“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.”
Uncertainty is a reality of life. The idea of control and certainty is an illusion we tell ourselves in order to retain a degree of sanity. This castle we construct is only one phone call away from crumbling down. And what is true of our lives can also be true of our spiritual experience.
The people you lead will at some point question their salvation. For instance, the young girl who falls into sin doubts God’s love for her; the struggling husband unable to keep his heart drawn to the Lord as the world reels him in. Or simply the ebbs and flows of life. Whilst some are open to discussing their doubts, others simply bury such ideas, treating them as rumors in their heart better left unspoken.
Into this context of doubt, Paul writes to affirm them of their salvation! In particularly, he speaks into their insecurity by reminding them that God loves them. He also to speak into their insignificance by reminding them they are chosen by God. How will they know they are loved and chosen by God? Well the answer is evident, “because [the] gospel came to [them] not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction.” These are the markers that Paul uses to convey the certain of God’s love.
1. The word.
The message Paul and his colleges proclaimed was simple: “Christ and him Crucified” – a stumbling block to Jews and to Gentiles but life to those who receive it. A message that confronted those with pride and power, yet comforted those with humility and meekness. This word of God is the powerful truths of the gospel that announces forgiveness of sin, newness of life and a future hope. The gospel came in word!
Yet this word isn’t mere a trite expression but rather a powerful proclamation. Romans 1:16 says that the gospel is the very power of salvation. The gospel is the most powerful idea the world has ever heard. And if you can communicate an idea in a way that resonates change will happen. This is what the gospel does! It has an agenda to achieve and does so with power. Through signs and wonders, changed lives through new birth and new affections, the gospel power is seen, felt, experienced! As the Church experienced this power they would have been assured of their salvation.
3. The Holy Spirit.
Through what means is this power experienced? Well the Holy Spirit himself is the one who awakens the hearts of unbelievers to the beauty of the gospel (cf Acts 16:14). His presence ushers in the effectual work of the gospel on the minds and hearts of those in Thessalonica.
4. Full conviction.
When the Spirit’s power is at work, the produce of conviction takes place. Jesus put it this way when he said, “…When the Holy Spirit comes, He will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment” (John 15:8-10). The Holy Spirit worked amongst the people drawing their gaze towards Jesus.
This message brings certainty to people’s lives. We can’t lead with a cool Christianity, social gospel, fundamental legalism, empty religion or moralistic therapeutic deism. We need to lead with the word of God. When they are caught up in sin we lead them to the freeing power of the gospel. When they are downcast of soul we guide them to the wellspring of the hope found in the word. When they are clinging to earthly possessions we liberate them by the gospel story of a savior who forsook heaven.
This message changed their lives – this was how they knew they were loved and chosen by God. This effectual gospel was not only powerful to save but powerful change. There was fruit of the spirit and fruit of the mission in their lives. As they turned from their idols to the ideals of Christ, word spread to surrounding cities. The work of the gospel gave certainty to the believers that they were in fact loved and chosen by God. A good leader leads his people with this powerful message.
The question we ask is our message in line with Paul’s? In order to help identify this message we can answer the following questions.
- What have I been praying for most recently?
- What do I celebrate on social media?
- What do my followers hear me say most?
- What message do I hear most from those I lead?
- If an outsider watched how I spent my time leading, what would they observe is the most important thing for me?
- Where do I turn to to provide certainty for my followers?
The Take Home
Leader, let’s be sure that the main message we lead with is the message of the gospel.