The Thessalonian church attempted great things
for God, and they did it in a hostile culture.
Their culture was a multiplicity of many gods.
No one god claimed ultimate truth. Paganism is what
we would call relativism today. Each person believes
the god or value he or she desires.
PROTOCOL AGAINST PAGANISM
Paul, in another context, set up a policy for himself
when he went to pagan Corinth. His policy was to not
become sidetracked by Greek pagan philosophy, he
simply presented the Gospel of Christ.
"For I determined not to know anything among you
except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." (1 Cor. 2:2)
Paul was a person of conviction. People of conviction
are thoroughly convinced that something is absolutely
true that they take a stand for it regardless of the
When Paul's team moved into Thessalonica with their
Gospel artillery of unshakable truth, it became an event
of great impact. This message produced four biblical
protocols that issued in the Thessalonians reaching
"For our Gospel did not come to you in word only,
but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much
assurance, as you know what kind of men we were
among you for your sake." (1 Thessalonians 1:5)
First Thessalonians 1:5 sets forth four factors that make
the Gospel a tour de force for attempting great things
for God. Each of these four dynamics is crucial for
effective evangelism. Each feature begins by the word
"in." The four uses of "in" in this verse show what makes
the Gospel effective. In effect, these are four protocols
for advancing the Gospel in the world.
PROTOCOL #1: SPOKEN WORD
"Our Gospel did not come to you in word only"
The word "Gospel" is emphatic in the Greek. It is the
message itself and not the act of preaching that changes
lives. The power of the Gospel is in the message, not
the messenger. Many have lost anchor in the Word of
God because they have adopted the dogmas of man.
Paul's Gospel team came communicating in the sphere
of speaking the content of the Gospel message. If we
are serious about spreading the Gospel effectively,
we first give people content to believe. The leading
unalterable protocol is to set forth the Gospel in clear
terms. The only way to do this is with words. Everything
is secondary to the verbal proclamation of God's saving
PROTOCOL #2: SPIRITUAL VIBRANCY
"But Also in Power"
The word "but" is emphatic in the Greek. The Holy
Spirit forcefully wants us to see that the Gospel is more
than careful clarification of its facts.
The word "also" indicates that sharing our faith involves
something more than just explaining the Gospel. The
impact of Gospel presentation is not made solely with
words. In this verse, Paul expressed Protocol #2 using
the word "in" a second of four times. In addition to
speaking, there are three further spiritual dynamics
to the presentation of the Gospel: in "power," in "the
Holy Spirit," and in "much assurance."
We restrict the dynamics of the Gospel if we employ
only one of these spheres. We need all four dynamic
domains if we want to make a full impact for missions.
"Power" indicates that there is spiritual vibrancy in
the Gospel itself. The Gospel message came in God's
inherent power which is real and compelling. This
power goes beyond human capacity. The power is
also in the message itself:
"For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power
of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the
Jew first and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:16)
PROTOCOL #3: THE HOLY SPIRIT
"And in the Holy Spirit"
The third occurrence of the word "in" is "in the Holy
Spirit." The Holy Spirit can reach into the hearts of
people where the mere dead words of man cannot
reach. The Holy Spirit is in charge of operations
in the soul. We speak to the ears; the Holy Spirit
speaks to the heart.
The Word without the Spirit is dead orthodoxy.
PROTOCOL #4: POWERFUL CONVICTION
"And Much Assurance"
Since Christianity is becoming distinctly marginalized
in culture, many believers here in the Free West reside
in passionless Christianity. One reason is churches
have lost confidence in the certainty of Christianity.
Uncertainty leads to diminishing conviction.
The Gospel came with something more than "word,"
"power," and "Holy Spirit"; it came as well "with deep
conviction". If we are uncertain about what we believe,
we will not convince others of the message.
This is the 4th use of "in." The Gospel communicators
came within the scope of deep conviction when they
entered Thessalonica. Conviction about the certainty
of what we believe motivates Christians to share the
Gospel. Certainty brings contagious conviction about
distribution of the Gospel.
The Thessalonians came to full conviction that the
Gospel was truly from God because the communicators
were true to the Word and came in the power of the
message, in the dynamic of the Holy Spirit, and with
burning conviction from Paul's team.
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things
present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us
from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our
Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)
Exploits to the Entire Roman World
"For you the word of the Lord has sounded forth,
not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every
place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that
we do not need anything." (1 Thessalonians 1:8)
Not only did the Thessalonians reach Greece with
the Gospel but they spread the Gospel to all of the
Roman Empire -- and they did so in one year! The
words 'sounded forth' come from two words, out
and hold, meaning to cause to sound out. It has the
implication of to sound out a trumpet or thunder,
to reverberate like an echo. When the Gospel gains
momentum, then its impact exponentially increases.
The Thessalonian church made an impact because
Christ made an impact on them. They reached
those without Christ in places they could not have
With so many evangelicals becoming uncertain about
what they believe, we see significant decline of
Christianity in the West. Evangelicals must awaken
to the fact that passionless Christianity is nothing
more than unadulterated unbelief.
In order to advance the cause of Christ it is essential
to return to fundamental convictions found in the
Word of God. We need to have a belief in the Gospel,
a dependence on the Spirit to accomplish the task and
deep persuasion about what God will do through us.
Our assignment is to move the unbelievers from
the view that there is no final meaning to the belief
God has given us absolute truth.
If we do this, we can expect great things from God.
Will we expect great things from God? Will we
attempt great things for God?
This article is based on the keynote address that
Dr. Grant Richison delivered at
the 2017 AIM Fall Leadership Seminar
Suppers in Manitoba. Dr. Richison
serves as Vice-President Theology with AIM.
posted on August 15, 2018