October 15: 1 Thess 1

Gerald Bray

V. 4. We know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our Gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.

How do you know whether God has chosen you for salvation or not? The Bible tells us that there is nothing we can do to earn favor with him, that he decides who will live with him in eternity and that ultimately the choice is a secret that is not revealed to anyone. We have no right to go around telling others that they will not get to heaven and it is not our business to pass judgement on anyone. There are people in the church who are not saved, just as there are people outside it whom God will one day call to himself. We preach the Gospel to the world knowing that we have been sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and given the task of bringing them home.
The Thessalonians to whom Paul was writing were among those lost sheep who had been rescued. Paul had not intended to go to Thessalonica, but in a vision a man from Macedonia appeared to him and summoned him from Asia Minor into Europe. The city was the local capital and there was a large community there who worshiped God. When Paul preached in the synagogue there were many who accepted his message and a church was quickly established. But there were also some who objected to his preaching, and they were so influential that Paul had to escape at short notice. The leaders of the Jewish community no doubt hoped that be acting quickly and decisively, they could suppress Paul's message and restore the traditional order to their community.

But God had other ideas. The conversion of the Thessalonian Christians was not just a matter of hearing the Gospel and accepting it. Along with that there had come power, the Holy Spirit and full conviction. The message of Christ was not just a new idea that could be tossed around the intellectuals, who would soon find ways of taking it apart. That was what happened in Athens, and Luke records in Acts 17 that very few were converted there, even though there was nothing like the open opposition that Paul met at Thessalonica.

Paul was a servant, who preached the Word of God whether it bore fruit in a particular place or not. He went out in faith, believing that the seed he was sowing would fall on fertile soil, even if some of it was wasted on hard or stony ground. What convinced him that the Christians at Thessalonica really were chosen by God was not the fact that he had been sent there to preach to them, but that as a result of what they heard, their lives were changed.

Today we live in a world where the Gospel can be heard by anyone who cares to listen to it. There are many who say they believe it and who happily call themselves Christians. But all too often there is no signt hat their lives have changed. They are not noticeably different from anyone else and do not come across as the kind of people who have been touched by the power of God. What we believe is very important, but that belief must also make a difference in our lives. If it does not, we can hardly claim that God has chosen us for anything at all, let alone for salvation. But if it does, then we know, and others will also see, that something has indeed happened that mere words cannot explain. We have become children of God, chosen by him for all eternity, and changed by his Holy Spirit into the likeness of his everlasting glory.