“. . . our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5).
PAUL’S ENEMIES IN THESSALONICA WERE PROBABLY SAYING THAT HE WAS A FAKE. The gospel of Christ was false, they would have said, and what is more, Paul knew it to be false. He was deceiving people deliberately, for reasons that were purely selfish. So Paul was anxious about those who had obeyed the gospel in Thessalonica. Knowing of their persecution and that they were hearing hateful charges against him, Paul was concerned — not about his reputation but about their steadfastness. The last thing he wanted was for their faith to be overthrown by doubts about him personally.
To these brethren, Paul wrote, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers . . . For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-5).
Paul wanted several things to be clearly understood. (1) Although the gospel is communicated by words, it was far more than the reasonableness of the words that had moved the Thessalonians to believe. (2) In addition to the words, there had been “power.” This is a reference to the miraculous powers by which the apostles guaranteed the truth of their message (Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:4,5; Hebrews 2:3,4). (3) The Thessalonians also needed to remember that the gospel had come to them “in the Holy Spirit.” This may be a second way of referring to the miracles, but it probably also points to the source of the gospel. The message had come from the Holy Spirit and not merely from Paul’s intellect (1 Corinthians 2:11-13). (4) Finally, the gospel had been presented “with full conviction.” Paul believed the gospel deeply. He and his coworkers might be many things, but they were not charlatans or liars. “You know,” he said, “what kind of men we proved to be among you.”
This text merits our careful attention. Even though the apostles are no longer preaching in person, the foundation has been laid and the record stands firm. The gospel, as preached and confirmed by the apostles, is just as powerful for us as it was for the Thessalonians!
“The world has many religions; it has but one gospel” (George Owen).