An Exemplary Reception (1 Thessalonians 2:13-16)

              How do you view the Bible? What place does the Bible hold in your life? It may be easy rattle off how important the Bible is, but what do your actual day to day activities reveal about your view of the Bible? Stop and really think about that question. A recent study commissioned by the American Bible Society reveals some interesting facts regarding how our society views the Bible[1]. The percentage of people who are skeptical of the Bible has doubled in the last three years. And of those who are skeptical of the Bible, 2/3 of them are under the age of 48. Of the Millennials, ages 18-29, surveyed nearly 40 % say they have never read the Bible. And even though skepticism of the Scriptures is on the rise, almost 80% still hold a favorable view of the Bible with almost 90% of homes owning a Bible. The average household owns more than 4 Bibles, but only 37% of Americans read the Bible more than once a week.

            An interesting fact revealed in the survey that 62% of people surveyed want to read the Bible more, but admit that busyness with job, family, and activities continue to squeeze out their Bible reading. People are also finding communion with God outside of the Bible. Only 56% of those surveyed say that reading the Bible draws them closer to God. And only 30% of Millennials believe the Bible has too little influence in society. If you were surveyed and were honest, what would your answers reveal about your view of the Bible?

            One of the most important marks of an exemplary church is how people receive the Bible. And I am not only considering what a church says they believe about the Bible, but what they actually believe about the Bible. There are many churches that would attest to a high view of Scripture, but in analyzing their practices the Bible may actually play a small part of their congregational life. As a pastor, I am constantly praying that the Word of God is more cherished and more loved by our congregation. All Christians should cherish and delight in God’s Word. If we are going to grow as an exemplary church, then we must grow in our knowledge and love of God’s Word.

            The Thessalonians were praised because of how they received the Word. 1 Thessalonians 2:13, “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.” The Thessalonians were defined in how they received the Word of God. Beloved, we will be defined in how we receive the Word so I pray that we will receive the Word as what it really is, the Word of God.

Receive the Word as the Word of God

            It would be beneficial for us to establish what we mean by the Word of God. There may be those who say they believe the Word of God, but may not believe the Word like the Thessalonians believed and like we are called to believe the Word.

We are to receive the Word of God as True

In developing our doctrine of Scripture, we begin with 2 Timothy 3:16-17,All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” There is much that can be cleaned from this verse, but I only want to establish that Scripture comes from God. If Scripture comes from God then it must be true.  Romans 3:4b, “Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” Paul begins his letter Titus affirming the truthfulness of God’s Word by connecting it to God’s Character. “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior; (Titus 1:1-3). If God is true then God’s Word is true and therefore it is trustworthy.

We are to receive the Word of God as Perfect

            Psalm 19:7-9, “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.” We can trust the Bible because it is true and it is perfect. The first article of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 begins this way, “The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.” We cannot waver on the perfection of the Bible. This does not mean that every translation is perfect.

The Bible was written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. Our English Bibles are mere translations. The Autograph, or the Original Manuscript, does not exist, but that does not mean we cannot trust the Bibles we hold in our hands. We can and we should. We should believe that even when we encounter things that are difficult and/or apparent contradictions that after all the facts are on the table the Bible will be perfect. J.I. Packer notes, ““One cannot doubt the Bible far-reaching loss, both of fullness of truth and of fullness of life. If therefore we have at heart spiritual renewal for society, for churches and for our own lives, we shall make much of the entire trustworthiness—that is, the inerrancy—of Holy Scripture as the inspired and liberating Word of God.[2]

We are to receive the Word of God as Authoritative

            We receive the Word of God as true and perfect and therefore we receive the Word as the supreme authority in our lives. The Bible is the final standard on which all opinions and behavior should be tried. Different churches place the final authority in different places. The Catholic Church places Scripture and Church Tradition at the same level. Liberal Protestant churches place Scripture and Human Reason at the same level. Conservative and Historic Christian churches place Scripture above all other authorities. Much of the division in the church is the result of how each church or denomination handles the Word of God. Conservative churches may disagree on interpretations, but we are all working off the same standard.

            God speaks, we listen. God speaks, we obey. Sadly, many churches claim that Bible is the main authority in their church life, but their practical decisions are governed by pragmatic concerns. The question we should be constantly asking is, “What does the Bible say?” I know many bible-believing Baptist Churches that place tradition over Scripture. Remember the Bible is God’s Word. To ask, “What does the Bible say?” is to ask, “What does our Lord and Savior say?”

            Pastors have been commissioned by God to declare His Word to His people. Titus 2:15, “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” Beloved, do you delight in God’s authority? The fall of humanity began with four little words, “Did God actually say…?” Rejecting God’s authoritative Word will bring nothing but pain and destruction in your life and the lives of those you love.

We are to receive the Word of God as Sufficient

            We all may want to say that the Bible is sufficient, but there have probably been times when we wanted a little more revelation from God. Listen to how Pastor Kevin DeYoung helps us diagnose our view of sufficiency,

Have you ever wondered if the Bible is really able to help you with your deepest problems? Have you struggled to know what to do with your life, and wished you had some special word from the Lord? Have you ever thought to yourself that the biblical teaching on sexuality needs updating? Have you ever wished for a more direct, more personal revelation than what you get from slowly reading through the Bible? Have you ever secretly wanted to add something to the word of God—you know, just to make things safer? Have you ever wanted to take something away to make the Bible more palatable? Have you ever assumed that the Bible doesn’t say anything about how to worship God or how to order his church? Have you ever felt like the Bible just wasn’t enough for living a faithful life in today’s world? If you can answer yes to any of these questions—and we all will at times—then you are struggling with the sufficiency of Scripture.

The Bible is sufficient as it is for all of life. Even the verse I quoted above, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The Bible is relevant and contains all that we need for life and godliness.

            There is a growing movement of people desiring to hear a special revelation from God.  Many Christians put more stock in movies like Heaven is for Real and 90 minutes in Heaven than the book of Revelation. If you want a special word from God, read your Bible. I mean that with all seriousness. God’s word is sufficient for all. Do not look for a “special” word from God, but rather look to the “special” Word from God.

We are to receive the Word of God as Good

            A regular argument put forth in our culture is that the Bible is outdated. The common refrain repeated again and again is, “We are modern people and need to adopt modern views on life and sexuality.” It may sound sophisticated, but it is masking an attack on the goodness of God’s Word and the goodness of the God who gave the Word. People have denied sin and believe that God is withholding something good from them in telling them no. The argument is not new, for the same tactic was used in the Garden of Eden when, “the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ (Genesis 3:4-5) Satan wanted Eve to believe that God was withholding something good from her, attacking the goodness of God’s Word. We are so easily tempted to doubt God’s goodness.

            The God’s Word is not withholding anything from us, but protecting us for God knows what is best for us. Listen to the voices of those who speak against God’s Word and notice the undercurrent of pride. They doubt the goodness of the Word, because they believe they know better way. We must hold fast to the goodness of God’s Word.

We are to receive the Word of God as Active

            The Word of God is powerful. It is powerful to save and it is powerful to sanctify. At the end of 1 Thessalonians 2:13 Paul adds a profound encouragement, “which is at work in you believers.” For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) God’s Word changes us. God is actively working on us through His Word by His Spirit.

            Do you ever feel stagnate in your Christian walk? Or maybe you have felt discouraged with particular sin struggle? Beloved, know that God’s Word is actively working in your life. There is a real, profound affect that happens to us when we read and meditate on the Word of God. We cannot comprehend the immediate and long term benefits that come from the Word. Psalm 1:1-3, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” The delight and meditation on God’s Word leads to prosperity and fruitful labor.

            We do not fully understand or appreciate the importance of the Word of God for if we did we would make every effort to hear, read and meditate on it. The number one stated reason people don’t read the Bible is busyness.[3] The unstated reason is that we do not believe in its power in our lives. When you commit to a new activity how often do you ask the question, “How will this affect my or our family’s Bible intake?” God’s Word is life-changing and powerful. It actively changes us. It takes our eyes off of ourselves and fixes them on God’s glory. What in your life hinders you from reading the Word?

We are to receive the Word as Christ-Exalting

            Undergirding our entire doctrine of Scripture is the motivation to exalt the living Christ. We live to make much of Jesus Christ. We proclaim Him. We desire to grow up into full maturity to be like Christ. When we receive and obey the Word, we make much of Jesus who has given us His Word. Jesus said,

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:7-11)

When we receive the Word of God, we receive Jesus. To deny the Word is to deny the Savior.

            We must receive the Word of God as what it really is: the Word of God. For if we do not receive the Word as the very living words of Almighty God we will not be ready for the trials that may be coming.

Receive the Word as Worthy of Trials

            Persecution comes in many ways. It may come with a raise of an eyebrow from your college professor, whispers from colleagues, denial of promotion at work, outright scorn and ridicule by a family member, jail time, or even death. Are you ready to receive the Word as worthy enough to hold on to regardless of what comes? The Thessalonians were. 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16,

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, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 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!

The Thessalonians faced physical persecution from their own countrymen. Those who were once their friends and family became their persecutors. And in the face of persecution, they remained steadfast because they had received the Word of God as the Word of God which was worthy of trials.

            If the Bible is God’s Word then we must stand on it. And the best way we stand is to trust and obey God’s Word. We make reading God’s Word primary in our lives. We make the hearing of God’s Word primary in our lives. We make obeying God’s Word primary in our lives. An exemplary church delights in the Word and will stand in the face of persecution. Jesus shows us how of the word is sown on the soils of different hearts,

And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

Beloved, persecution and tribulation will come more and more to Christians in America. The question is, “Will you endure?” The only way you will endure is if you count the Word of God as worthy of the trials they bring.

Receive the Word as a Witness of War

            We are in a war. We battle with the spiritual forces of darkness every day. And the battle is from without and within. First, it is clear from the text that there is a battle from outside the faith for those who oppose the message of the gospel. People want to silence Christians because the message of the gospel is the power of God for salvation. There is an active opposition to the gospel by real people, but our battle is not against them. Ephesians 6:10-12,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

When people oppose the gospel, they are under the influence of the evil one captured to do his will. Satan is a deceiver. He opposes all mankind by hindering people from hearing the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He may do it through national laws and company policies, but his aim is to hide the gospel remedy for the cancer of sin.

            The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only hope for our world. We all have sin and need a Savior. Jesus Christ lived and died to destroy the works of the devil. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us to reverse the curse of sin and give us hope for eternal life. Faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is man’s only hope before God. Therefore to oppose the gospel is to oppose all mankind for it is our only hope. Do you know this hope? Do you believe in this hope with all your heart?

            Those who oppose the gospel will one day bow. The text seems to imply that the Jews were facing some real life trouble. We do not know exactly what their trouble was, but Paul knew their trouble came from their opposition to the truth. The Word is a witness to the war of this world.

There are those who work for the gospel and those who work against the gospel. The challenge is that there are things in our own heart that wage war against our soul. Peter writes, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11) One of the passions of the flesh that wage war against our soul is the desire for the acceptance of the world. The battle rages every time you have the opportunity to share the gospel. How many times have we had the opportunity to share our faith only to let fear of judgment or awkwardness allow the opportunity to pass? Do not let the love of the world and the acceptance of those who stand opposed to God hinder you from sharing the gospel that others may be saved. Let us speak not to please man but to please God who tests our hearts.

            Last year a missionary captured a video of Chinese believers receiving the Bible for the first time. As they were handed the Bible, they brought the bibles to their faces and wept. One of the Chinese believers said, “Thanks be to God, we need this book so much. When I see this book, I think of the brothers and sisters who have helped us and brought this to us with their blood and spirit. This is what our church needs so much right now.” Beloved, this book is what our church needs so much right now. Will we receive this Word as it really is, the Word of God?


[1] accessed 9.12.2015 All following statistics will be taken from this survey.

[2]  I. Packer, Truth and Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw, 1996), 55.