WHY DID PAUL SAY, “THE GOSPEL CAME NOT IN WORD ONLY”

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. ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:5

Paul’s standard for gospel ministry was quite different from the standard held by many of today’s more popular ministers, especially those who have turned ministry into a lucrative career.

According to Paul, the gospel which was ministered by him and his company, wasn’t a gospel ministered in word only. It came also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.

What exactly does Paul mean when he speaks of the gospel coming in this manner, and why does Paul, here, make a distinction between the Holy Spirit and power, as he also does in 1 Corinthians?

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. ~ 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Notice that Paul tells the Corinthians that he did not come to them with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring to them the testimony of God. This coincides with his statement to the Thessalonians that the gospel he preached did not come in word only.

Paul did not desire to be an eloquent speaker when it came to his declaration of the gospel. Paul’s quest was to minister Jesus Christ not only in his declaration of God’s word, but also in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.

What is the demonstration of the Spirit and of power, and why does Paul make a distinction?

We all should know what power is. It is the signs, wonders, and miracles that accompany the gospel. We can see this in both the ministry of Jesus, the apostles, and men like Stephen who was a deacon and not an apostle.

And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. ~ Acts 6:8

Power is easily understood, but what exactly in the demonstration of the Spirit, or as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians, the ministry of the gospel in the Holy Ghost?

The ministry of the Holy Ghost is that which brings about a change in the lives of those who truly believe the gospel. In Paul’s doctrine, the gospel was to be preached, confirmed by God’s power, and lived in holiness, and this last point is where so many stumble in their understanding.

When Paul says to the Thessalonians, “our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance,” he follows by saying, “as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.”

Throughout the balance of 1 Thessalonians, Paul expounds on how he and those with him behaved and set the example of true Christian living. This is what Paul is referring to when he speaks of the gospel coming in the Holy Ghost.

Many preachers have a theology about the Holy Ghost which is foreign to the teachings of the apostle Paul. They lead their followers into many emotional responses, claiming that such hysteria is the work of God.

Paul, however was concerned with how the gospel had affected the everyday lives of the people. Had they become a holy people living dedicated lives to the Lord? According to Paul’s theology, the gospel ministered in the Holy Ghost brings about a Christ-like life of holiness to the glory of God.

Paul’s ministry wasn’t one of words only. Instead, Paul’s ministry set the example of godly living.

Consider the following:

For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. ~ 1 Thessalonians 2:3-13

Now consider the following:

Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 

Though some have devalued the importance of how we ought to live as Christians, Paul believed that the true gospel of grace changes a person’s life into a life of holiness that pleases God. The Spirit ministers the gospel to us, not only to save us from our past sins, but also to create in us holiness of character that glorifies God. Therefore Paul writes the following to the Thessalonians:

Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain. But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. ~ 1 Thessalonians 3:1-8

Paul did not feel that his ministry had effectively ministered the gospel unless the people were established in the faith and living according to the changed life produced by the gospel of Christ.

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