“….Our gospel did not become to you in word only but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and in full assurance”
(1 Thessalonians 1:5).
What Paul is telling us is that the message of the gospel may be received in either of two ways; in word only, or in word with power.
When the gospel is received in power it shifts the focus of life from self to Christ; the old man takes up his cross and embraces the crucifixion of his fleshly and worldly nature; a new and different Spirit enters the personality and engages the soul in renewing the believer in every aspect of his being.
When the gospel is received in word only, the old man remains very much in charge; the self makes strenuous efforts to bring the life into conformity with the word as revealed in the life of Christians they see about them. Adam still lives, but he is an improved Adam.
The fact is that the message of the gospel is good news indeed for the truly repentant, who have been convicted of their sin and received the gift of faith to trust Christ wholeheartedly in giving the rule of their lives into His hands. For sinners who want to cease being willful sinners and become obedient children of God, the gospel is a message of unqualified peace.
But to those who seek to give the old man another chance at redeeming himself, the message of the cross carries a foreboding warning.
By its very nature, the gospel is the arbiter of future destinies. In an era when the gospel message that is being taught is one in which Christ can be Saviour without also being Lord, a prudent examination of the scriptures in their entirety will reveal to the sincere seeker that there is extreme danger in a teaching that encourages believers to use Jesus as a Saviour in time of need, without owing Him any ongoing allegiance and obedience.
The times desperately require a return to preaching a whole Christ to His hungry sheep because, as John Milton put it; “the hungry sheep look up, and are not fed” (Paradise Lost).