1 Thessalonians 2:13-16
The Gospel Is the Word of God
What is the Bible and what is the preaching of the gospel message printed therein? Paul is emphatic: “When you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” It is really a marvelous thing—that people believe the gospel. And it can only be explained by two facts which the world cannot receive: 1) That it is the word of God; and, 2) That it is received only because the Holy Spirit works within the person birthing him anew through saving grace, and then continues that sanctifying work within. Paul’s opponents were trying to convince the Thessalonian believers that Paul was just another wandering prophet traversing the empire, a “traveling salesman” selling his philosophical wares to whomever would listen. It was a sound argument. Such men could be found all over the Greece, and Paul stayed in Thessalonica for such a short while as to leave the doubtful wondering. Paul had reason to worry about them miles away in Corinth. Did the infant church in Thessalonica hold fast?
And they did; Timothy had just returned with the report (3:6). Not only were they holding fast to the gospel, but doing so under the most adverse conditions. Just as the Jewish believers had undergone persecution by their own countrymen for the faith some twenty years before, now the Thessalonian believers were enduring the same treatment at the hands of the Gentiles. What more could prove their reception of the word of God as the word of God than their willing endurance of persecution? Who would continue under such circumstances unless one was certain of one’s faith? And how could one be certain that a man was sent from God twenty years before and died on a cross and rose again for their salvation far away in the city of Jerusalem unless the Holy Spirit had convinced them that this was indeed so? We take for granted the miracle of faith, but it is only the Spirit’s work in our lives that has caused us to believe and accept the word of God for what it really is—the word of God.
What some foolishly consider a rant against the Jews is actually a rant against those who hinder the preaching of the gospel. There were Jewish Christians in the church to which Paul was writing; Paul was a Jew; his heart for the Jews as a people is laid out in Romans 9-11. That some Christians have used his words as a basis for anti-Semitism is not his fault. But what is a fault is the willful hindrance of the preaching of the word of God. It is God’s way of calling men to salvation, and He will severely judge such sin.