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Verse 6d: “…with joy of the Holy Spirit…”

The joy of the Lord is the gladness of heart that comes from knowing God, abiding in Christ, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. Not long before coming to Thessalonica, Paul and Silas personally experienced the principle of having the joy of the Holy Spirit even in the presence of much affliction - when they sang in the Philippian jail despite their chains and sufferings. They were examples of this same spirit to the Thessalonian Christians

I have never forgotten a word from an evangelist who came to our church for a week-long meeting. I was a new Christian so I was learning about the Christian life. He said, “If you have a song in your heart, and a smile on your lips you will have victory in your life.” Indeed, “The joy of the Lord is your (my) strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). I’ve never forgotten it!

“Joy of the Holy Spirit” means the joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, one element of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Receiving the Word is receiving Christ, receiving Christ is receiving the Holy Spirit, and He brings joy and gladness. No other explanation for their deep joy under the circumstances was possible.

“Notice that they received the word with affliction and joy. This is how they had imitated the Lord and the apostles. Externally there was affliction; internally there was joy. It is an unusual combination! For the man of the world, it is impossible to experience joy and affliction simultaneously; to him, sorrow is the opposite of joy. The Christian has a “joy of the Holy Spirit” that is independent of circumstances; to him, the opposite of joy is sin. The affliction they endured was the persecution which followed their conversion.” –William MacDonald

Verse 7a: “…so that you became examples to all…”

“Example” in Greek is tupos, it literally refers to a visible mark or impression made by a stroke or blow from an instrument or object. What is left after the stroke or blow is called a print, a figure or an impression. For example, the most famous reference to a literal mark tupos is when Thomas doubted Jesus' resurrection from the dead declaring “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint (tupos) of the nails” (John 20:25).

“Consistent believers are living evidences of the truth of Christianity, by the purity of their conduct, by their unselfishness, by their patience in suffering, they prove that there is something real and living in Christianity. But Inconsistent believers are obstacles in the way of the gospel (Ed: Inconsistent believers need to be very careful they do not fall into the trap of self-deception–thinking they are true believers when there is no evidence whatsoever in their life of genuine repentance and regeneration. ‘Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 6 But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified’ (2 Corinthians 13:5,6). They confirm the worldly in their worldliness, as if Christianity were a mere pretense, and thus give occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme.” –The Pulpit Commentary (edited by Pastor John)

Has Jesus left such an imprint on you that you are an example to others?

“in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility” (Titus 2:7).

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Philippians 3:17 ESV).

“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

Verse 7b: “…in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.”

“The Thessalonian believers shared the good news throughout Macedonia and Achaia. They did not do it by means of great crusades or campaigns. There were no citywide meetings in rented stadiums. We can do that today, and thank God for it, but that is not what the Thessalonians did. They simply told their neighbors and friends what God had done for them. They explained the new joy and peace that had come into their hearts. Then, when their friends began to ask questions, they invited them over and opened the Scriptures. Through the quiet, almost invisible, network of what we would call home Bible studies, they shared the good news. Silently, without fanfare, the gospel spread throughout this whole area of the Roman Empire. The entire countryside was stirred by what was taking place in people's lives. In Thessalonica the city fathers described Paul and his friends by saying, "These men who have turned the world upside down, have come here also" (Acts 17:6 RSV). In this way the good news eventually filtered into all parts of the known world.” Ray Stedman

Dwight L. Moody regularly asked complete strangers about their spiritual life. One day he stopped a young man and asked him: ”Are you a Christian?” The young man replied, “It is none of your business.” Moody said, “Yes it is.”

Then the young man said, “You must be Dwight L. Moody.”

What a splendid reputation to precede any Christian! What would others say of us if what we were best known for became public knowledge? If the letters of our life would form one word to describe us, what would it be? Better still, rather than describe ourselves, with what one word would others describe us? Evangelistic was the word that characterized Moody. What do we say, or do, that as quickly identifies us?

**Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB).**

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