* this is one of the lovesigns i couldn't get to in fusion today...
The gospel message had an instant effect upon the Thessalonian people.
Perhaps it took hold because they were fed up with pagan debauchery, perhaps it was because many of them were Gentile god-fearers who felt isolated within the synagogues, or perhaps it was because it was new. According to Paul, though, the reason the gospel message had an instant effect was because of its power.
The gospel has power to change lives through divine connection.
The people in the city found that something happened to them when they listened to Paul’s message – a power gripped them, which Paul would later tell them was the Holy Spirit. When this happened, they’d suddenly understand what he was talking about; they’d get electrified by the possibilities of intersection with their creator. Their enthusiasm was contagious, spreading back to Paul and his companions and growing quickly through – and past! – the city, making sense to others, and continuously reshaping their lives.
This message – that the God of the universe was pursuing them with great affection, longing reconciliation with his people – had not come to them by accident, nor did these people stumble into faith. God wanted them as a kind of beachhead into that region of the world. Thessalonica was a strategic center – as was Jerusalem, Philippi, Collosse, Antioch, and many others – and the thrust of the gospel into Europe began with these early converts to the Way of following Jesus.
As a result of their newfound faith and exuberance, the Thessalonian church became famous everywhere – not just for their beliefs, but for the remarkable way in which the church had come into being [Paul’s persecution in Thessalonica, his departure from the city, the infant church struggling up into legitimacy, the abandonment of idol worship and the inclusion of both Jew and Gentile, rich and poor].
Faith, in Paul’s mind, was not merely trust in a personal savior, but alteration of every facet of life resulting in completely remade people. These Christians were peculiar – even expropriating common words such as ‘brother’ or ‘gathering’ and reallocating them spiritual significance. They called each other brothers and sisters, thereby elevating the status of the poor and disenfranchised to be equal with the wealthy and powerful who were themselves transformed from prominence to service and loving-kindness.
A powerful lovesign indeed!