THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THESSALONIAN LETTERS
Scripture Portions: John 14: 26; 15: 26-27; 16: 7-15
Reference is made to the Person and work of the Holy Spirit no less than six times in these two Letters. Let us see what these six references tell us.
1. To be effective, preaching must be in the Holy Spirit’s power and enabling and not in the energy of the flesh.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:5 Paul makes this quite clear, amplifying this thought in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. Can any preacher find anywhere a more challenging statement than this? Paul did not fear preaching error, nor did he fear preaching half the Gospel, but what he did fear was to preach the Gospel faithfully and yet to do it without the accompanying anointing and unction of the Holy Spirit. He feared preaching the Gospel “simply with words” (verse 5), and not “with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4). How many times some of us have preached in the energy of the flesh and not in the power of the Spirit! Is this one reason why we do not see more conversions resulting from our preaching, and is this the reason so many ‘converts’ do not stand? They are man-made and not God-made, and do not rest “on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:5). The preacher who has prepared his message and is ready to preach needs that enduement of power (Luke 4:18).
2. When the preaching of the Word is in the Spirit’s power the Holy Spirit Himself does His sanctifying work in those who believe the Gospel.
Read 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14. Paul preached the Gospel and they believed, but behind all their believing was (1) God’s electing grace; and (2) the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work. In other words, in Eternity past God elected (chose) some of these people in Thessalonica to be His own. Paul preached the Gospel and the Holy Spirit worked in their hearts and sanctified them (or set them apart) to be the Lord’s, performing in them the miracle of the New Birth (John 3:5) and calling them out and uniting them in the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). The word ‘sanctification’ here means ‘setting apart’. We have an illustration of this very thing happening on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41 – and compare Acts 10:44 and 16:14). When the Gospel is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit He is at work in the congregation sanctifying or setting apart for Himself and for the Lord those who are saved.
3. Those who are set apart by the Holy Spirit are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
Notice 1 Thessalonians 4:8 (AV): “God hath given unto us His Holy Spirit”. Underline those words in your mind. The Holy Spirit indwells every believer from the moment of believing. Paul was writing to Christians who were very young in the faith, when things were still wrong in their lives. Look up John 14:16-17; 7:37-39; Romans 5:5; 8:9; I Corinthians 6:19. If you are a real Christian the Holy Spirit dwells within you.
4. The fruit of the Spirit will be seen in the lives of those in whom He lives.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:6 we read that when these Christians heard the Gospel they “welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit”. Joy is only one of the nine-fold fruits of the Spirit (compare Acts 13:52). In Galatians 5:22-23 they are listed as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. These are shown in the life when the Holy Spirit controls it and the sum total of all these graces in one word is Christ-likeness. We all want to be like our Lord Jesus Christ, but how can this come about? By yielding, or as John 15:4-5 (AV) reminds us, by “abiding”. As we yield to Him, like a branch in the Vine, His life will flow out and produce in and through us the beautiful fruit of the Spirit.
5. Christians must beware of any thought, word or action that would quench the Spirit and restrict His work in and through their lives.
It is possible to resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51), and many do this when He pleads with them to accept Christ. It is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30); Christians do this when they allow things in their lives which are not pleasing to Him. 1 Thessalonians 5:19 tells us it is possible to quench the Spirit, which would have a special reference to Christian service. In the whole matter of Christian service the Holy Spirit is the Worker; it is not our work, but His. How important it is that we look to Him to inspire, guide and use us for the accomplishment of His will and purpose, and that we do not restrict His operations by disobedience!
6. The Holy Spirit is present in the world as one who restrains evil, but when the Church is raptured He will leave the earth also.
Read 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7. These solemn verses tell us:-
- The world is not going to get any better. Apostasy and evil will increase and verse 7 tells us that “the secret power of lawlessness” is at work.
- The final manifestation of evil will appear in the person of Antichrist. He will be a real leader, a person energized by Satan.
- The Holy Spirit is at work in the world hindering or restraining Satan’s efforts to reveal Antichrist. There is a holy war going on, but Satan cannot win while the Holy Spirit is present in the world (Isaiah 59:19). Notice 2 Thessalonians 2:7. Why is the Holy Spirit restraining Satan from revealing the Antichrist? For how long will He do it? He is doing it just until the time when the Church, the Body of Christ, is complete.
- When the Body of Christ is complete, the Lord will come, the Church will be removed, and so will the Holy Spirit. The Church will be raptured into the Lord’s presence (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) and the Holy Spirit will no longer be on the earth exercising His restraining influence.
What a dark and solemn place this world will be then! Every Christian…gone! – and the Holy Spirit…gone! Look up and consider Genesis 6:3.