Deut 20-22; 1 Thes 1-2; Psalm 119:113-128
Twice in these opening chapters of the first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul speaks of the imitation of these Christians of the way of life of the Apostles as the confirmation of their election. This Imitation is no mere copying though, throughout it is tied to their reception of the Holy Spirit. The word is not merely received, i.e. agreed to, no it comes with the Spirit and power that lives are transformed.
This aspect of conversion is more and more neglected in an age where faith is a matter of believing certain facts. A Sign of our elcetion, that the Gospel has gone home is that our lives are transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ, and that change brings with it persecution. Christian Life is not socially acceptable, for it calls the world to something New – to change.
The further emphasis on the word as being more than a message to be ‘believed’ is found as St Paul speaks of the ministry of himself and his companions amongst those at Thessalonica. He begins (2:1-7) by saying that they have spoken in such a way not as to win approval from men, as in the same way he speaks of bringing the gospel to Corinth. The words are not cover for something else, there is no flattery, no pretext for greed. The Apostles do not seek anything for themselves through the ministry. We might, were we to stop half way through verse 7, imagine Paul go on to say that they proclaimed the truthful word. We might imagine how we are commended to Truthfully proclaim the word, in and out of season – but at this point Paul changes the reminder of their mission to the words – ‘we were gentle’ amongst you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our very selves . . .’
Paul’s model for evangelism is not ‘pure proclamation’, but the vulnerable an gentle sharing of lives. A model I suspect we have largely forgotten in the years since this the earliest account of Christian witness was written.