Accept The Word Of God As What It Really Is
In last Sunday’s passage we saw how Paul defended his team’s missionary work. He points out their integrity and dedication to God’s mission. Pastor Besweri said last Sunday that Paul was in love with the gospel, he treasured it and so in spite of being treated shamefully at Philippi, they continued the mission and shared the gospel at Thessalonica. They didn’t find value in their appearance, but in what God can do through his word. And so, they spoke not to please men, or gain anything from Thessalonians, but to please God. It was evident in how they took care of them as their children, they labored and toiled so they wouldn’t burden them financially, being holy and righteous and blameless in all their conduct (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12). And so, in today’s passage we will see what fruit this work and the word of God brought.
Have you ever doubted whether what you believe is true? We rarely doubt when everything is going well, the way we expect or even better than we expect. The doubt comes when things get hard, when we suffer. I think Paul knows that the Thessalonians either already have or will have these kinds of questions. To question what we believe isn’t necessarily bad, in fact we need to constantly test our hearts. The important part is what we test our hearts against. Do we test them against other people we admire? What others say or what we feel is right? All of these are false measures. That’s why Paul points Thessalonians and us to something that’s really certain.
1 Thessalonians 2:13-16
13 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. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!
- Accept the Word of God for what it really is
Vs 13 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.
When we talk about the word of God, we talk about the Bible. Not the wisdom of men, or so-called prophets and apostles of our time, but the Scriptures breathed out by God.
The Thessalonians received the word of God shared with them by Paul. But it didn’t end there, they also accepted the word, not as the word of men, but as of God.
It is possible to receive the word, to hear it, but not to accept it as the word of God. Even if we believe that the Bible is the very word of God. We may practically treat it as something else, at best as good suggestions and at worst just something good, but really old and irrelevant. Why is it so?
I think one reason it happens is because the word of God requires our total submission as it reveals the gloriousness of God and our brokenness.
The message of the gospel is that we have sinned against our Creator, constantly falling short of his holy standard. And no matter how hard we try on our own, we are just not good enough. And he as a just God has to serve us what we deserve, eternal punishment in hell, each one of us, because no one is good (Rom 3:9-18; Isaiah 64:6). But God, because of his love and mercy provided a way of salvation through his Son (Eph 2:1-10; John 3:16). He sent his Son Jesus into this world to live a perfect life, that we cannot and die a death that we deserve, so that everyone who believes in him may receive forgiveness of their sins. Now God can be just and loving at the same time, he can forgive because Jesus has paid the price. (Rom 3:21-26)
This message humbles men and exalts God. As we are saved by this gospel and live by it, it requires us to trust the word of God as good and best for us, while we humble ourselves and put away what we think is good. That’s why Paul calls Thessalonian believers. They believed God at his word and so they treasured it.
Do you truly believe that what Bible tells you is the best for you? Things like:
- Forgive and do not repay evil for evil (Romans 12:17-21)
- Love your enemy (Matthew 5:44)
- Don’t have sex outside marriage (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4)
- Do not store up treasure on earth (Matthew 6:19-21)
- Give everything you have and follow me (Luke 18:22)
Those are well known words of God. Do you accept these words and believe that they are good? Does your life show that you believe that they are good? Or when it comes to action, do you bring out heavy arguments as to how you just can’t practice it? Because what that other person did to you is just so bad, because you just can’t wait, you are in love and our culture says it’s ok to have sex before marriage and outside of the marriage bond, justifying it with excuses such as how your wife can’t satisfy you or your husband doesn’t understand and love you. Or that you don’t have really much so how can I give and if at all I try to give a tithe sometimes.
- Imitation in much suffering
This brings us to our second point. How does Paul know that they are believers and that the word of God is at work in them? When we truly believe that this is the word of God, we treasure it and we strive to obey it, we act upon it.
14-15 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind
The word of God came to Thessalonians with much suffering and persecution, but it didn’t push them away from the word. They treasured it above their comfort and safety. They have suffered so much that Paul compares their suffering with suffering of churches in Judea and Jesus himself.
As they believed the word of God for what it is, they obeyed it. So, they became imitators of the churches in Judea and Jesus himself. Living it out no matter what the cost is. Are you ready to pay the price? Are you ready to obey the word because you find it much better and satisfying than anything else?
Psalm 119:72 The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Psalm 119:103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Do you read Proverbs 5:3-5, 18-19; 6:25 and believe that it is best to enjoy your wife and it is death to go to another woman?
When anxiety comes do you read Matthew 6:25-34 and Philippians 4:6-7 and believe that the loving God takes care of you?
Reading Acts 20:35 do you believe that it is more blessed to give than receive?
Act on Bible promises, blessed is the one who is obeying not just hearing the word.
Obedience to the word shows who we really love 1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
- The word of God is victorious and saves people in spite of opposition.
15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!
Though the people oppose the word of God that saves, God’s mission doesn’t fail. As we have seen throughout history, in spite of human opposition the word of God remained victorious and continued to bear fruit by saving and transforming people. God’s mission won’t fail. God’s word won’t return empty.
Isaiah 55:11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
The only people who lose are those who oppose, they fill the measure of their sin and their destiny is God’s wrath.
Do you oppose God’s word?
The word of God remains what it is no matter what you think of it and no matter how you treat in your life. The only question is will you accept it as it is?
Conclusion: Be encouraged, that the acceptance of God’s word is a work He accomplishes in us by the power of the Holy Spirit, so believe and act.
Our passage begins with Paul’s words of thanksgiving to God. Because the Thessalonians’ acceptance of the word and faith, and their obedience to it with joy in spite of suffering, is God’s work.
A work that he will continue to faithfully accomplish in us by the Holy Spirit.
So do not be discouraged. When it seems like you don’t know what you believe and things are falling apart in your life, come to God. To his word. Find someone with whom you can study and dive in to it.
If you realize that you have been treating the word of God as the words of men and don’t treasure it and act on it, come to God.
Read the word, meditate on it.
Exhort one another.
And let us live it out together as the church.