“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 1:4-5 ESV).
I don’t know about you, but I make the mistake of not reading 1 Thessalonians enough. In doing so, I have deprived myself of theological richness. I just so happened to read the first chapter the other day and was struck by the above two verses, the bold part in particular.
The gospel comes. And it not only comes in word, and not only in power via the Holy Spirit, but with full conviction. Word, power, full conviction. That is weighty language. And it’s important language.
In this post, I want to talk briefly about each of these terms and what they mean together.
Preach the gospel, some say. Use words if necessary. This popular statement, though well-intentioned, is drastically off base. There is no biblical support for it, since we all know the gospel must be heard before it can be believed (Romans 10:14). Should our lives give evidence to the transformative power of the gospel? By all means! But no person—past, present, or future—will believe in the gospel simply by looking at a Christian’s life. They must hear the gospel to believe. To be sure, they may see your life and wonder, “What’s different about him?” but they still must hear the gospel.
The gospel must be heard in word. Embedded within the gospel is the power to bring new life! And the amazing part is it doesn’t matter whose lips it comes from. As Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, once said:
He may preach the gospel better than I can, but he cannot preach a better gospel.
It doesn’t matter who is preaching the gospel. If the gospel is preached in word, then people will believe. So, friends, let’s preach the gospel!
In Power (via the Holy Spirit)
The only reason there is power when we preach the gospel is because of the power of the Holy Spirit. We receive power through Him to preach the gospel (Acts 1:8), and the Holy Spirit uses us as instruments of grace and truth.
We have no power in ourselves. Left merely to us, we would fail miserably at communicating the message of the gospel. Since we have the Holy Spirit in us, he is able to use us in his divine power to preach the gospel.
The gospel comes in power, ultimately, because God is omnipotent. He is all-powerful and has saved us with a powerful gospel. It has the power to transform desires, to change hearts, to bring new life. It has the power to replace old, wicked desires with new, godly affections.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel,” the Apostle Paul says in Romans 1:16, “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (ESV, italics mine).
With Full Conviction
When we preach the gospel, we must do with full and gospel-produced conviction. How would it look if I attempted to preach the gospel but it didn’t even sound like I believed the message? For our preaching to truly be powerful—along with the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit—we must preach with conviction.
Conviction that the Word of God, the Bible, is the final authority above all things.
Conviction that God is holy, we are not, but Christ is the way to the Father.
Conviction that, for those who repent and believe, they will reap eternal life.
Friends, the above statements need to be our conviction in order for our preaching to be with full conviction!
We must preach the Word, and do so in word, in the Holy Spirit’s power, and with deep, abiding conviction that God’s Word is true!