7 Observations on Sharing the Gospel from 1 Thessalonians

PaulI’ve been reading through the letters to the Thessalonians. These letters were written by Paul while on his 2nd Missionary Journey, sometime between 50 and 52 AD. Most scholars assume that the first letter was written shortly after Paul arrived in Corinth, after Timothy rejoined him & Silas. The second is also assumed to have been written in Corinth during the 18 month stay (Acts 18:11).

Paul’s missionary outreach to the city is captured in Acts 17:1-9. The stay is rather brief. How brief is a matter of debate. The Jewish people in the city became jealous when many people started to follow Christ so they stirred up the crowds and incited a riot that forced Paul and Silas to leave.

In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, we can learn seven things about sharing the Gospel.

our gospel did not come to you merely in words, but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction … as you know, we had the courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of much opposition. (1 Thess 1:5-6; 2:2 NET)

he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidenceAnd some of them were persuaded (Acts 17:2-4 NASB)

The Gospel came in words rooted in Scripture. Paul and Silas proclaimed the good news that the Messiah, promised to Israel, has come, been executed and buried, and had risen from the dead just as the Scriptures had foretold (cmp Acts 13:16-43; 1 Cor 15:1-4).

The Gospel was presented with persuasive, rational explanations. Paul and Silas explained how the Scriptures pointed to Christ. They appealed to reason and presented the information so that the hearers could understand the message and could be persuaded of the truth (Acts 17:2-4 also Acts 18:4; 19:8; 26:28).

The Gospel was proclaimed with boldness.  Paul and Silas were convinced of the message they shared and, despite opposition, proclaimed the good news with boldness (1 Thess 2:2). This boldness was not arrogant or pushy, as we will see, but rooted in confidence that what they had to share was important and true.

The Gospel came in power.  A clear message proclaimed with boldness is not enough. It must be accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul does not define the power that accompanied the proclamation of the Gospel in Thessalonica. Since Paul had the “gifts of an apostle”, it may have been signs and wonders (cmp 2 Cor 12:12).  It also may refer to the power of the Spirit to illuminate the message, draw people in, and open hearts (cmp. John 1:9; 6:44; 16:8; Acts 16:14; 1 Cor 2:12-13).

surely you recall the character we displayed when we came among you to help you … you are witnesses, and so is God, as to how holy and righteous and blameless our conduct was toward you (1 Thess 1:5; 2:10 NET)

The Gospel was proclaimed with solid character. The power of the Gospel is changed lives. People who live with integrity and are focused on being disciples of Christ. Being dishonest and living in constant sin would discredit the ministry and hinder people from the Gospel (2 Cor 6:3; 8:20). Paul also knew that the way he lived would be setting the pattern for how those who watched him would live (1 Thess 1:6).

 For the appeal we make does not come from error or impurity or with deceit … For we never appeared with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is our witness— nor to seek glory from people, either from you or from others … By working night and day so as not to impose a burden on any of you, we preached to you (1 Thess 2:3-9 NET)

The Gospel was proclaimed with pure motives. Part of ministering with a solid character is having pure motives. Paul used persuasive and rational arguments when proclaiming the truth but he did not rely on flattery or misleading word games (sophism) to win people over. Nor did he seek money or fame. He was focused on pleasing God, speaking clearly, and pointing people to Jesus (1 Thess 2:4).

with such affection for you we were happy to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. We pray earnestly night and day to see you in person (1 Thess 2:8; 3:10 NET)

The Gospel was proclaimed in the context of relationships. Paul and Silas invested in people and got to know them. They developed friendships and ministered within this context. They focused on authentic relationships, knowing what was going on in their life by spending time with them. They knew when to be gentle and when to exhort (1 Thess 2:8-12).  

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