Study 11 PREACHING THE GOSPEL WITH POWER
BREAD ENOUGH AND TO SPARE
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: 1 Thessalonians 1: 1-10)
This letter was written by Paul to very young Christians, and it was one of the first letters he wrote that has been included in the canon of scripture. In verse 5 we are told seven things about preaching the gospel:-
1. “…our gospel…”
Here is something audacious that the apostle says. He does not speak of “the gospel” but of “our gospel”. The gospel is that message of grace in which God spells out His love to mankind, and it is variously described in the New Testament: in Romans 1:1 as “the gospel of God” because God is the author of it; in Romans 1:16 (KJV) as “the gospel of Christ” because Christ is the subject of it; in 2 Corinthians 4:4 as “the gospel of the glory of Christ” because Christ’s glory is declared in the gospel; in Ephesians 1:13 as “the gospel of your salvation” because the gospel conveys the good news of salvation to the sinner; in Ephesians 6:15 as “the gospel of peace” because the gospel declares peace with God and the availability of the peace of God; and in Revelation 14:6 as “the eternal gospel” because the good news is good news for eternity. But in Romans 2:16 Paul describes the gospel as “my gospel”. It was Paul’s, but not in any exclusive sense; it was not only Paul’s but is ours too. It is ours first because we are saved by it (Romans 1:16); it is ours because we are entrusted with it (2 Corinthians 5:19), and compare 1 Thessalonians 2:4.
2. “…came to you…”
The important thing to notice here is that the gospel was not only known, loved and possessed by Paul, but it was communicated by him. There was a time when the Thessalonians were without the gospel, and then suddenly it “came” to them. What a wonderful thing it is when the gospel comes to a city, to a family or to an individual for the first time! For examples of a city look up Acts 17:1-4 or Acts 8:5-8. For an example of a family look up Acts 16:14-15; 25-34. For examples of individuals look up Acts 8:26-39; Acts 9:1-19; Acts 10:1-48. Has the gospel come to you, and if so are you communicating it?
3. “…with words…”
What is God’s method for the communication of the gospel, for spreading the good news? His method is that it should be spread by word – by word of mouth and also by the printed word. That is how God first sent the gospel to us in a very significant and wonderful way; He sent “the Word” (John 1:1-14), and we are to communicate the gospel to others by word of mouth (Matthew 28:19; Acts 8:4; 1 Corinthians 1:21). But this is not enough…
4. “…but also with power…”
When we preach the gospel, whether to the crowd or to the individual, if it is the gospel, God’s Word, then it has power in it (Romans 1:16 again). It is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). What an encouragement this is, that when we speak the Word it will do its own work because it has power to convict (Acts 2:37); power to convert (Acts 17:10-12); power to comfort (1 Thessalonians 4:18). But wait! There is an additional power which enforces the gospel when it is preached, and for the effective preaching of the gospel this power is essential.
5. “…with the Holy Spirit…”
What Paul really says is, ‘When we preached the gospel to you, it not only had power in it but power on it; not only internal power but external power, the power of the Word and the power of the Spirit.’ We can preach the gospel faithfully, declaring the whole counsel of God, yet do it without the power of the Holy Spirit! We know the Word will do its own work, but how much greater will be the results when the preacher is anointed with the power of the Spirit! This is our great need for the effective preaching of the gospel (Zechariah 4:6; Acts 1:8). It requires the dedication and preparation of God’s servant plus the intercession and prayer-support of the believers. When the preacher is in a right relationship with God and the people in the pews are praying for him, then God’s power flows, souls are saved and Christians are blessed.
6. “…with deep conviction…”
Paul is saying that when he preached he did so with tremendous authority, and this, under the blessing of the Holy Spirit, brought an overwhelming sense of conviction into the hearts and minds of those who heard the Word. There is a desperate need for this kind of preaching and testifying today. What happens when preachers preach with deep conviction? (1) the people press in to hear the Word. (2) they tremble when they listen to it. (3) there is no room for complacency, for God’s power is present in a marvellous way. (4) we witness the Lord’s work through the preaching of the Word.
7. “You know how we lived among you for your sake”
What is the significance of this? Paul is saying that when the gospel came to the Thessalonians it came not only in word, in power, with deep conviction and with the Holy Spirit, but it was demonstrated in the lives of those who proclaimed it. These people heard the Word and they saw it. It was not only on the lips of the preachers but was demonstrated in the lives of those who did the preaching. They practised what they preached! They made the teaching about God attractive (Titus 2:10).