Accepting the Word of God
July 5, 2009
1 Thessalonians 2:9-16
Mark 14, verses 49 and 50 tell us: “But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then they all deserted Him and ran away
And Henry Blackaby adds, There are times when, in the darkest moments of your life, the only comfort left for you is a word from God. Jesus faced the cruel injustice of a hostile world, but perhaps His deepest pain came when His closest friends deserted and betrayed Him. What could possibly sustain Him at such a dark moment? Jesus found His comfort in the Scriptures (Matt. 26:20–25, 31). The Scriptures kept everything in perspective for the Savior, holding Him steadfast in the knowledge that everything He was experiencing was according to His Father's plan. Jesus could proceed with confidence because the Scriptures assured Him that the Father was in control. Remember when Jesus was tempted by Satan. What did He do to combat Satan’s temptations? (Matt 4:1-11). He depended on Scripture.
The word of God will guide you in the same way. There will be times when events around you will confuse you. Those in whom you've placed your trust will fail you. Others will abandon you. You will be misunderstood and criticized. In these times of distress, when your devotion and obedience are put to the greatest test, you must let Scripture guide and comfort you. Never let the faithlessness of others determine what you do. Turn to the Scriptures and allow them to reorient you to God and His activity.
Even as a young boy, Jesus was already well acquainted with the Scriptures. He was never surprised by events; He lived with confidence because the Scriptures had prepared Him for everything that He would face.
If you will immerse yourself daily in the word of God, you will not be caught off guard when crises come. Your focus will already be on God, and He will safely guide you through your difficult moments. Today’s message is about just what Blackaby said – the Word of God.
Please turn in your Bible to 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, and we’ll read verses 9 through 13, and while you’re turning, listen to this: The new minister came to his office the first morning of his new assignment. He found three envelopes on his desk from the previous pastor.
The first was marked, "Open if you run into trouble.
On the second was the note, "Open if you run into bad trouble."
The third: "Open if the trouble is disastrous.
There was no need to open any envelope for quite some time. But the honeymoon finally ended and the time came when he found he was having difficulty. It was enough to make him remember the envelopes which he had put away in a drawer. He opened the first envelope and found the suggestion: "Blame your predecessor." He took the advice and it seemed to work-at least for a while.
Things went along fine for quite some time and then trouble, more serious this time, struck. It was time for the second envelope — which he quickly opened. This time he read, "Blame the denomination." Again he found relief. He was grateful for the letters.
A few years later, the trouble was really bad. Once more, he resorted to the helpful words of his predecessor. The message in the third envelope read, "Prepare three envelopes."
I think this fellow would have been better off turning to the “manual”. Let’s look at it together now.
For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. 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. For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea.
My emphasis, will be on the practical: How? How do you receive the Bible as the word of God?
My key text is 1 Thessalonians 2:13, "For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe." From all the things we could talk about here, I want to focus on the words "you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God."
I would make three observations about this. 1) The apostolic word is the word of God. 2) When we read it or hear we should accept it as truth. 3) The way to do that is to embrace it as precious, pleasant, and practical, which means, put it into practice: memorize it, meditate on it, make music with it, minister with it, and mind it.5 – m’s – memorize it, meditate on it, make music with it, minister with it, mind it
Now let’s look at each of my three observations more closely: first, the apostolic word is the Word of God. Paul says in verse 13, "When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God." Paul claims that his teaching is the Word of God. It is apostolic teaching - from an apostle.
That is what it meant for Jesus to choose and appoint apostles. The words of an apostle, when he teaches or writes as one of Jesus’ apostles, is the Word of God. The definition of the word "apostle" is one who is sent to represent another person with authority. Jesus said to the apostles in John 16:13, "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." Jesus made plans that would ensure that the truth of the apostolic teaching about Himself in the early church would carry on. And that is what came to be written down in our New Testament.
The way this worked itself out in Paul’s experience is described in 1 Corinthians 2:13, where Paul says, "And we impart this [wisdom] in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual." “spiritual truths to those who are spiritual." The Bible is often called God’s love letter to us, He children. Paul’s teaching was in fact the word of God. It had divine truthfulness and divine authority. In 2 Corinthians Paul refers to this God-given authority that the Lord had given him as an apostle. 2 Corinthians 10:8, "For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed"
We can see this divine authority in action when Paul writes to the Corinthians about people who were claiming to have revelatory experiences. He puts his authority over theirs and says that his teaching is the measuring rod. "If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized (1 Corinthians 14:37-38).
Peter confirms this divine authority that Paul had as an apostle by putting Paul’s writings in the same category as the Old Testament. You recall that 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is inspired by God." Then Peter says in 2 Peter 3:15-16, "Our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. " Peter says Paul’s letters are God’s inspired and authoritative scriptures.
Consider this summary statement from the old Keach’s Catechism: “The Bible evidences itself to be God's Word by the heavenliness of its doctrine, the unity of its parts, its power to convert sinners and to edify saints; but the Spirit of God only, bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in our hearts, is able fully to persuade us that the Bible is the Word of God.”
There are many kinds of arguments for embracing the scriptures as God’s word. But this morning my point is to simply show that the Bible teaches that the apostolic word is the word of God.
When the Word of God Comes to Us by hearing or reading, We Should accept It.
Again 1 Thessalonians 2:13, "When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God."
The words for "received" and "accepted" are not the same. They "received" the word of God means that it came to them. It was handed on to them like a tradition. It would have been the word of God whether they accepted it or not.
That is not what Paul says in verse 13. Paul says that his preaching was "really" or "truly" the word of God and they "accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God." The word of man does not become the word of God because it is accepted as the word of God. Think about that for a minute. The word of man does not become the Word of God because it is accepted as the Word of God. We accept it because it is the word of God. The apostolic word really is the word of God apart from our subjective attitude toward it or our acceptance of its truth. Again, our accepting it does not make it the word of God, we accept it because it is the word of God. The word "accepted" means more than "receive". It means "welcomed." It means "embraced". We can see this use in 1 Corinthians 2:14. Right after Paul says that he teaches in words taught by the Holy Spirit he adds, "The natural person does not accept [same word] the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned."
So the point of 1 Thessalonians 2:13 is that there is a right way to accept the teaching of the Bible when we receive it. We should embrace it and welcome it as the word of God. It is God’s truth and has God’s authority. The Word of God is our measuring rod. “Where stands it written” should be our personal doctrine as believers.
Now how do we do that? What does it look like to welcome the Scriptures as the word of God? Earlier is this message, I said we are to embrace it as precious, pleasant, and practical, which means, to put it into practice: to memorize it, meditate on it, make music with it, minister with it, and mind it – the 5 M’s.
Verse 14 says that the evidence that the Thessalonians accepted the word of God for what it really is was that they suffered for it. "For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen."
Now compare that to 1 Thessalonians 1:6: "And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia."
They received the word even though it meant "much affliction." To have it and believe it and trust in it was worth more than comfort and safety. It was a treasure. They accepted suffering rather than give it up. So the right way to accept the word of God is to accept it as precious – more precious than possessions and life. Would you be willing to suffer for the Word of God as the persecuted church does/
They received the word in this affliction with the "joy of the Holy Spirit. The word of God produces joy. Precious and pleasant.
These two words remind us of what Psalm 19:10 says about God’s words: "More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb." Gold is precious. Honey is pleasant. When we experience the word of God as more precious than gold and more pleasant than honey we will have embraced the word of God the way we should. Does reading the Word of God delight you?
They received the word as practical. It changed their lives in visible ways. Verse 7 says: "So that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia." This is what Paul’s word did to believers when they received the word of God. It was practical and life-changing. Has reading God’s Word changed you?
So the answer to the question, "How do your accept the word of God the way you should?" Accept it or embrace it as precious, pleasant, and practical. More precious than gold, more pleasant than honey, practical enough to change your life.
Now let’s get as practical as we can for what we should actually do with the Bible. If the aim is to embrace it as precious, pleasant, and practical, what would you do with it?
As I’ve already said twice, the way to welcome the Bible as precious, pleasant, and practical is to memorize it, meditate on it, make music with it, minister with it, and mind it.
If the word of God is more precious to you than gold and more pleasant than honey and more practical than all human counsel, then you will want to memorize it. It is not mainly a book. You want it to be a life-giving, life healing balm – a prescription for peace. A prescription for change. A prescription for direction. Don’t you? Having it in your mind and in your heart – that’s where you experience its preciousness. It is life transforming. Look at Romans 12:1 -2: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
And the pleasantness of it is not that it lies, but that it lies in your mind and in your heart so that you can taste it any time you want. Honey will not do you any good at all in a jar in the kitchen cabinet. It is good on your tongue. That is where the sweetness of Scripture is when you memorize it.
All the other ways of welcoming the word are helped by memorizing. Memorizing the word helps you meditate on it day and night. Memorizing helps you make music with Scripture. Memorizing helps you minister it to others when there is no Bible to read. And a word of Scripture from your heart is more powerful any way. And memorizing helps you mind Scripture.
Psalm 119:11 says, "I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." So memorizing and treasuring the word in your heart helps you triumph over sin. What a bonus! Scripture renews your mind, transforms you! Wow! Don’t you want that! Just like John writes in 1 John 2:14, "I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one." When the word of God abides in us we have a tremendous advantage over sin and Satan. Jesus put Satan to flight every time in the wilderness by quoting memorized Scripture. James 4:7 promises, Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Our prayers are made more powerful when they are saturated with Scripture, and that happens when you memorize scripture. The power is in God’s Word, not ours. Those who memorize scripture enrich their prayers with the word of God. Remember Romans 8:27: God hears the prayers of the Spirit on our behalf because he prays "according to God." A believer should distrust his words and seek God’s words and pray them as much as possible.
Psalm 1:2 says that the blessed man – the man whose life is like a fruitful tree planted by streams of water – delights in the law of the Lord, "and on his law he meditates day and night." To meditate means to read it, ponder it, think about it, query it, and relate it to as many other truths as you can. Paul puts it this way in 2 Timothy 2:7, "Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything." The Lord gives understanding when we meditate on His Word.
From all the Scripture that you read in the morning, I suggest that you take one verse in to your mind, memorize it or perhaps print it out on a small piece of paper. And let that be your focus of meditation all day long. Lay it on your table or counter or tape it to the mirror. Come back to it again and again. That’s meditation.
Meditation is not just intellectual. It is emotional. Meditation is cherishing the gold and savoring the honey. If you don’t feel this cherishing and savoring, ask the Lord to waken the spiritual taste buds of your soul. Put it on the tongue of your soul. He will waken your heart to taste Christ, to ponder what Jesus did for us on the cross. So take the honey of the word into your mind and ask God to create a taste for it.
I get this from Colossians 3:16. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." Notice how the word is to dwell richly in you: namely, by "singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." So we move from memorize to meditate to music.
Sing the word to yourself. Sing the word aloud. Sing the word in church. Most good hymns and worship songs are permeated with Scripture. “The joy of the Lord is my strength” Sing it! Our children had a God’s Army tape that we played over and over in the car when we were travelling. It was full of scriptural songs and raps which help them and me to remember Scripture. Music is a terrific way to memorize Scripture. The Psalms are full of songs to sing. Psalm 119:105 – The Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Psalm 100:4 I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart; I will enter His courts with praise. I could go on and on and, if I was a singer, I would!
Memorize, meditate, make music in your heart! Now, let’s move on to the fourth “M” – ministering with Scripture. I don’t have myself in mind here. I have you in mind. What the Bible says every Christian should do for other Christians (and unbelievers) day in and day out (on the phone, in an email, on the street, in the office, in small groups, in the hospital, in the living room with the family). "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3:12-13). What do you exhort with? Not your wisdom. That is hopeless. We exhort with the word of God. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God Proverbs 17:22 says: A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. So speak it to help people in the fight of faith.
Oh, how important it is to store up the Word of God in your mind and heart if you want to minister to people and help them fight the fight of faith day by day. Parents for children, children for your friends. Small groups to each other. Students to roommates. What we need from each other is the word of God. When I am confused, give me the word of God. When I am arrogant, give me the word of God. When I am lustful, give me the word of God. When I am frightened, give me the word of God. When I am suffering, give me the word of God. When I am angry, give me the word of God. When I am dying, give me the word of God. Minster to me. I plead with you. All who have any access to me, give me the word of God to keep me strong as your shepherd. I need to be strong in the Word of God in order to “equip you, the saints of God” (Eph 4:12) .
This is part of the great commission. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20). How can I teach you God’s commands if I don’t know them? The Words of God have to be precious and sweet to me.
Psalm 19:11 says, "Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward."
Even without the promise of rewards, the word of God is not a burden to those who love God. Here is the great test: Do you love God? 1 John 5:3 puts the test plainly. "This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome."
This is my prayer for, that we will welcome the Bible as the word of God. That we will embrace it as more precious than gold and more pleasant than honey and more practical than all human wisdom. And that we would memorize it extensively, and meditate on it day and night, and make music with it from our hearts, and minister with it to sustain each other’s faith, and mind it with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
I close with this one last observation from the text. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, "We also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men." He thanked God they embraced his message as the word of God. That means we can add one more "M" to our list of five. Embracing the Bible as the word of God is a "mercy" from God. Hebrews 4:16 ends this chapter with a beautiful promise for mercy. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and grace to help in the time of need.” The Bible is a merciful gift. And for that I pray.