1 Thessalonians 1:5-10
For our gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance…
Paul claimed two things as necessary to success in the ministry.
1. He could call the gospel "our gospel." We must be saved before we can preach salvation. Ezekiel had to eat the roll of his prophecy. As well think of steering the Great Eastern across the ocean without knowing the first principles of navigation; as well think of setting up as ambassador without your country's authority, as of preaching before the gospel is your own. No amount of education will suffice if you lack a personal interest in salvation by Christ.
2. He was able to point to "his manner of life." And so must we. We must show in our lives what we preach with our lips. Woe to the minister when he is compelled to say, "Do as I say, not as I do." We shall use the text —
I. For DISCRIMINATION. The gospel comes to all who hear it; to the unregenerate as to the regenerate. But some preachers give one gospel to one class and another to another. Unlike the old sowers who sowed indiscriminately, they want to find the good ground before they sow. Instead of going out into the highways and hedges they want to know who are appointed to come, and then they will give the unnecessary invitation. But the apostles delivered the same gospel to non-elect and elect. The point of distinction is not in the gospel, but in its being applied by the Spirit or left to be rejected of men.
1. To some the gospel comes only in word. Even here there are gradations.
(1) Some scarcely know what it is all about. They go to a place of worship and sit out an hour and a half of penance, and when done think they have done the proper thing, but are stolid, unthinking worshippers of an unknown God.
(2) Others understand it in theory, and are pleased with it if preached in a manner to suit their tastes; but the gospel remains in them as drugs in an apothecary's drawer: they are there, but produce no effect. It is an unloaded canon or barrel of gunpowder; it has no force because the fire of God's Spirit is absent.
(3) Others are really affected by it. They weep, resolve to amend, are alarmed, but the morning cloud is not more fleeting than their emotions. But these are produced by words, not by the Spirit. But men weep at a theatre. I am afraid that much of the holy water which is spilt from eyes in our places of worship is of no more value than the holy water at Catholic chapels. It is not heart sorrow. At this point let me ask, "Do you know the gospel only in word?" There is a class who are professional sermon hearers. They go one Sunday to hear Mr. A., another to hear Mr. B., and appraise, criticise, etc. They are no better than spiritual vagabonds, neither getting nor doing good.
2. There are those to whom the gospel comes with three accompaniments.
(1) There is sometimes an effect produced by the gospel which may be called "power," but it is not the power that saves.
(a) It comes with power on the understanding. You have heard, weighed, judged, and received it as being Divine — you assent to its propositions.
(b) To the conscience. It has convinced you of sin. Like Felix, you tremble.
(c) On the feelings. Your desires have been awakened. You have said, "Oh, that I were saved!" and even advanced as far as Balaam, "Let me die the death of the righteous."(d) On the life. The gospel has done you much good, although it has not saved you; though, alas! there are others to whom it has only for a time been as bit and bridle.
(2) We come now to a nobler elevation, and speak to those to whom the Word has come "in the Holy Ghost." This is a great secret and cannot be expounded, but many of you know it experimentally. The Spirit has come —
(a) A quickening power. You have now different feelings, joys, sorrows, to what you had before, because while you listened to the letter which killeth, the Sprat came with it and made you live.
(b) As an illuminating power. He showed you your sins and your Saviour.
(c) As a comforting power. Your burdens were removed as He opened up to you the promises.
(d) An inflaming power. He has rested on you when you have heard the Word as a Spirit of burning.
(e) A rejoicing power.
(3) The highest point in the text is "much assurance."(a) They were fully persuaded of the truth of the gospel, and had no staggering or blinding doubts.
(b) They had the fullest conviction of their interest in that truth. They were saved, and they knew it.
II. For INSTRUCTION. It is not enough to preach the gospel; something more is wanted for conversion than even that. We must have the energy of the Holy Ghost. Then —
1. It becomes more and more imperatively necessary that we should be much in prayer to God for that blessing. Luther said, "I have so much business today that I cannot get through it with less than three hours' prayer." Most people say, "I have so much business that I must only have three minutes' prayer."
2. Let us learn our own indebtedness to distinguishing grace, and bless God that the Word has come to us with power.
3. Inasmuch as there are degrees of attainment, let us seek for the highest degree. The "rest-and-be-thankful" policy is not much approved in politics, and in religion it will never answer.
4. A privilege may become a curse. If you have received the gospel in word only, it will aggravate the condemnation of those who might have received it with the Holy Ghost but would not.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
WEB: and that our Good News came to you not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance. You know what kind of men we showed ourselves to be among you for your sake.