Study 4 HOW TO RECEIVE THE WORD OF GOD
THE LETTERS TO THE THESSALONIANS
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portions: 1 Thessalonians 2: 13-20; Psalm 19: 7-11
This study is based upon 1 Thessalonians 2:13. When Paul speaks of ”the word of God” he refers to the word of the Gospel (Acts 17:3); which had been entrusted to him (1 Thessalonians 2:4), and which he had preached with power (1 Thessalonians 1:5), and which had been received by them “not as the word of men, but… the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Now, what Paul said about the particular message which he gave to the Thessalonians is true of the whole Bible. Three truths are emphasised:-
1. The Bible is not the word of man but is in truth the Word of God.
The whole Bible is the Word of God, divine in its origin, for it is not simply a human, man-compiled book. In what way is the Bible the Word of God?
- (1) We do not mean that the Bible was not written by men. Of course this was so, and it is one of the marvels of the Book – written by forty different human writers who were selected from all ranks of life and who lived and wrote over a period of 1600 years – and yet when all the books are brought together they make one glorious whole, each book being essential to the unity of the whole.
- (2) We do not mean that the Bible records only the words of God. It records the words of God, of men, angels, demons and of Satan. God is the Author of the Bible and has inspired the whole of it from Genesis to Revelation. It is not the work of man, it is God-breathed throughout, and although men wrote it God superintended and overruled their writing of it so that it should be absolutely accurate, reliable, trustworthy, and therefore authoritative. Two verses help us here - 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21.
Consider the following important matters:-
- (1) If the Bible is not the Word of God there is no satisfactory explanation of its construction, preservation, vitality and power. How else can we explain the fact of the unity of the Bible, that it has outlived all the attacks made on it, and the fact of its amazing power to transform human lives?
- (2) If the Bible is not the Word of God we have no authoritative picture of Christ Himself. The only conception we have of Him is the revelation that the Bible gives us (John 5:39). If the Bible is not reliable we have a faulty conception of the Person and Work of Christ.
2. It is a cause for great thanksgiving when the Bible is received as the Word of God, and not as the word of men.
Paul was overjoyed that the Thessalonian Christians had received the word, and he thanked God “continually” that they had done so. Unfortunately, many are only prepared to say that it is good literature (and so it is), but it is much more than that! Others say it only contains the Word of God, that parts of it are not, but here is a great difficulty: who can tell us which part is God’s Word and which is not? Either we accept it completely or reject it.
3. When the Bible is received as the Word of God it is at work in the lives of those who believe and receive it.
See 1 Thessalonians 2:13. When anyone believes and receives the message of the Bible, something happens. It works powerfully in the life because the message is dynamic (Hebrews 4:12), and compare Ephesians 6:17. What does the Word of God do in and for those who believe and receive it?
- (1) It has power to transform lives and characters (Psalm 19:7). Compare Luke 22:32. The message of the Bible is the instrument God uses for producing the miracle of conversion. Look at the Thessalonian converts: Paul preached the Word, they received it, and their lives were transformed!
- (2) It has power to cleanse hearts and lives. Look up and compare Psalm 119:9; John 15:3; 17:17; and Ephesians 5:25-26. How can we keep clean in this evil world? We must read, receive and meditate on the Word of God and it will have a cleansing effect on us.
- (3) It has power to keep sin from those who receive it (Psalm 119:11). If we hide His Word in our hearts we are kept and receive victory in temptation.
- (4) It has power to impart and deepen faith (Romans 10:17) - whether it is faith for justification, sanctification, to pray effectively, to trust for His provision, or in times of adversity.
- (5) It has power to feed, nourish and build up (Acts 20:32); compare 1 Peter 2:2. Our bodies need food, but so do our souls, and if we feed on the Word we grow spiritually; if we neglect to feed we starve spiritually and remain stunted and immature Christians.
- (6) It has power to give guidance and wisdom (Psalm 19:7-8; 73:24; 119:105; 2 Timothy 3:15-17).
- (7) It has power to give assurance and confidence. Not one of the promises referred to in 2 Peter 1:4 has ever failed or will ever fail, and there is a promise relating to every situation that we are ever likely to face: assurance of salvation (John 5:24; Romans 10:9; 1 John 5:13); forgiveness of sin (1 John 1:9; 2:1); that God will keep us until the end of the journey (2 Timothy 1:12; Jude 24); that we can be sure about the future - Heaven, and what happens at death and after death (John 14:2-3; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10).
What a power the Word of God is! - but notice, it is only worked out “in you who believe” – those who receive the Word.