When the Word Has Had Its Way

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A sermon idea based on 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10.

The evidence that the word of God, the message of the gospel, has had its way in the hearts of people is that people turn to God, serve God, and wait for Jesus with hope and expectancy.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 NRSV

[1] Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. [2] We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly [3] remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

[4] For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, [5] because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. [6] And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, [7] so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. [8] For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. [9] For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, [10] and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead-Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

How do we know that God has been at work among people through the message of the gospel?

Paul lays it out for us in a rather organized way. He seems, in his greeting (in verse 3), to give a quick little outline which he then expands upon in the verses that follow. He lists three pieces of evidence that God has been working in the midst of the believers in Thessalonica…

3 Signs God’s Word Has Had Its Way In Us

1. We have an energizing faith.

Paul combines the word for work (energy) with the word faith (trust), signifying the relationship between these two factors in our lives. Our faith gives us energy, and investing our energy increases our faith.

2. An emboldened love.

Paul is referring not to a love that is expressed in mere words or intentions, but which is expressed in action. Real love acts in addition to speaking.

3. An enduring hope.

There’s a big difference between mere wishful thinking and the kind of resilient, steadfast hope to which Paul is referring here. Our hope is in something settled – the fact of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

And then Paul goes on to expand on these, indicating that they are the fruit of what God’s word – the preaching of the message of the gospel – has done in terms of changing the hearts and lives of the believers in Thessalonica.

Paul writes, “We know God has chosen you…” (v. 4) How? “Because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction…” (v. 5)

Among modern Christians, we will often say things like, “God spoke to my heart and said…” And there’s nothing at all wrong with giving testimony to what we believe God has said to us in the innermost places of our being. But what really matters is that our very lives become evidence that God speaks, and that his message changes us in gospel-shaped ways.

And what does life change look like when it comes to being the fruit of God’s word?

Paul closes this opening of the letter with three observations outsiders kept making about the Thessalonian believers that, in some ways, parallel the three pieces of evidence he presented earlier in the passage.

3 Proofs of Gospel-Shaped Life Change

1. We turn toward God from idols.

There is a turning, a repenting, that takes place. In one sense, it certainly happens the very moment we decide to yield our lives to Christ as King. But in another sense, this repentance is ongoing. We keep crushing idols and we keep turning more and more toward God.

2. We serve the living God.

There is also an embracing of the mission of God for his church – sharing the gospel with others, loving others with our actions, and extending God’s kingdom to the world around us.

3. We wait for Jesus with hope.

The New Testament writers often spoke of “looking for” the coming of Jesus. This will be a theme Paul addresses through both of his letters to the Thessalonians. Here he lays out that, while we may not fully understand how or have knowledge of exactly when, we believe that Jesus will complete the work of saving the world.

And that faith informs and motivates us to continue to be more like him and to share him with everyone we can while we wait.


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

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First and Second Thessalonians (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching & Preaching) (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching)
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  • Gaventa, Beverly Roberts (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 138 Pages - 02/01/1998 (Publication Date) - John Knox Press (Publisher)
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NIV Application Commentary 1 & 2 Thessalonians
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  • Holmes, Michael W. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages - 08/01/1998 (Publication Date) - Zondervan Academic (Publisher)

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