By Dr. Grant Richison

(This article is the final section in a series from Dr. Grant Richison's lecture "Expect Great Things from God". Click here to read the beginning of this article series.)

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.


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 consequences.

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 "the world".

"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.

"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 message.

"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)

"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.

"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 gone themselves.

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
Advancing Indigenous Missions 2018