The Inseparable Connection Between Preaching and Believing: 1 Thessalonians 2:13Monday, June 20, 2005
Our final text comes from 1 Thessalonians, which is the first letter of Paul’s that we know he wrote. In chapter 2 Paul reviews his ministry history and character while in Thessalonica. He does this for their benefit, not only so that they will know that he was not just another traveling con-artist and fraudulent crack-preacher, but also so that they would learn from his example and see it as a true testimony to his love for them and the sincerity of the gospel. So after appealing to them as a nurturing mother and a loving father, he writes,
“And so we too constantly thank God that when you received God’s message that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human message, but as it truly is, God’s message, which is at work among you who believe.”
The focus of the verse is thanksgiving. Paul is offering yet another reason for his thanksgiving to God, in addition to the ones he gave in chapter one. To put it simply, he is overwhelmed with thanksgiving here because when the Thessalonians heard the message he was preaching, they actually accepted it and believed it! Imagine that! Imagine a lost person actually believing and accepting the gospel in your witnessing attempts. Yet notice that I did not say that Paul was overwhelmingly surprised at their belief, only overwhelmingly thankful. It is a difficult work, from a human perspective, to overcome a hardened heart of unbelief. And when God, who alone can perform this work, actually does it, it is indeed quite an amazing and overwhelming event.
The basis for the Thessalonians’ acceptation of the gospel message was that they heard the preached, as the text says, and that they heard the right gospel preached. Paul puts emphasis on the fact that they heard it and accepted it. They heard it because someone preached it to them. And their acceptation is synonymous with their believing in it. Furthermore, Paul’s echo of 1 Corinthians 15:2 may have its original ring here in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, for it is here that Paul makes an inseparable connection between hearing the message of the gospel and the continual work of the gospel in the life of a believer. Just as one only becomes a believer by hearing the gospel, he remains steadfast in Christ by hearing the gospel, or “God’s message” as it is translated.