1 Thessalonians 1 – Gospel Vitality, Gospel Virality

1 Thessalonians 1 Bible with Madecasse 92 Percent Cocoa Pure Dark Chocolate

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Today’s Passage1 Thessalonians 1

1 Thessalonians 1, let’s do it. I just spilled an entire cup of tea over the kitchen counter, and I have no idea what I’m going to say about this chapter. It’s pure introduction: Paul greets the church at Thessalonica with his usual gratitude, talking about the work that God is doing among them and through them. There are just ten verses here, so it’s time to find something to say about them. This should be fun.

It strikes me how prominent the gospel as a causative force is in this first chapter. Paul isn’t so much talking about the content of the gospel–that God is saving sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ–as he is pointing out its effects on the Thessalonians. As he thanks God for them, he “constantly bear[s] in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ…knowing…His choice of you” (3-4). They’re committed to the big three, faith, hope, and love, because God chose them.

Why did they commit? Fundamentally, because “[O]ur gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (5). The gospel compelled them. They found it compelling. And look, you know me. I’m inclined to say that the Thessalonians had a choice in the matter, too. But even if we make that claim, the Thessalonians’ choice isn’t the important part of the matter. God’s work in a person through Jesus Christ is a necessary condition–the most necessary condition–for a person’s salvation. And if it’s also necessary for a person to choose to receive that salvation, then that’s also because God grants them the freedom necessary to make that choice one way or another. The foundation of salvation is the power of God in Jesus Christ.

And the power of the gospel is also to spread. Part of the Thessalonians’ labor of love that Paul’s so hyped about is that they, too, want others to know the gospel. Paul writes: “For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything” (8). People across the map are hearing how the Thessalonian believers have rejected idols and begun serving God, trusting Jesus for salvation and believing in his resurrection from the dead. The gospel empowers them to preach the gospel–when necessary, as the saying goes, even using words.

I’m going to end on a weird note, just because that’s how this day is turning out. The gospel is like a virus or cancer, hijacking healthy cells in order to duplicate and propagate itself throughout the body of humanity. And I can imagine the anti-religionists saying, “Yes, Jackson! The gospel is precisely a virulent disease infecting humanity! We can’t believe you’ve finally gotten it right!” Well, anti-religionists that I’m imagining, let me finish my analogy before you start praising it. Because in this scenario, the cells are evil: their components are disordered, self-destructive, at odds with their purpose, alienated from the love of their Creator and friendship with their fellow cells. They need to be broken down and reassembled into things that can sincerely love their Creator and neighbors.

The gospel does precisely that–and moreover, it empowers them to propagate the gospel. That’s my analogy and I’m sticking to it. Later, y’all.

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