Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 22 2020 - 1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:12 – Words of power

There is power in the message of the gospel; it can transform lives and turn your whole world upside down. Paul knew this; it had happened to him. He had not simply heard about the Lord Jesus, he had come face-to-face with the risen Lord and nothing could ever be the same again. That encounter had transformed his view of the world and it had driven him on in the work of mission.

Paul's experience was unique. Nevertheless, there is another sense in which it was also the experience on these Christians in Thessalonica. The people to whom Paul writes had not simply heard his preaching; their lives had been transformed by the accompanying power of the Holy Spirit. Paul's words had produced deep conviction (1 Thessalonians 1:5) so that those who heard, "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath" (1:9-10). Many in Thessalonica had also been brought face-to-face with the risen Christ and had been "converted," utterly changed.

Paul looks back with thankfulness at the work of God in these people. He remembers their “work produced by faith … labour prompted by love, and … endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3). They had a faith that worked. Their service of the living and true God was expressed in labours of love towards one another and towards their unbelieving neighbours – the words suggests costly effort or even painful toil on behalf of others. The love of God in Christ that had touched and transformed their lives was now touching the lives of others through them. Nor did they grow tired of serving God in this way or lose enthusiasm when they faced opposition; they carried on with an endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. They longed for the day of his return, knowing that for them it would not be a day of wrath but a day of salvation, a day when the whole of creation would be transformed at his coming. So they laboured now to transform their world through the love and power of the risen Saviour.

The power of the gospel is the power of the living God; it is the power of the risen Christ who, by his Spirit, brings men and women into his kingdom. He transforms rebels into servants of the King. This powerful message had been entrusted to Paul (2:4) and he had sought to be faithful to this trust. Paul had taken this message around the Mediterranean world. He had taken it to Thessalonica, the largest and most important city of Macedonia, the capital of the province. There, this message had been entrusted to the Thessalonians and had rung out from them throughout Macedonia and Achaia (1:8) – the word used suggests perhaps rolling thunder which resounds across the countryside. There was nothing half-hearted or timid about their proclamation of Christ.

This same message has now been entrusted to us. In the face of a world preoccupied by false gods, how will this word work in us, among us and through us to proclaim the reign of Christ and extend the kingdom of the living God?

Lord, as we read your word, may we hear you speaking to us. May your word always be accompanied by the powerful and convicting work of your Spirit, transforming our lives and empowering us in the work of the kingdom. May our lives also be characterised by "work produced by faith, labour prompted by love [and] endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ" (1:3), all for the sake of your "kingdom and glory" (1:12).

Peter Misselbrook