“For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply in words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction……(vs 4,5)….for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe sufferings with the joy given by the Holy Spirit (vs 6). And so you become a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia (vs 7). The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere (vs 8 : all verses from 1 Thessalonians chapter 1).
Here we see the evidences of the reality of conversion – Paul was thanking God that the Thessalonians have become authentic believers; they are a real church because they have authentically received the authentic gospel (the real message). There are two strands of evidences for this spiritual reality. The first, in verse 5, is the Holy Spirit’s power, at work with deep conviction. The other, in verse 6, is the Holy Spirit’s joy experienced in receiving the gospel, in spite of the suffering it has brought.
Take note also that it is God who has chosen them – God was the One who took the initiative in choosing them and He is the One who ‘came after them’ and not the other way around. This points to the sovereignty of God and His election – it is not so much our ability to convince non-believers and persuade them (although this may be needful, in dependence on God) but their positive response is principally due to God’s choice and election, which is not known by those who share the gospel.
As a result, the church in Thessalonica became a model church to all the other churches, both in its doctrine and its lifestyle. Even though the Apostle Paul had to leave rather abruptly because of jealousy and persecution from the Jews, the church in Thessalonica continued to endure and persevere in the midst of all the pressures and suffering that it faced. In 5:24, we read “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it”. God has chosen them; He has called them, and He will keep them to the end.
We come back to the affirmation that the Great Commission is the work of the Triune God, working through Christians, by the Spirit, to make disciples of all nations. The authority of this commission comes from Christ; the baptism of converted believers is in the name of the Triune God; teaching them all that Christ has taught His followers (through the ministry of the Spirit from Scripture); and Christ promised to be with those who disciple, until He comes again at the end of this age.
The assurance given to the church in Thessalonica from God, through Paul, is also sorely needed in the church in our generation. We have among us those who are confused about their faith and who desperately need to be strengthened and encouraged. We have the faint-hearted who are very tempted to give way under the pressures of living as a Christian in a ‘pagan’ environment. We certainly face the pressures of a hostile world in terms of morality, in terms of our community life, and the greatest pressure of all to lose sight of the coming again of the Lord Jesus and so to forget the far horizon which alone makes sense of the present.
Real faith works, real love labours, real hope perseveres; and if all these things are seen in your life and in the life of the church, there is every evidence that we are real Christians, and the church is an authentic church. But it must begin with receiving the real and authentic message (gospel) and resulting in truly being born again by God’s grace through the ministry of His Spirit, working through believers who share the real message and not just those seeking ‘scalps’ and numbers to prop up their so-called ministry.