Arie den Hartog is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.
In I Thessalonians 2:13 the apostle Paul speaks of giving thanks to God without ceasing on account of the saints in Thessalonica, because they received the Word of God, not as the mere word of men, but as it is in truth the Word of God. Earlier in this epistle Paul commended the great virtue of this church. He remembered their work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, the Thessalonicans had become examples to all that believed in Macedonia and Achaia. All of this was directly related to the manner in which these saints of God received the Word of God. The Word of God is the great power and blessing of the church. It will accomplish its purpose for the glory of God and the salvation of His people when it is received truly as the Word of God. All troubles and apostasy that are in the church can be traced to her refusal to receive the Word of God as the Word of God.
The Word of God is a great and fearful wonder. God is a living, personal, wonderful, speaking God. He is the God of infinite knowledge and wisdom. God speaks of Himself to reveal Himself outside of Himself, especially to man. God speaks of His own sovereignty, majesty, and holiness. God speaks as the righteous God and judge of all men, to reveal His will to men. God speaks in order to explain His own deeds and wonders in the earth and in history. God’s word is powerful. It is almighty and effectual to accomplish all His purpose in creation and history. He created the heavens and the earth and all that they contain by the Word of His power. “Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: He maketh the devices of the people of none effect,” Psalm 33:9-10. God shakes heaven and earth by His almighty Word, and causes the earth to tremble before Him. Even more powerful and wonderful is the Word of God when He accomplishes His Sovereign purpose of salvation. By His Word He condemns and judges the ungodly reprobate, and finally casts him into eternal destruction. By His almighty Word He calls His people from the ends of the earth and gathers His elect unto Himself. Not all the power of the devil and the raging of the nations are able to prevent the Lord from accomplishing His purpose by His wonderful Word of power. No one can stand before His Word. By the power of His Word the Lord will judge His people in righteousness. “The Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart,”Hebrews 4:12. The Word of God is mighty and effectual to save His people. By His Word God quickens the dead and makes alive. By His Word He causes His people to become new creatures in Christ Jesus. By the Word of the Lord He convinces men of sin, and turns them again unto Himself. By the Word of the Lord He effectually works faith in the hearts of His people and causes them to trust in Him alone. By His Word the Lord instructs His people in truth and righteousness, not only objectively, but also by enlightening their minds and giving them understanding of His truth. By the Word of the Lord He comforts and assures His people in all their trials and afflictions. By the Word of the Lord His people are preserved from all evil and saved to the uttermost, and none shall be able to destroy.
God has in olden days spoken His Word through the mouths of His holy prophets. He gave them special revelations and put His own Word in their mouths. He sent them forth by His Spirit so they could speak His Word with great power and authority. In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son as the Word made flesh, as the brightness of His own glory, and the express image of His person. The Lord Jesus came to earth not only to do mighty deeds and wonders, but also to reveal the Word of God. Much of the Lord’s ministry on earth was that of preaching the Word of God. How wonderful was the Word of God as spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ. By His mighty and powerful Word He made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, the lame to walk, and even raised up the dead. By the Word of God the Lord Jesus defeated the devil and caused him to flee in great terror before Him.
God gave us His Word in the Bible. The Bible is the written record of the Word of God. It is in its entirety the Word of God alone. God so inspired the human instruments which He used to write the Bible that they could write, without any error and without mixture of human word and wisdom, the perfect Word of God. Thus what the Bible says is what God Himself has said. God Himself spoke to men and caused them infallibly to write His Word.
God will have His Word preached in the world for the salvation of His people and the glory of His own name. That is how He continues to speak even today. First He sent prophets and apostles to preach His Word. They were His official ambassadors, with His mighty Word of salvation. In all their preaching and teaching they must speak nothing but the Word of God. The apostles and prophets were instruments of special revelation. They were in a special way given the Word of God, and could speak with absolute authority from God in all that they preached. They were called to defend the truth of God’s Word against all the opposition of men. They did this, not for their own glory and advantage, but for the glory of God and the advantage of the people of God who were to be saved by the Word of God.
God today still sends forth His Word through the preaching. He Himself calls and ordains preachers of His Word. He sends them forth with His Word and Spirit, effectually and powerfully to accomplish His purpose. He does not give men today any new revelation, because His Word is perfect and complete as it is recorded in the Scriptures. God speaks His Word today when faithful men of God expound and. teach from the Holy Scriptures. God Himself causes the preaching of His Word to be effectual for the salvation of His people, through the operation of His Spirit.
We, as people of God, have the great privilege and blessing to hear the Word of God through the preaching. Do we receive the preaching of the Word, not as the mere word of men, but as it is in truth the Word of God? The blessing, prosperity, and spiritual strength of the church is dependent upon the Word of God and how we receive it. Two great evils always arise in the church. In many churches God’s Word is no longer faithfully preached. Modern man does not believe that the Scriptures are the absolutely infallible and authoritative Word of God. Modern man imagines that the Scriptures are a mixture of God’s Word and man’s opinion and interpretation. Preaching in many churches today has lost its power and authority chiefly because it is not truly the preaching of the Word of God. But there is also another evil: this is the evil of people who refuse to hear the Word of God in truth. When the Word of God is preached, these imagine that it is nothing more than one man’s opinion that can be accepted or rejected according to their own fancy. Every man claims the right to interpret the Word of God in his own way. Meanwhile, every man does what is right in his own eyes.
God’s people, according to Isaiah 66, must be a people who tremble at the Word of God. How can our response to God’s Word be any other than that? God, the almighty and Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, speaks. Shall we, as creatures of His hand who are totally dependent on Him, and who are guilty sinners in His sight, not fear and tremble at His Word? We receive the Word of God in truth when we bow hi holy reverence and humility before it. We receive the Word of God properly when we listen to it with great seriousness, without saying in our hearts that we know better ourselves. We receive the Word of God properly when we take heed to its commandments and admonitions. We receive the Word of God in truth when we trust completely in its promises, and look earnestly for the fulfillment of its great prophecies.
We have to be on our guard against every temptation to reject the Word of God. The Word of God often offends because of our sinful arrogance and pride. The Word of God goes directly against all of the inclinations of our sinful flesh. How easy it is to become critical of the preaching of God’s word and to fault the preacher. But often the opposition which we have against a certain preacher is in fact due to offense at the Word of God itself. Much opposition against certain preachers is nothing but a smoke screen for opposition against the Word of God itself. How easily members of the church today dismiss the preaching of God’s Word as the opinion of the preacher. It is true that we preachers cannot speak infallibly as the apostles of the Lord did. This does not, however, give the members of the church the right quickly to dismiss the preaching and substitute their own opinions and interpretations of God’s Word. In connection with hearing the preaching of the Word of God, we must always also follow the example of the Berean Christians, by daily searching the Scriptures, that we might know whether the preaching is truly the Word of God, lest we become guilty of rejecting the Word of God to our own detriment and judgment.
Blessed is the church and the people of God who receive the Word of God in truth. That church will be able to stand in our evil day against the many false doctrines around us. That church will also inevitably manifest the glorious virtues of Christ which were so beautifully revealed in the church of Thessalonica.
God Himself must give us His grace and Holy Spirit that we might receive His Word in truth. Let us pray that we might be a church and people who always receive the Word of God as it is in truth the very Word of God, the God of our salvation.