Years ago there was a Christian young man, 14-yrs-old, who had landed his first real job. He was a helper in a hardware store which was owned by his uncle. One day a customer came in and ordered a couple of pounds of nails, and Billy was sent to help the man. Into the scale went the nails until the dial read exactly two pounds. And then the customer told him to throw in another scoop of nails. He said that the young man who used to work there had always done that and had gotten a nice tip. “Oh, no, I couldn’t do that. The boss wouldn’t like that.” “But,” said the customer, “Your boss isn’t here is he?” The Christian young man pointed at his chest and replied, “Yes sir, He is always here.”
There are thousands of people who go to church and call themselves “Christians” who are not Christians. No one can be a real Christian without possessing – and being possessed – by Christ. Simply asking Jesus come into one’s dead and putrefying heart, is not the way to become a Christian. But then again, Christ DOES possess the heart of every Christian. It is possible to join the Moose Lodge without being a Moose. It is possible to joint the Elks without being a wapiti. It is possible join to join the American Automobile Association and not own a pick-up truck. But its impossible to be the kind of Christian we find in the Bible without possessing Christ. It is also safe to say, it is impossible to be a Christian without receiving, at least to some degree, the Word of God. On the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, three thousand people were saved and soon joined the church. And how did that come about? The Bible says “they that glad received the Word were baptized” and began to follow the Lord. Later, Luke was impressed with the Bereans who “received the Word of God with all readiness of mind.” The Bible says much about “receiving” God’s Word and how it is received.
Whether or not you receive God’s Word determines whether or not you are a Christian. And HOW you receive God’s Word determines your worth as a servant of Lord. How you receive the Bible determines how the Lord will praise you and how Satan will resist you. How you receive the Word greatly determines the quality and quantity of your spiritual fruit. Receiving God’s Word is very important. I think we have four points here that we can develop out of this text on receiving God’s word.
First, the Thessalonians received the Word from the lips of men.
The Lord uses people to spread His Word. How often do we read in the Bible where God revealed salvation’s grace to individuals miraculously? In the Old Testament it occurred once in while – Abraham in Ur and to Jacob at Bethel with the ladder. But how often in the New Testament? Perhaps the closest we can come is Saul of Tarsus, and even then there was Deacon Stephen. All of the first disciples were won through human lips, and so were the following seventy. Lydia was evangelized through preaching, and so was Sergius Paulus. In my reading of the Bible I can’t ever recall saving faith coming through visits or visions of angels. When was last time read Romans 10:13-15? “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”
When Paul went to the city of Thessalonica we have no record of a single miracle, no healings, no tongues. But the Bible clearly says the Word of God came “in power and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.” It was the Bible that God used to convert those people. And that Word initially came from the lips Paul and Silas.
Why God didn’t call angels to preach the gospel? He certainly could have done so. As we look at some preachers we might think, “A skunk could probably do a better job.” Undoubtedly a miraculously talking skunk actually could – if it was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. And that is the key – surrender to, and filling with the Spirit of the Lord. Angels don’t have that filling, and unfortunately neither do so many of us preachers. And what-is-more, the angels, like some preachers, don’t really have the message. As I said this morning, angels have never felt the effect of the gospel – they have never been saved. And then finally, if angels preached, people might respond out of fear or respect of those angels rather than out of faith.
The Thessalonians received the message of Christ from the lips of fellow men – human beings. God doesn’t use visions, angels and miracles to preach the gospel today. He may use the internet, CDs and DVDs, and even tracts. But all of those come from the ministries of men.
So a good question is: If you were the only Christian in this valley, would Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene and Spokane ever hear? If the missionary depended upon you, would he starve to death in trying to reach his neighbors? “Go YE therefore and preach the Gospel to every creature.”
The Thessalonians received the Word from the lips of men, but they did so as the Word of God.
We often hear, and rightly so, that the Bereans were more noble than Thessalonica. Berea was another Macedonian town down the road from Thessalonica. Without trying to reverse the clear statement of scripture, may I offer a possible explanation as to why the Thessalonians were not as diligent as the Bereans in searching the scriptures? It may been out of a higher respect for Paul and Silas that every word they spoke was well-received. Now this is a dangerous practice, and I don’t recommend it to you. It could have been that the Bereans were not as confident of Paul as the Thessalonians were. Paul praises the Thessalonians, and Luke praises the Bereans. Both were right in doing so.
Now, I am going make bold statement which would be rejected in many (most) circles of Christendom. If something is taken from the King James Version of the Bible you may accept it as the Word of God. If I was forced to attend a church that preached from some other version, I’d wonder about every sermon.
Quite unknown to a lot of people, there is an upsurge in cases of Hepatitis over the last few years. Some would like to test all the kids who attend public schools, to find out who and if kids have Hepatitis. Would like a standard Hepatitis test to apply to all the strange Bibles we have today? How about adding together I and II Timothy 3 :16. II Timothy says, “All scripture IS given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” And I Timothy declares, “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: GOD was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” The church which uses any Bible where these words are denied or corrupted, should not be considered a church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I won’t try to prove this evening that the King James is God’s Word, because we’ve done that recently. But I hope you remember that we can prove that historically and textually. There is a lot of talk about the oldest Bible manuscripts disproving the King James and the Textus Receptus, the manuscripts from which the King James New Testament came. It is true that the oldest extant copies of the Bible, not agree with the KJV and there is good reason. They were known to be corruptions, treasonous and poisonous, and so they were ignored by Christians in the day when they were first published. A few of those Bible still exist because they were rejected and ignored by the saints of God. I can affirm we have the Word today because Jesus said, “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” I believe that we have the Word because of the way the New Testament quotes the Old Testament. I can prove that we have the Word by the way fulfilled scripture. And I lean on the question: “What if God did not preserve His Word?” It would be a spiritual catastrophe of epic proportions.
These Thessalonians may not have been as noble as the Bereans, but they deserve great admiration. Even though they didn’t have two centuries of evidence of New Testament Christianity, like us.. … yet they received this word as it was – the True Word of the Lord.
And that reception revolutionized their lives.
Most Americans have little understanding of the differences between Calgary, AB and Post Falls, ID. The environment here, socially, politically, economically and educationally is different from Canada. Our environment does play a role in shaping our lives. And obviously some parts of the environment affect us more strongly than others.
For us as Christians, a big part of our environment ought to include the Word of God. I believe that we are changed just a little every time hear God speak. The Word of the Lord will not return to Master void; it accomplishes that for which it is intended. Sometimes the results are positive: a thrill, a conviction, a greater dedication. Sometimes the results are negative; a persona may become more hardened and stubborn. “A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” In each of the Lord’s examples there was a reaction between the seed and its soil.
The Thessalonian Christians received the Word of the Lord as of God and insured that it grew in their hearts. When the seed of God finds the fertile soil of the Christian soul it should grow and grow and grow. Paul says of these people that it effectually worked in them – in all kinds of ways. It is the Word of God’s salvation: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation.” Bible is means by which the Holy Spirit chips away at stubborn sin: “Is not my word like as a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces.” It is the perfect probing instrument – “For Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” It guides our feet and lights our path – Psalm 119:105. It is all of a hundred things to the saint of the Lord.
The overall effect of receiving the Word into the life of the child of God can be measured several ways. Do you have a love for the Bible or would you prefer to spend your time in some other book or some sort of entertainment? Do you love being with other believers in Christ as the Word is shared, or would you rather be at work or a hermit? Do you yearn for the house of God where it is preached, or is it a drag and a drudgery?
Paul describes how these Thessalonians were like the first Jewish converts. They knew what it was to be legislated against, persecuted and rejected. Christians of every age have been shunned, disinherited, exiled and hated. If they’ve done this to our Master how can we expect anything less? Our Baptist forefathers felt the ax, torch, knife and exposure. They felt hatred, teeth of lions, bleeding wounds and much, much more.
But along with the Word of God comes a kind of spiritual strength which is inexplicable. “Our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” God’s grace is sufficient, for His strength is made perfect in our weakness. This these Thessalonians knew.
But there is one other response to the Word described here.
“Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.” To reject Scripture is to reject Christ. In this day of modern, corrupt Christianity, this fact is denied. But it is impossible to be a sailor without a ship; or to be an astronaut without climbing into space. Christ, who is the living Word of God, cannot be a sinner’s Saviour if that sinner rejects the Written Word. To reject the Bible is to despise Christ and the Word of His people.
In 1981 radio and TV stations across Minnesota made a concerted effort to ask a car thief from California to turn himself in. Police throughout the state were searching frantically for a particular, stolen VW bug. You see the owner of car had bought a carton of soda crackers and drizzled them in poison to kill rats. When his car was stolen it was unlikely that the thief knew what the crackers were for. If he got really hungry he might have eaten the crackers and died. So the police were looking for the man, not so much to jail him as they were to save his life.
And this is the intention of the Word of God. When the preacher stands and opens up the Word of God, it might grate against your pride and self-image. You might hate that Word and the preacher who declares it. But there is a bomb in your body ticking down toward death and judgment. To despise and reject the word of God, is to despise your own soul. Because with the Word, comes the only hope for the soul, the Saviour, Jesus Christ
The Word of God says, “As many as receive Christ, to them gives he power to become the Sons of God.” “In Christ we have forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” We need to respond to the Gospel the way that the Christians in Thessalonica had done.