by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.
Summary: We preachers often focus on the supernatural power of Holy-Ghost-anointed ministry. That is certainly good. But too often we fail to adequately appreciate the remarkable results of such God-empowered ministry.
Main text: 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10
Vss. 4-5a For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.
•• Paul had brought them the gospel, the good news of our great salvation in Jesus Christ. That gospel was delivered:
• with the word of God (“words”). Man’s ideas are insufficient.
• “with power” — the power of God to touch people’s lives and dramatically change them forever.
• “with the Holy Spirit” — the third Person of the Holy Trinity, who empowers and enables all fruitful ministry.
• “with deep conviction” — Holy-Ghost ministry in the power of God affects people to the very core of their being.
Vs. 5b You know how we lived among you for your sake.
•• The apostle Paul was no hypocrite. He practiced what he preached. He himself lived the way he taught others to live.
•• This is the type of ministry that changes individual lives, families, cities, and the world. That is, Holy-Ghost ministry in Holy-Ghost power, ministered by sincere believers who have incorporated into their own lives the things that they preach to others.
Normally sermons on “Holy Ghost ministry” and “Holy Ghost power” proceed to focus on the preaching and teaching of God’s word with supernatural signs and spiritual gifts confirming the word. But today I would like us to look at the flip side of the coin — that is, at the fruitful RESULTS of such ministry.
Vss. 6-7 You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
1) They welcomed the message.
•• What message? — [vss. 4-5a] The gospel of Jesus Christ, presented from the word of God in the power of the Holy Ghost.
• Explanatory note: The King James expression “Holy Ghost” and the modern term “Holy Spirit” are from the same Greek words and mean the same thing.
•• If your ministry to others is as Paul’s was (that is, in word, power, Holy Ghost, and deep conviction), many will receive it.
•• People are not looking for mere talk. They want a gospel that is proven to be of God by the incontrovertible evidences of the power of God.
• The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power (1 Corinthians 4:20).
• My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).
2) The Holy Spirit lodged the message in their hearts with joy.
•• The new Christian’s life will be one of joyfully following the Lord, not one of bored, dutiful obedience.
3) They treasured this new life enough to endure “severe suffering” for it.
•• In 1978 in Japan I met a young pastor who had received Jesus Christ as Savior while in college. His Buddhist family renounced him. But this young pastor still followed Jesus and was pastoring an influential church.
4) They changed their conduct so as to:
• A saved person’s life demonstrates his salvation. Ministry that comes in Holy-Ghost power leaves a powerful impact. The ministers serve as role models, and others naturally try to emulate their godly lives.
5) And these believers (here, the Thessalonian Christians) in turn became a model to other believers.
•• People need role models. Believers should be that to one another.
• My own life has been deeply affected by the men of God who ministered to me in my formative Christian years in the early 1970s. They served as living illustrations of lives changed by the word of God and the indwelling Person and power of the Holy Ghost.
Vs. 8 The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia — your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it...
6) The Gospel message “rang out” from them.
•• The message had come to them in word, in power, and in the Holy Ghost. And this in turn stirred them to be bold witnesses of that same saving gospel.
7) They lived and shared their faith in God everywhere.
•• Our faith is not in man. It is not in government. It is not even meant to be, as some call it, “faith in faith”. No, our faith is in God Almighty! Jesus said, “Have faith in God” (Mark 11:22). The apostle Paul, in a furious storm on the sea, declared, “I have faith in God” for God’s protection (Acts 27:25).
Vs. 9 ...for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God...
8) They renounced their old ways for God’s ways.
•• This speaks of radical conversion. People who have been strongly touched by the ministry of God’s word, in the power of the Holy Ghost, tend to sell out for God more than those who have just casually embraced the Christian faith.
•• You cannot be a Christian pleasing to God and at the same time hang on to the old ways.
9) They chose to serve God, not just passively believe in Him.
•• You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder (James 2:19). Even the devils “believe” in God. Do they ever! But it’s not a faith that leads them to serve God.
•• The new Thessalonian Christians had committed themselves deeply to their new walk with God. When ministry done in Holy Ghost power truly captures a person’s heart, he or she tends to respond with a zeal that is commensurate to the impact of the ministry that led them to the Lord in the first place.
Vs. 10 ...and to wait for his son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
10) Jesus became the center and focus of their lives, their thoughts, and their expectations.
•• “Christ, who is our life...”, said Paul (Colossians 3:4, KJV).
•• “He [Jesus] must increase!”, said John the Baptist (John 3:30, KJV).
•• The Christian who has been properly and powerfully won to Jesus keeps himself committed to Jesus as Lord of his life. He lives well motivated in this life by the anticipation of spending eternity with the Lord.
©1993, James H. Feeney. Copyright statement.