Phil Cox


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The word of God which is at work in you

6th September 2006

1 Thessalonians 2v13-14
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.
For you, brothers, became imitators of Godís churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews

Paul writes to the church in Thessalonika, reminding them of when he first preached in their city. Although it was Paul and his colleagues who preached to them, the message they were preaching was the word of God, not their own ideas. It was spoken through men, but it didn't originate from men. And Paul thanks God that they realised this. To be able to discern the difference between the word of God and any other religious teaching is surely a gift from God.

Itís so important for preachers to be careful to preach what the Bible actually says Ė the word of God, not the word of men. Of course "we understand in part and we prophesy in part" (1 Corinthians 13:9) and it would be extremely arrogant for us to claim that we don't "preach in part". That is, some of our own (non-Biblical) ideas get mixed up with the word of God when we preach, as well as at other times. But we must endeavour to minimise our ideas, and maximise the pure milk of the word that we feed to God's people.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Paul thanks God that they not only understood that the message they heard was indeed the word of God, but they also received it as such. The word of God is not just there so we can listen to it, find it interesting, or even give our intellectual assent to it. We need to receive it - believe it, accept it, and take it into ourselves.

If they hadn't received the word of God, it would have done them no good. But because they did, itís:

the word of God, which is at work in you who believe

The word of God works in us in various ways:

We were saved by the word

1 Peter 1:23
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

We overcome by the word

1 John 2:14
...I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

We are corrected by the word

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

We are transformed by receiving the word

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what Godís will is ó his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Our minds are renewed by the process of submitting them to Godís word. No matter how long you've been a Christian, the Bible will still teach you and correct you, if you still listen to it. How comfortable are your Bible studies? Do they just confirm to you that you're right about everything? Or do they make you uncomfortable? Do they remind you of your need for God's forgiveness and transforming power? Do they drive you back to your knees in prayer for God's mercy? They should! If they don't, then you've stopped allowing the word of God to transform you.

But this ony happens to those that believe. The word of God will never transform anyone who doesn't believe in Jesus Christ.

The evidence

Next, Paul talks about the evidence that the Thessalonians had received the word of God, and that it was active in them. He says:

For you, brothers, brothers, became imitators of Godís churches in Judea

Here is the first evidence that the word of God was at work in them - they wanted to become more like other Christians.

God changes us from self-centered, self-reliant, independant people, into meek, gentle, responsive people who respect others and want to emulate them. Do you want to be more like other Christians? Or do you want them to be more like you? Do you really think your church or your denomination has got it all sorted out and wish other denominations were like yours? Or do you want all believers to learn from other Christian traditions?

And the second evidence is persecution. Paul wrote:

You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered...

Here's a real test of the genuineness of your faith. Do you get more opposition than you used to? As Paul wrote to Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:12
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted

Real disciples attract opposition. When Christians get serious about God, God's enemies get serious about them. But the gates of hell will not prevail against them (Matthew 16:18).

Let's give God's word full reign in our minds. Let's be transformed. Let's read what the Bible says, accept that it's true, and do what it says. Then we will grow up to maturity and be the kind of Christians that truly glorify our saviour!