In II Thessalonians 2:15 Paul wrote, “Therefore brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught whether by word, or our epistle.” Paul visited Thessalonica on his second missionary journey. His time with them was short (6-8 weeks) compared to time he spent in Corinth (1 ½ years), and Ephesus (3 years). But in that short visit the Lord added many to His kingdom through the preaching of Paul in the synagogues. Acts 17 tells the story of Paul’s visit to Thessalonica. Also during his short visit, Paul was able to hand down to the believers at Thessalonica key fundamental teachings and practices of Christianity. This “handing down or transmitting” is what Paul refers to in verse 15 of the second epistle that I referenced above.
If Paul admonished the saints at Thessalonica to hold fast to the traditions, then I think that today’s Christians would do well to hold fast to them also. So, what are these traditions? Where’s the list? Obviously they are contained in the two epistles that Paul wrote for them, but they aren’t listed in a bullet point outline form. I have been reading these two letters for some time now. During my reading, certain passages of scripture or phrases have stood out to me as things that Paul emphasized. From those passages I have developed several traditions that Paul would have the saints at Thessalonica and the present day saints to seize and to hold onto for dear life.
The first is the tradition of evangelism, taken from I Thessalonians 1:1-6. In this passage Paul lays down certain key factors that he demonstrated when he evangelized in Thessalonica. The Tradition of Evangelism includes:
- A proper understanding of Election. (vs.4) “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.” Election is “God’s eternal choice of some persons unto everlasting life — not because of foreseen merit in them, but of his mere mercy in Christ — in consequence of which choice they are called, justified and glorified.” paragraph V of The Abstract of Principles. When Paul entered Thessalonica, he preached Christ crucified to all who would listen, and trusted the Holy Ghost to regenerate those in his audience who had been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. If you believe that God has His people in every tribe, tongue, and nation you will freely go to the four corners of the world to evangelize. There are no “off limits” where the gospel cannot be preached. Go to the ends of the world to preach Christ and trust the Lord to gather His people.
- The use of the Gospel. (vs. 5) “For our gospel came not unto you in word only…” If men/women and boys/girls are to be made disciples of Christ, they must hear about Christ. In evangelism the good news of a sinless Savior, who died a substitutionary death for sinners, who was resurrected on the third day as the Victor of the grave, who ascended to heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father to rule and reign the universe, until the Father sends Him to destroy sin, satan, and death once and for all while He gathers His church to usher them into eternal glory, must be preached if sinners are to be saved. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Preach it. Preach it all. Preach it at all times.
- A reliance upon the Holy Ghost. (vs.5) “…but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance…” When Paul preached to those who had gathered in the synagogues of Thessalonica for three sabbaths, he knew that he was preaching to dead sinners who are incapable of obeying the gospel demands of repentance of sins and faith in Jesus Christ. His preaching of Christ fell on deaf ears and darkened minds, unless the Holy Ghost regenerated them. No one can “see” the kingdom, nor “enter” the kingdom until they are first born again of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost did indeed move upon those crowds with power, and many were converted! We must make sure that we too, call for the wind to blow upon the dry dead bones that we are evangelizing.
- An allegiance to Christ and His Church. (vs.6) “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord…” Those who believe in Jesus Christ become followers of Christ and His disciples. There is no such thing as a believer in Christ who isn’t a follower of Him and His church. Let’s not have anything to do with an evangelism that produces converts who don’t live for Christ.
- An understanding of the role that suffering plays in evangelism. (vs.6) ”…having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.” The result of evangelism is disciples of Jesus Christ who will meet with affliction. This affliction comes from the unbelieving world who hates Jesus, His gospel, and His church. Don’t think it a strange thing that you will experience suffering for Christ’s sake. He said, “if the world hates me, then it will hate you as well.” Paul told Timothy, “and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Throughout the Bible, persecution never deters evangelism, rather it fans the flame of evangelism.
The tradition of Evangelism was handed down to the saints at Thessalonica by word and by epistle. Not all evangelism follows this tradition, but we must make sure that we follow nothing but this tradition, if we want to see men and women saved from their sins and live a life dedicated to Christ and His Church.