The Power of God’s Gospel in the Lives of People
Posted On August 25, 2017
Why is it that we neglect the Word of God when we need it most, especially during times of spiritual depression, spiritual “plateaus,” and suffering? In theory, we know the gospel is powerful to save (Rom. 1:16) and to sustain us (1 Cor. 1:18). In practice, however, that knowledge is often the first thing to leave our memory banks when we are tossed to and fro by the trials of life. First Thessalonians 1:1–10 has a lot to say about the power of God’s gospel in the lives of God’s people. This post will set the stage for a series on 1 Thessalonians 1:1–10 by recounting the power of God’s gospel in Acts 17 before looking at “the God of the Gospel” and “the Power of God’s Gospel in the Lives of God’s People”
Acts 17 records Paul and Silvanus (or Silas) entering Thessalonica during Paul’s second missionary journey. You can imagine what Paul saw as he entered this sea-port city in northern Greece. He would have been surrounded by idols everywhere—all over shops, on bracelets and necklaces, in banquet halls surrounded by food. He would simply have to glance over his shoulder to gaze at the infamous Mt. Olympus, the mythological home of the Greek gods. He would have passed by temples erected to worship Caesar as Lord. And, eventually, he would have made his way to a synagogue where he proclaimed, what was to them, a foreign God. He preached about a crucified king, Jesus Christ, who died but rose victoriously after three days. Many philosophers and sophists would have entered cities to hear “new” teachings, but the Thessalonians had never heard about the gospel of Jesus Christ. When they did, they embraced it for salvation. Imagine seeing people forsaking, even shattering, their false idols in order to serve the true and living God. That’s exactly what the Thessalonians did: “For 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” (1 Thess. 1:9). So powerful was their conversion, and so hostile was the response of unbelievers, that Paul and Silas were described as “men who have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). The gospel was economically, socially, politically, and even religiously disruptive in Thessalonica. God’s gospel shook the city and those within it. Once persecution became too intense, Paul had to leave this young community of thriving believers to fend for themselves in a very hostile situation.
But Paul, being the pastor that he was, greatly desired to encourage them in the midst of affliction. He therefore sent Timothy, according to 1 Thessalonians 3:2–3, “to establish and exhort [them] in the faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions.” When Timothy came back, he brought “good news of [their] faith and love” (3:6). In response, Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians in order to exhort them further in the faith, especially in the midst of suffering.
This is the context of 1 Thessalonians 1:1–10, a text that recounts the Thessalonians’ reception of the gospel as the very Word of God and the powerful effect it had in their lives. May we be encouraged by their repentance, faith, and perseverance in trials. May we also be challenged by Paul and Silvanus’s love for God’s people, who earnestly shared “not only the gospel of God but also [their] very selves” to those in great need (1 Thess. 2:8).
Dr. David Briones is Professor of New Testament at Reformation Bible College.