THREE THINGS THAT MAKE THE GOSPEL GROW
2 Thessalonians 3:1-5
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 13, 2019
1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, 2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
— 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, ESV
The second coming had not come when Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, though some thought it had. So he settled them down with some sound teaching about the return of Christ, then turned their attention back to the first coming of Jesus. “The word of the Lord” is the gospel, the good news that Christ has come, the first time, to provide salvation for His people through His life, death, resurrection, and promised return.
The best way to get ready for the second coming of Jesus Christ is make sure you have faith in the first coming of Jesus Christ. If so, you no doubt want others to have the same saving faith in Jesus Christ as the faith that saved you. This requires sharing the gospel, spreading the gospel, making the gospel grow from person to person and place to place. So Paul points out in this passage three things that make the gospel grow.
Paul had just prayed for the Thessalonians (ref. 2:16-17) and now he requests their prayers for him. “Finally,” can be better translated in this context as “Therefore,” … “pray for us.”
Chief among the vital organs of the physical body are the heart, the brain, and the lungs. You cannot live without them, although I have seen what seems to be evidence of certain people without a heart, and still others who do not know how to use their brains. For the Christian life, however, the gospel is our heart, the Bible is our brain, and prayer is the air we breath in and out of our lungs. All three are needed to sustain and spread our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul had the latter in mind, as his request for prayer was so “the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you.” Paul was there, of course, in Thessalonica when the gospel was preached and believed among those new Christians. Now he wanted all Christians everywhere to pray for new Christians to arise anywhere. Prayer is primary in the growth of the gospel in the world.
Remember God is sovereign in salvation (ref. 2 Thessalonians 2:13), but human beings are responsible. We must repent and believe to be saved, and saved people must pray for other people to be saved. God ordains what God will do, but God does not do anything without the means of the prayers of His people. Like the bad little boy being carried out of a church service for a sure spanking in the hallway said as he was leaving, “Pray, people, pray!”
Pray for missionaries, evangelists, church planters, and pastors who preach the gospel on a regular basis and who have to contend with “wicked and evil men.” The “wicked” are those false believers within the church who are literally “out of place.” The “evil men” are those outside the church who blatantly oppose the gospel, like communists in China, militants in the Middle East, and secularists in America.
Pray for boldness and opportunities to share the gospel. Pray for people who are lost and unchurched, and pray for them by name. Pray for the families on your church roll, for their children to come to Christ and for their neighbors to come to church. Pray for people groups around the world on a regular or rotating basis.
Pray, people, pray! People will be saved. God will be honored and glorified. And, the gospel will grow.
Lost people will not come to faith unless God and God’s people are faithful. God is perfect; therefore, He has always been, is, and forever will be faithful. Sometimes we need to be reminded of this fact of faith that guarantees God’s faithfulness, as Paul reminded the Thessalonians, “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”
The language here describes a firm decision that becomes an unstoppable action. God chose to save a people for Himself and He will save them. God sent His Son Jesus Christ to atone for sin on the cross, and the sins of the saints will be atoned. God calls Christians to salvation with the gospel, and He will keep calling until the last one comes. And, God has promised a place for us with Him in Heaven, and by grace through faith in Jesus we will be in Heaven, and no evil person nor force can keep God from fulfilling His faithful promises to His people.
What has this to do with spreading the gospel? Everything. We do not know who God has chosen, but we know God has chosen people who are going to come to Him. When will they come? When we share the gospel. We must have faith in the faithfulness of God in order to be emboldened to share our faith with people in the world around us.
The faithfulness of God is foundational to the growth of the gospel. So it the faithfulness of God’s people. We owe it to God, and to the people God will reach with the gospel, to walk the talk, practice what we preach, and otherwise exhibit the faithfulness that backs up our faith.
Paul said of the Thessalonians, “We have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command.” People with real faith will really be faithful. They will be faithful to God and the commandments of God’s word. They will be faithful to God’s design for God’s church. They will be faithful to the people God has placed in their lives, their spouses and children and family and friends and coworkers and neighbors, and everyone is our neighbor.
Nothing taints the gospel more than hypocrisy. Nothing makes the gospel grow like the faithful life of a person sharing the faith they are living. So pray, be faithful, and above all, love.
Paul signs off on this short part of the epistle with a brief prayer: “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” He prays for Christians to be bathed in the covenant love of salvation and clothed with the patient love of the Savior. As the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians, whom he was serving while writing to the Thessalonians, “Love is patient” (ref. 1 Corinthians 13:4).
Remember our immediate context is the growth of the gospel, the sharing of our faith, the desire to see souls saved. Prayer opens doors, faithfulness walks through them, but it is always love that leads the way. The love that saves is not general, but particular, gospel love.
God’s love created salvation. Christ’s love carried the cross. The Holy Spirit’s love communicates the gospel from heart to heart, from God’s to yours to the next person with whom you share the gospel. Love makes the gospel grow.
When you love God and love people, you cannot help but want more people to know God, worship God, and serve God. Such love requires persistence and patience, which are produced by love. Love makes the gospel grow.
Remember that most of the time, “the word of the Lord,” the gospel, does not fall on good soil (ref. Matthew 13:1ff). Be patient. Keep sowing. Let your prayers go before you, keep your faithfulness around you, and let love abound in you. Pray, be faithful, and love, and the gospel will grow.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org