A Commentary by John Stott

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10.   Conclusion.

Looking back over the chapter we note again the vital relationship between the church and the gospel. Two points stand out.

a). The church which receives the gospel must pass it on.

Nothing is more impressive in 1 Thessalonians 1 than the sequence ‘our gospel came to you – you welcomed it – it rang out from you’. God intends every church to be like a sounding board, bouncing off the vibrations of the gospel, or like a telecommunications satellite which first receives and then transmits messages. In fact, this is God’s simplest plan for world evangelization. If every church had been faithful, the world would long ago have been evangelised.

b). The church which passes on the gospel must embody it.

We have noted that what went forth from Thessalonica was not only ‘the word of the Lord’ (verbal evangelism) but also news of their conversion (rumour evangelism). Everybody heard about this new community which had come into being in Thessalonica, its bold rejection of idolatry, its joy in the midst of opposition, its transformed values, its faith and love. People were so impressed by what they heard that many must have come to see for themselves. Then they were convinced not by what they had heard (either from or about the Thessalonian church) but by what they have seen with their own eyes. As Douglas Webster has written:

“… the communication of the gospel is by seeing as well as hearing. This double strand runs through all the Bible: image and word, vision and voice, opening the eyes of the blind and unstopping the ears of the deaf. Jesus is the Word of God and the Image of God. The Word became visible, the Image audible…We are familiar enough with the verbal element in evangelism. Where is the visual?”

No church can spread the gospel with any degree of integrity, let alone credibility, unless it has been visibly changed by the gospel it preaches. We need to look like what we are talking about. It is not enough to receive the gospel and pass it on; we must embody it in our common life of faith, love, joy, peace, righteousness and hope.

Tomorrow: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-3:13. 2). Christian ministry or How pastors serve both the gospel and the church.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of 1 Thessalonians. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.