Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Thessalonica. More specifically, today’s reading is found in the first sixteen verses of the second chapter. When you begin reading the second chapter of the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Thessalonica you find him not necessarily speaking of the gospel concerning the Christ whom he faithfully followed, walked with and served, but rather something that oftentimes gets overlooked when we speak of preaching the gospel. In order to fully understand and comprehend the words which the apostle Paul writes in the second chapter of this particular epistle it is imperative that we first begin with the first chapter of this epistle. If you turn and direct your attention to the previous chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul describing the time he spent within the city of Thessalonica, and among the inhabitants of the city. What’s more, is that while the apostle does in fact speak concerning the preaching of the gospel, he took the time to write and speak of his behavior and spirit while he was present among the inhabitants of this city. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul writes in the first chapter of this particular epistle: “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; knowing brethren, beloved, your election of God. 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. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: so that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to Godward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:1-10).
I can’t help but be drawn to the words which the apostle Paul wrote towards the end of the fifth verse of this particular chapter, for in the latter part of the fifth verse the apostle Paul wrote about “what manner of men we were among you for your sake” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). What makes the apostles words in this particular verse even more powerful and compelling is when you consider it in light of that which he wrote in the first part of the verse. As the apostle Paul began this particular verse and as he began this particular statement unto the saints which were at Thessalonica he wrote how their gospel [the gospel which he, together with Timothy and Silas] came not unto them in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. Please don’t miss or lose sight of the tremendous significance of what the apostle Paul is writing unto these saints, for within this single verse he is not only speaking of the demonstration and manifestation of the Holy Spirit through power and assurance, but he is also speaking of the demonstration and manifestation of testimony and witness among those who were present within this city. In all reality, I am convinced that when we speak of preaching and proclaiming the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, it isn’t enough simply to preach that gospel—even if the words we preach and proclaim come directly from the sacred texts of the Scripture. If I am being honest with you who are reading these words I would dare say that we have enough preachers and individuals who may very well preach the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, and what they are preaching does in fact come from the sacred Scripture, yet that is the only thing they are doing. What I mean by that statement is that while they might very well be preaching the gospel concerning Jesus Christ and concerning the kingdom of the eternal Son, there is neither the demonstration and manifestation of the Holy Spirit, nor is there the the power of their witness and testimony. I am completely and utterly convinced that preaching in and of itself and preaching by itself is never enough, for if preaching is not accompanied by the demonstration and manifestation of the Holy Spirit, as well as by the presence of witness and testimony, the preaching is in and of itself shallow and meaningless.
Taking this reality a step further I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Pau wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth in the first epistle sent unto them. Beginning with the first verse of the second chapter the apostle Paul describes his preaching when he arrived at the city of Corinth. Consider if you will the words which the apostle wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth beginning with the first verse: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing 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). With these words the apostle Paul describes and declares unto the saints which were at Corinth that when he came unto them he did not come with excellency of speech or of wisdom when he declared unto them the testimony of God. When the apostle Paul came unto those which were in the city of Corinth he determined to know nothing among them, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. What’s more, is that the apostle Paul goes on to describe how when he was with them, he was with them in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. I have to admit that I actually find this to be incredibly and tremendously refreshing when I consider—not only the apostle Paul himself, but also the preaching of the apostle Paul. I would dare say that we have this misguided perception and misconception concerning the apostle Paul that he was this charismatic, enthusiastic, emotive preacher when it came to preaching and proclaiming the gospel concerning Jesus who is both Christ and Lord. The words which the apostle Paul writes to the saints which were at Corinth describes a reality that is far different from the reality which we normally consider when thinking of and speaking about the apostle Paul. We tend to think the apostle Paul preached and proclaimed the gospel concerning Jesus Christ with the voice of an angel, or perhaps as some great orator who could engage coliseums, arenas and stadiums. The truth of the matter is that I am convinced we would be utterly and completely shocked to learn and discover the true presence and preaching of the apostle Paul among men when he preaching and proclaimed the gospel concerning Jesus Christ.
I feel it absolutely necessary at this particular point—before delving any further into this reality—to present to you who would read these words the account of the apostle Paul in the cities of Corinth and Thessalonica. In fact, the accounts of the apostle Paul in these two cities is found in the seventeenth and eighteenth chapters of the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles. Consider if you will the account of the apostle Paul when he came unto the city of Thessalonica beginning with the first verse of the seventeenth chapter: “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apolonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: and Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas: and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrast to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go. And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more. Noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and TImotheus abode their still. And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and TImotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed” (Acts 17:1-15).
Within the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find the account of the apostle Paul when he journeyed from Athens unto the city of Corinth. What began with the apostle Paul within the city of Thessalonica would transition to his presence within the city of Corinth via Berea and Athens. Consider if you will the words which Luke wrote in order that he might convey the account of the apostle Paul in the city of Corinth: “After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; and found a certain Jew named Aquaila, born in Ptonus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers. And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuade the Jews and the Breeks. And when Silas and TImothues were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and holy not thy peace: for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city. And He continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:1-11).
With each of these passages we find the apostle Paul not only entering into the city of Thessalonica, but also the city of Corinth—first to reason together with the Jews, and then to preach the gospel unto the Gentiles concerning Jesus who is both Christ and Lord. What is so incredibly interesting and powerful concerning the account of the apostle Paul in the city of Corinth is that while in the book of Acts we find the apostle Paul first reasoning together with the Jews, and then transitioning to preaching the gospel solely to the Gentiles, we find in the first epistle written unto the saints within this city concerning the presence of the apostle among them and in their midst. When the apostle describes his presence among those within the city of Corinth, he wrote unto them that when he came unto them, he came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto them testimony of God. The apostle Paul wrote unto them and declared how when he came unto them he determined to know nothing among them, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. For the apostle Paul, the only thing that mattered to him concerning the inhabitants of the city of Corinth was the reality of Christ and Him crucified. What’s more, is that the apostle Paul himself declared that when he was with them, he was with them in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. Oh, please don’t miss or lose sight of the tremendous significance of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the second chapter of the first epistle which was written unto the saints of Corinth, for the apostle Paul sets forth to distinguish between standing and trusting in the wisdom of men, and standing in trusting in the power of God. It is absolutely powerful, remarkable and astounding to consider the fact that when the apostle Paul came unto those within the city of Corinth, he did so in much weakness, in much fear, and in much trembling, thus signifying and suggesting the apostle Paul did not come with great confidence in the flesh, nor did the apostle Paul come with great charisma. In fact, the only thing the apostle Paul entered into the city of Corinth with was the gospel concerning Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Although it was true that he did in fact come unto them with much weakness, and in much fear, and in much trembling, those realities were met with something far greater and far more powerful than the wisdom of men, charisma, emotions, confidence in the flesh, and the like. That which the apostle Paul came unto the inhabitants of the city of Corinth with—despite the fact that he came unto them with much weakness, with much fear, and with m ugh trembling—was the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.
If I am being honest with you who are reading this writing right now, I would emphatically declare that it is perfectly and absolutely okay to be found among men with much weakness, with much fear, and with much trembling. We tend to think that we need to have all the confidence and all the strength that can be found in human flesh to preach and proclaim the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, and yet this reality couldn’t be the furthest from the truth. In fact, I am convinced that the only thing that is needed when preaching and proclaiming the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ is the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power, and the manifestation of testimony and witness among men. Continuing along these same lines I can’t help but be reminded of the Old Testament account of Moses whom the Lord called, chose and set apart to enter into Egypt, confront Pharaoh, and demand that he let the people of God go. If there is one thing we must understand and recognize concerning the account of Moses and his journey back into the land of Egypt to confront Pharaoh and demand that the people of God be released, it’s that not only did he try and get out of fulfilling this divine task and mandate, but he also had absolutely zero confidence in himself. In fact, if you read the third and fourth chapters of the Old Testament book of Exodus you will find the account of Moses alone with God at the burning bush in the backside of the desert at the mountain of God, which was known as Horeb. Consider if you will the account of Moses wrestling with the Lord concerning the calling which was placed upon his life—a calling which he himself initially tried to reject and walk away from:
“And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honesty; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt. And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? And HE said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a. Token unto thee, that I have sent thee: when thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain. And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come. Unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of our fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is His name? What shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt: and I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey. And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The Lord God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God. And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand. And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go. And I will. Give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty: but every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians” (Exodus 3:7-22).
If you keep reading the Old Testament account of Moses before the Lord at the burning bush you will find that he made two more attempts to persuade and convince the Lord that he was not qualified to fulfill the task and mission which was set before him. Beginning with the first verse of the fourth chapter we find the rest of the account of Moses before the Lord at the burning bush. Consider if you will the remaining portion of the account between Moses and the Lord there at the burning bush on the backside of the desert at the mountain of God: “And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath. Not appeared unto thee. And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: that they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of their Athens, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee. And the Lord said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow. And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh. And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign. And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou s halt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land. And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say. And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses, and He said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he cane speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when when he Seth thee, he will be glad in his heart. And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God. And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs” (Exodus 4:1-17).
I absolutely love what the Lord says to Moses just prior to his returning to Jethro his father in law, for the final words the Lord spoke unto Moses pertained to that which he had in his hand—“and thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs” (Exodus 4:17). When Moses returned from Midian where he shepherded his father in law’s sheep he returned—not only with the rod of God in his hand, but also with a divine word and command from the Lord. In fact, when you read the twentieth verse of the fourth chapter of this particular Old Testament book you will find the following words: “And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand” (Exodus 4:20). Please don’t miss the significance and importance of this, for the Lord took a man who felt as though he was not qualified to enter into the land of Egypt and confront Pharaoh concerning letting the people of God, and brought him unto the most powerful ruler of the world during that time with nothing more than a staff and a word straight from His heart and mind. When Moses came unto the land of Egypt he did not come as an eloquent man with wise and persuasive speech, but what he did come with was the rod of God wherewith he would perform the signs which the Lord had commanded and instructed him to do. In fact, if you read the Old Testament book of Exodus you will find that there were several times when the Lord instructed Moses to take the rod of God which was in his hand and perform great signs in the earth—not only among the Egyptians and the children of Israel within the land of Egypt, but also among the children of Israel in the wilderness. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand concerning Moses, it’s that not only did he view himself as a man who was not eloquent, but he also had absolutely zero trust and zero confidence in his flesh. What we learn concerning Moses was that he perceived himself as being an uneloquent man who wasn’t able to speak that which the Lord had commanded and instructed him to speak. In fact, I would dare say that when Moses returned unto the land of Egypt he did so much like the apostle Paul did when he came to the city of Corinth. When the apostle Paul came to the city of Corinth he did so with much weakness, with much fear, and with much trembling. With that being said, however, the apostle Paul came with something that was far better and far superior than the wisdom of men, something that was far better than eloquence of speech, and far better than confidence in the flesh, for he came with the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and with power.
I feel the great need to emphatically state and declare unto you who are reading this that we more often than not have this misguided belief that when we step into that which the Lord has called us to, we need to do so with eloquence of speech, with confidence in the flesh, and with recognized strength, might and power. The words which the apostle Paul wrote—both within the first epistle to the saints which were in Corinth, as well as within the first epistle which he wrote to the saints which were at Thessalonica—we find that it is absolutely and perfectly okay to step into that which the Lord has called us to without having any confidence in the flesh, and even without being eloquent of speech. It is okay to fulfill that which the Lord has called us to with much weakness, with much fear and with much trembling. In fact, if there was one thing the apostle Paul consistently boasted of, it was his infirmities, it was his weaknesses, and it was his lack of strength. I would dare say that there are far too many men and women who are attempting to step into and fulfill that which the Lord has called them to do in the strength of the flesh and with confidence in the flesh rather than going forth with that which has been touched by the hand of God. Moses went in unto Pharaoh king of Egypt without being eloquent of speech, yet what he did go in unto Pharaoh with was the rod of God—that which was touched by the very God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When Moses returned to Egypt he did so with the demonstration of the strength, the demonstration of the might, the demonstration of the power of the living God of heaven and earth. When the apostle went in unto those within Corinth and Thessalonica he did so without eloquence of speech, without the wisdom of men, and without confidence in the flesh, but rather with the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and with power. What’s more, is that equally as important as the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power is the manifestation of a testimony and witness that directly challenges the hearts of men. I have said it before and I will say it again that it isn’t enough to simply preach the gospel concerning Jesus Christ if it is not accompanied by the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power, as well as the power of one witness and testimony before men. In the fifth verse of the first chapter of the first epistle to the saints which were at Thessalonica we find the apostle Paul writing concerning their knowledge of what manner of men they were among them for their sake, thus speaking directly to the power of their testimony—this in addition to the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power, and the preaching of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ.
I have previously written that if you are not walking with the Christ whom you profess to preach then you should cease preaching immediately. There has been much damage which has been committed by men and women who have attempted to preach Christ and yet they neither walk with, nor know the Christ whom they are preaching. If you read the words which the apostle Paul writes in the second chapter of this first epistle to the saints which were at Thessalonica you will find him writing of their entrance unto them, which was in fact not in vain. The apostle Paul goes on to write concerning how they had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as they already knew, at Philippi, and how they were bold in their God to speak unto them the gospel of God with much contention. The apostle Paul would go on to write how their exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile, nor did it come with flattering words or a cloak of covetousness. Furthermore, when the apostle Paul—together with Timothy and Silas—came unto those in Thessalonica, they did not come to seek glory of men, nor did they seek to please men. IN fact, when they came in unto those within this city they came unto them incredibly gentle, and affectionately desirous of them. What I would draw your attention to within this particular passage of Scripture is the words we find in the tenth verse: “Ye are witnesses, and God also, how Ho lily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:10). The reason I would draw your attention to the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto these saints is to bring you face to face with the reality that it is not enough to come in and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ alone if it is not accompanied by the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and the testimony of one witness for and before Jesus who is both Christ and Lord. I would dare say that there are countless men and women who negate the presence and preaching of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ—not only because there is no demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power, but also because their witness doesn’t confirm or line up with the gospel which they preach unto men. Oh, I would dare state to you who would read this that if your testimony and the way you behave among men doesn’t confirm and line up with the gospel which you preach concerning Christ, you must strongly consider ceasing to preach until your witness and testimony lines up with the gospel you preach. What’s more, is that I would strongly encourage and exhort you that it isn’t enough to simply preach the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ if it is not accompanied by the demonstration and manifestation of the Holy Spirit and power, for what good is preaching absent and without the power of heaven and the power of the Holy Spirit behind and accompanying it? Oh let us this day not only examine whether or not there is the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power within our lives, but also whether or not our witness truly does in fact line up the gospel we seek to preach, and the Jesus we claim to follow and serve.