For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe (1 Thessalonians 2:13, NKJV).
Paul unashamedly declared the gospel of Christ “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel’s power to save the lost reached Thessalonica, where Paul, Silas, and Timothy preached “the gospel of God in much conflict” (1 Thess. 2:1-2; Acts 17:1-9). How the Thessalonians “received the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13) is how the gospel’s power continues to save lost souls. (1) First, the lost person must hear the word of God. The gospel cannot save if the sinner does not hear it (Rom. 10:13-17). The Thessalonians heard God’s word (v. 13). (2) Second, the lost person who hears the word of God must believe it. The gospel cannot save if the sinner does not believe it is true. The Thessalonians “welcomed” what they heard from Paul, Silas, and Timothy as God’s word, not man’s (v. 13). The gospel they preached is still the truth one must believe for salvation. (3) Third, the lost person must be converted and obey the word of God (Acts 3:19; 2:38). The gospel cannot save if the sinner does not obey it. Obedient faith saves. Otherwise, it is dead faith (James 2:17-18). When the Thessalonians heard, believed, and obeyed the gospel, they turned from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thess. 1:8-9). The word of God “effectively works in you who believe” (Christians, v. 13). Hear, believe, and obey the gospel, and its power will work in your life, too (Phil. 2:12-13).
24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24–26, NKJV)
We noted in yesterday’s Sword Tips (#1799) that gospel preaching gets personal by making personal applications that convict and convert. This by no means sanctions personal, verbal abuse while doing so. “Defending the truth” is not a cloak behind which envy and strife may hide (1 Cor. 3:3-4). Identifying a false teacher is not a personal attack when it is supported by Scriptural evidence of error being taught, endorsed, and promoted. Publicly identifying opponents of the truth is entirely Scriptural when it is aimed at (1) Saving the lost, and (2) Protecting the saved (see Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Tim. 1:19-20; 2 Tim. 2:16-18; 4:14-15; 3 John 9-10). This is very different from being quarrelsome and malicious toward those same people (which today’s passage forbids). Gentleness (not weakness) – when combined with the ability to teach, endurance, and humility – produces a powerful faith that equips the servant of the Lord to correct those who oppose truth (25) so they may repent and escape the devil’s clutches (25-26). The servant of the Lord does this by remembering the “good fight of faith” is not about him, it is about laying hold of eternal life – and about helping others do the same (1 Tim. 6:12).
13 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And He laid His hands on them and departed from there. (Matthew 19:13–15, NKJV)
Children provide a beautiful portrait of those to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs. Children are open, honest and enthusiastic. They are trusting, humble and innocent. So, it is not surprising that Jesus said unless we are “converted and become as little children” we will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3). Yet, here we find His disciples rebuking people for bringing children to Jesus for His blessing. With a gentle reminder Jesus reinforced that we must never hinder those who come to Him for His blessing. Just as Jesus readily received the children, God readily receives every sinner who comes to Him with a child’s heart of faith, anxious to please Him with humble conversion and obedience (Acts 3:19; Matthew 7:21). It is completely out of character for a Christian to become a stumbling block to someone seeking Christ’s blessing (Matthew 18:4-6). Let us be sure we are always helping people come to Christ and never hindering them.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You. (Psalm 51:10–13, NKJV)
What better way to begin the new year than with a clean heart and renewed spirit? In His great mercy the Lord is ready and willing to cleanse your soul of every stain of sin and restore within you the joy of salvation. Yet this cleansing cannot occur unless you are willing to repent of every sin (Lk. 13:3, 5). Until you are “cut to the heart” by the power of the gospel and compelled to “repent and be baptized” “for the remission of sins” your heart remains defiled, your spirit faltering due to sin (Acts 2:37-38). Now is the day of salvation, now is the time to be converted to Christ (2 Cor. 6:2; Acts 3:19). Now is the time to teach the transgressors there is cleansing and healing in the salvation of the Lord.