“…our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.”
1 Thessalonians 1:5
What does it take to turn pagan worshippers “to God from idols to serve the living and true God?” (1:9). What power can sever those who all their lives have given their lives, money and deep devotion to pagan gods? When your affection and praise has been set on idols for decades it takes an energy and dynamic to detach and separate you from the snare of your darling deities. We are told of Paul’s visit to Thessalonica in Acts 17:1-9. Just nine verses summarising an amazing display of gospel power in the context of turmoil, opposition and protest. All the drama of a mob riot, shouting crowds, bad characters and conflict provide the backdrop to see the Lord at work. Jews, God fearing Greeks and other Gentiles are converted by the apostolic witness as a result of Paul’s preaching.
There are four key words to describe Paul’s approach in communicating the truth of the gospel word, “…he reasoned, explaining, proving and proclaiming” (vs 2 & 3).
The foundation of the fourfold presentation is the Scriptures. There is no other solid basis of truth as we confront the gods of Ancient Greece or our current pagan context where the idols of our time hold our culture in their iron grip. Our minds and hearts need a liberating power to release us from the bondage and death of these false lies. The focus of the message is Jesus as Messiah. God’s appointed, anointed Christ. His suffering and resurrection. The gentiles quickly get it – Jesus is King. His rule and reign is superior to all others. His kingdom towers over all others and outlasts them all. All alien gods are no gods at all. They are false, empty and inferior representations of the “living and true God and … his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1:10).
This message was effective as the word was preached “not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction” (1:5). It always takes Holy Spirit power to regenerate and convert every unbeliever whether we are religious like Jews or irreligious like Gentile pagans. There is no other message, no other power that rescues, redeems and restores us to serve God as we were intended to do from the beginning. We all share the resurrected power of the Lord applied powerfully by the Spirit as he first convicts us of our sin and shame. Then He leads us to Christ and opens our eyes to see, our ears to hear and hearts to receive the forgiveness, grace and mercy of a loving Saviour. We must never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit in making us, as well as the Thessalonians, true believers. Our awareness of saving faith may differ. Our appreciation and enjoyment of grace may vary at times. The degree and extent of power may be more in terms of quantity during times of awakening revival. But the quality and essence of Holy Spirit power is one for all times and places as it turns, converts and raises us from the grave of unbelief. Behind every conversion is a supernatural, miraculous intervention of irresistible sovereign grace. It’s difficult to believe it but you and I are walking miracles!
Let us thank the Lord for our powerful salvation and its transforming energy to give us a new dynamic to change us for time and eternity. As we hear of many turning to online gospel messages and evangelistic talks and testimonies lets pray that the word will be heard with Holy Spirit power and deep conviction. Pray too for the continuing work of the gospel in Thessaloniki today. Remember particularly our brother Antonis Topaloglou and family @ Kipseli Community with the many opportunities they have for witness.
Meirion Thomas, Malpas Road