Receiving the Word of God
"And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers" 1 Thessalonian 2:13.
Every time Paul remembers how the Thessalonians accepted and treasured every gospel truth he shared to them, he can't help thanking God for such a response. Of course, we are aware that Paul's evangelistic sermons were done by the power of the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit who opened the hearts of the Thessalonians, both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, to believe and appropriate the Word of God. And that's the occasion for Paul to say, “For this reason we also constantly thank God...”. God, through His Word and Spirit is at work in them.
Through Paul's bold gospel proclamation and by the power of the Holy Spirit, coupled by their exemplary lives, the Thessalonians eagerly embraced the Word of God. They were persuaded by it (Acts 17:4), believed its truth claims, appropriated its wonderful promises, and recognized what it really is, the “word that comes from the mouth of God” and not mere words of men. That Word, I tell you, has changed them and their lifestyle.
This is very important to us as 21st century believers. The Word of God in this passage in one sense can mean the whole Bible in its written form handed down to us. It can also mean the body of doctrines that summarizes the whole Biblical teachings on God, Christ, sin, salvation, second coming and other important truths of the Christian faith which we received from our forefathers in the faith.
Amazingly, the faithful preaching of God's Word every Lord's Day can also be denominated as the Word of God, as the Second Helvetic Confession, Chapter 1, declares, “Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful.”
We who are deeply convinced of the power of God's Word ought to be involved in getting that Word out to the world, one way or another. We are not just talking about sending missionaries overseas, though that's part of it.
We are talking about that sense of burden and faithfulness to witness both in word and in deed to our neighbors and friends. These neighbors may have been struggling for years in life and they do not have the same hope and comfort that you have in Christ. They may have never heard about the power of God’s kingdom and the rule of King Jesus. If you go out as a friend and share the good news of Christ, both in your word and action, they might be able to taste God’s goodness, which you have been enjoying.
As one with Christ, we have the ability and resources to make that Word visible to our friends. It may start by becoming really acquainted with them and showing genuine interest in asking and listening to them. Before you know it, God may have been working in the heart of that neighbor-friend and he might just hold on to every word of God you share to him.
It is a sad situation to behold when churches that bear the name of Christ reject the Word of God and regard it as mere words of men. An equally distressing phenomenon is the disinterest of the Bible and its doctrines by many professing Christians. Instead of listening and learning from the Word of God, they lean their ears and set their minds on various ideologies and philosophies to satisfy their own selfish curiosity. Pulpits and airwaves in this county and all over the world have become venues for selling watered-down gospel and management techniques of how to grow a church.
Of course, you don't want that to happen to your and to your church, do you? But once you start neglecting the faithful preaching and teaching of God's Word you are heading for that direction, too. Once you do not diligently guard what you hear from the pulpit and church classrooms, seeds of falsehood or different gospel, which is not a gospel at all, will creep in.
Disregard of God’s Word may also manifest in your failure to find regular time for Bible reading and meditation, much more to apply the truth that you know. It could even be seen in your casual and frivolous attitude toward sin.
The way to accept and embrace the Word of God as the Thessalonians did is by, first of all, longing and thirsting for the pure preaching of God's Word every Lord's Day. Preaching of God’s Word is of primary importance for God’s people. As you let that preached Word saturate your mind you will be constrained by the Holy Spirit to act in obedience to that Word. As you patiently read and study that Word and let it regulate your heart and mind, God will show how great your sins and miseries are.
Then He will lead you to confess and repent from certain sins that you've been committing over and over. That Word of God gives you the grace to abstain from doing something immoral and destructive, like hurting your spouse, dishonoring your parents, slandering your brother, abusing your freedom in Christ or even blowing your top.
Parents, how many times have we committed foolish mistakes by flaring up in front of our children, which could have been prevented if we hide the Word of God in our heart? Or how many young boys and girls could have obeyed mom and dad promptly and nicely if they just let God's word that says, “Honor your father and your mother” or “Do all things without grumbling” dwell in their heart.
Acceptance of God's Word would be evident in our lives when we start memorizing, meditating and living that Word out daily that it becomes part of our daily thought and conversation with others. As we let the Word of God linger in our mind and heart that Word will come out in our praying, in our encouraging and even in correcting in love of our fellow believer.
By filling our minds with Scriptures, praying with Scriptures, singing the Scriptures and walking according to the Scriptures, we will be faithful recipients of the Word of God. That Word will come out naturally in our behavior and lifestyle. How serious have you been taking the Word of God?