He said to the Thessalonians, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing for when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” 1 Thessalonians 1:13-14.
How easy it is to become accustomed to such texts. They heard the “word of God!” Not words about God though that is surely true—God’s words! Not the words of the teacher though they came through teachers—God’s words! God’s words that came together not as a string of words but as a single narrative that makes the “words” of God into “the word of God.” God telling His Story.
Paul and his companions began to speak and because they were faithful to their commission, when they spoke God was heard speaking! There was no thunder, no blinding glory, no trembling earth, no spine-chilling voice that came from every quarter. No! No glorious figure almost too majestic to look at standing beside them as they spoke. Just some men, ordinary men, strangers, talking; but the words that came from those men were God’s words. It was God that was speaking. The Thessalonians knew it was men speaking but they came to believe that the words that came from the men were not “the word of men” but God’s words. These men weren’t dummies used by a divine ventriloquist. They spoke and spoke their heart’s convictions but they were the channel through which GOD was speaking—GOD speaking His heart’s convictions.
How do I get back to that? How can I who hear a lot of men speaking a lot of words, often quoting a good number of words from a very old book—how can I hear as those long-ago people heard and welcome the words as God speaking, God’s words? How can I reverence the Bible without it reducing into an ancient book—it’s youngest part being something like 1900 years old? How can I get there so that when I speak my heart’s convictions it will be GOD speaking His?
Do those who rise to teach us feel, think, that what happened in that far away city in those faraway days is about to happen again as they begin to speak? Should they feel that? Think that? Should those who have gathered to be taught believe that GOD is about to speak or do they think they’re going to hear the words of a man, a preacher-man? Will what comes from him be worthy of GOD, will it be the kind of thing GOD would say? Would it be many words that come together as “the word of GOD”? If not, what can the teacher do about it? What can the congregation that gathers week after week do about it?
Read the text again. Can you imagine Paul’s tone? Can you sense his thrill that something extraordinary and beautiful happened there—something that thrilled even Paul? God spoke and people looked at one another and whispered, “That was GOD speaking.” Enter into the joy of the words and ask GOD’s help for all of us so that the gospel in the Holy Bible can become for us what it was for them, that the word of God in the Holy Bible will become more than words that come to us through the Holy Bible and become the living God’s word.
(Holy One, help us to hear you speak. Open the hearts and minds to those who would teach us to be channels through and by whom we can hear your word and not the word of men. Raise up some young people who will hear you and become channels through whom GOD’s word can be heard. This prayer in the living Lord Jesus.)