Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Gospel 30

What does the word “gospel” mean in the New Testament? My experience with good Christian folks reveals they think of the gospel in very simplistic terms. Simple is not bad. My experience also shows that many don’t think of the word “gospel” even in biblical categories. So this series is devoted to sketching what the New Testament says. It can surprise many folks today. This is the 30th post in this series and today we look at 1 Thessalonians 1:

4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because
our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with
the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among
you for your sake. 6 You
became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering,
you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The
Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia-your
faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to
say anything about it, 9 for
they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell
how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead-Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.


I put in bold the use of the term “gospel” and we make the following observations about how Paul understands the gospel in this text:

1. He doesn’t tell us its exact contents here so we have to infer it from the other passages we have looked at: it concerns the declaration that God has acted for redemption in Jesus Christ, who brings the Story of Israel to its Telos point, and in whom all — both Jews and Gentiles — can find redemption by faith.

2. In our text Paul emphasizes the attending power of the Holy Spirit.

3. That attending power of God’s Spirit created a compelling lifestyle in Paul that led to the Thessalonians having a compelling lifestyle.

4. That lifestyle on their part involved turning from idolatry to the one true God, to the Son who was coming again from the heavens, the one who was raised, and the one who rescues from the coming wrath (perhaps his anticipation of the destruction of Jerusalem).

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posted November 11, 2008 at 4:29 am

Do you know why the translation of plyrophoria in verse 5 is translated as “conviction?” It looks like it’s elsewhere often translated as “full assurance,” and with the emphatic polly as strengthening the meaning to “certainty.” So why does the NRSV, ESV, NET, etc. use “strong conviction” in this passage?

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Scot McKnight

posted November 11, 2008 at 7:59 am

Not having been there when those translations made those decisions, I would say it may well have to do with the “Spirit” shaped context while “certainty” tends to be more Mind shaped. Pler- gives the sense of fullness (not polloi — many). The point is a fullness of conviction.

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posted November 11, 2008 at 10:25 am

I’m struck by Paul’s comment that, as you point out, the gospel came not only with words but with the power of the Holy Spirit–that implies there is mystery surrounding the gospel experience, that it is in-the-moment and experiential as well as intellectual. The gospel is more than, as we often define it, the words of the Bible. It is the combination of scriptural words and living, holy spirit that leads to changes in how we live.

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posted November 11, 2008 at 9:41 pm

Does the gospel come with the Holy Spirit in power yet today? If so how is it recognized?

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Scot McKnight

posted November 11, 2008 at 9:48 pm

Yes it does … but I’m convinced far too many “gospel” with no attention whatsoever to the need for the unleashing of the Spirit.

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posted November 12, 2008 at 12:02 am

Verse 5 is a very powerful verse that reminds us how much we need the Spirit to reveal the Gospel to us and to the world. How easy it is to either forget this dependency or “tip our hat” to him.

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F. Ellsworth Lockwood

posted November 12, 2008 at 5:03 am

Yep, the gospel is a mystical experience. The letter kills but the spirit gives life.

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