Here is an essay introduction I wrote to the book of I Thessalonians for the recently released Jesus Centered Bible.
Jesus in I Thessalonians
More than I’ve seen in my lifetime, people in the church are divided over how we should most effectively spread the good news of Jesus Christ. In recent generations, it was all about “saving souls.” Back when I was growing up, “my people” emphasized the power of the Holy Spirit (we called him the Holy Ghost – it sounded more dramatic). And recently our “gospel presentation” has shifted to simply living a lifestyle of doing good.
So, what’s the right answer?
The authors of I Thessalonians–Paul, Silas and Timothy–give us the best and most concise response to this question: “We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people. For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true. And you know of our concern for you from the way we lived when we were with you. So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord. As a result, you have become an example to all the believers in Greece—throughout both Macedonia and Achaia” (I Thess 1:4-7)
Do you see it? Right there is the “formula” for communicating Jesus to others–the answer is “all of the above.” We communicate the gospel:
Not simply with words. That means there are words to speak. Some of my friends love to share this (supposed) Francis of Assisi quote: “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” But, of course, words are necessary. Jesus used words.
Also with power. This nuance will make my Pentecostal and Charismatic friends happy. Yes, we need power. The Kingdom of God isn’t just about talk—it’s about power.
With the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. God’s Spirit brings a beautiful, tender, but deep sense of repentance to our hearts.
Embedded in our daily life. “You know how we lived among you for your sake.” Boom. There it is. Our final call is to live a life that is worthy of the calling we have received. Without a life well-lived, our message rings hollow.
There is no dichotomy in how the gospel is offered—it’s all of the above. Paul, Silas, and Timothy model it. They preach it with words and power. And the Holy Spirit convicts of sin.
Jesus, as well, lives with us in integrity and in the power of the Spirit. He works miracles (power) and communicates with words. He focuses on a few, and preaches to crowds of several thousand. He meets physical needs as well as spiritual needs. Jesus is our model in all things, and his answer is “all of the above.”
The Jesus Centered Bible can be purchased here.