The gospel of Jesus Christ is both word and power.
What do you hear when you hear the gospel preached or taught? Is it just words to you? Historic facts? Objective truths only? Does the gospel only speak to you at the intellectual level? Or is it also the very power for your life? Does it motivate you? Transform you? Has the gospel come to you in word and in power by the Holy Spirit?
Paul came to the city of Thessalonica on his second missionary journey. There he entered the local synagogue and preached Christ. You can read about it in Acts 17.
Many of the Jews in Thessalonica received the life of Christ. But many others were “jealous” and attacked the new Christians, causing Paul to have to flee the city. They accused Paul and the believers of “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). They didn’t just hate the message, they hated the power of the message. The gospel of Jesus Christ, was changing people and changing the world around them. And they didn’t like it one bit.
You see the gospel is not a message of mere words. It’s the power of God for salvation. Faith in the gospel is our door into the very power of God. It is the uniting of your life to the life of the Holy Spirit, so that the gospel is not just facts to be believed (it is this), but it is also a power to be received. Christ’s resurrection power.
And what does this power look like? Miracles? Supernatural events? Displays of healing? The power of government? Politics? Education? A military uprising? A grassroots movement? No. It might surprise us to see what Paul is calling the power of God. He outlined it in his greeting to this beautiful infant church:
1 Thessalonians 1:3. remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
What does Christ’s power in your life look like? The work of faith, the labor of love, and the steadfastness of hope. Hope. Faith. Love. These three graces together declare to our hearts and to the world the power of Christ’s indwelling life. Without these we are powerless. But with these…we can face anything.
Steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ – Hope is power. Paul is referring to our hope in the return of Christ. We “wait for the Son from Heaven who will deliver us from the wrath to come” (1:10). The return of Christ for us is the only hope in this life that can actually sustain us. It is the only hope that can empower our work of faith and labor of love. All other short lived hopes will eventually fizzle out. They will come and go, or never come at all. Our hearts need a permanent hope. A resurrection hope. And in Christ that hope is ours.
Work of faith – Hope produces faith. We trust in the hope that is ours in Christ, placing our deepest faith in our union with Christ and his salvation. This faith then empowers us toward the work (singular) that is the result of such faith. The work of worship. The work of “turning to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1:9). The ongoing grace empowered work of constantly reorienting our hearts around God.
Labor of love – Hope produces faith and faith produces love. Love for one another. And love labors. It toils. It rolls up its sleeves, gets down in the dirt, and with blood, sweat, and tears, works to help others.
So are you experiencing the power of Christ by the Holy Spirit? Are you patient in hope, worshiping from faith, and laboring in love for others? Only the gospel can empower such living. Only our union with Christ can provide the hope needed for this kind of power. Resurrection power. The power of “to live is Christ.”
Is your Christianity all talk, or is it power?
You in Christ
How does being in Christ fill you with hope, faith, and love today?
Christ in you
Where can your steadfast hope be turned into the work of faith and the labor of love today?
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