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The Word of God, Not Men (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
June 19, 2024 4:00 am

The Word of God, Not Men (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 19, 2024 4:00 am

While we’re thankful for those who teach the Bible, it’s important not to confuse the messenger with the message. The simplest proclamation of God’s Word is more impactful than a man’s most eloquent speech. Find out why on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!

Truth for Life
Alistair Begg

While all of us are immensely thankful for those who faithfully preach and teach the Bible, it is important that we don't confuse the messenger with the message. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg explains why the simplest proclamation of God's Word has a greater lasting effect than the cleverest speech written by a mere man. First Thessalonians chapter 2, and the small section that is before us here begins in the thirteenth verse and goes through to the sixteenth. Last time we noted something of Paul's heart and his concern in ministry as we paid attention to the metaphors which he had employed which were indicative of his pastoral concerns for those to whom he was writing.

And if you recall, we said that truth that is not softened by love can become dreadfully hard, and that love that is not hardened by truth can become dreadfully soft. And we said that the New Testament brought us to this wonderful holding of these two principles in tension. And it was illustrated in Paul's ministry by his compassionate interest in those under his care, dealing with them, as he said, as a father, and also as a mother, and also as a herald. And that picture of being a herald emerged in the ninth verse, which is the word there for preaching the gospel of God to you, the word kiruso. And it is this picture of a herald which actually underpins, underlies, what we now discover him saying in verse 13 and following. 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 actually as it is the word of God which is at work in those of you who believe.

And he is referring there to the ministry that he had been engaging in, along with others, of being, as it were, the crier, the herald in the streets of the town, proclaiming the very word of God. Now, I have a number of points this evening, all that begin with the letter p, and I will try and get through them properly. First of all, we're going to notice the process to which he refers. The process to which he refers.

I'm not going to spend a long time on any of these tonight, but just to try and move through the text. The process, then. He clearly states the fact that the gospel that he was preaching was the word of God. And he commends them for recognizing this fact, indicating that their response to this process, this fact alone, is the occasion of his continual thanksgiving. And the process can be clearly seen by just underlining a couple of words as you go through. The two words, from us, which you heard from us, then above that, of God, and then underneath that, in you.

All right? What you heard from us, he says, was actually the word of God, which is now at work in you. It's really a study in prepositions. From us came to you the word of God, which is now, he says, at work in you. Leon Morris has a very helpful comment on this as he addresses this in his commentary, and he says, Paul could preach with certainty and power, for he had the profound conviction that what he said was not of man's devising but, in very truth, the word of God. And then he applies it, and he says, the Christian church cannot do without this conviction. To preach interesting little moral essays can never prove an adequate substitute for the word which comes from God. And that, of course, is the process that remains. Although we are not exercising the ministry of an apostle—the apostles were a unique group of people upon whom the church was founded under Christ, and they are gone on from there—but the apostles' doctrine has been left to us in the Bible, which is the word of God, and therefore the process should always be the same. That it is the task of the Bible teacher to come with the word which is of God, which comes from us and begins to work in us together. And nothing short of that is what we look for and anticipate. There are a number of things which are foundational in this process being continually effective.

Two, which are immediately apparent and yet should probably be underscored, are these. Number one, the absolute necessity of an expectant praying congregation. A congregation that prays for their pastors and prays for those who teach the Word of God will be a better-fed congregation than those who do not. And when a congregation learns to anticipate hearing the Word of God from us, which will in turn be at work in you, then it is a wonderful thing. And, of course, the other side of the coin is that there needs then to be, in the place of proclamation, those who are listening to God, who are sensitive to his Spirit—who may not be brilliant, probably, in fact, in this case will not be—but they will at least be making an honest endeavor to wrestle with the text of Scripture and to come prepared on the Lord's Day to bring the Word which is of God from us to be at work in you. And that process, as Lee and Morris says, is absolutely vital, because the Christian church cannot do without this process. And yet, the fact of the matter is that there are many churches, without being unkind to any other fellowships around us, but there are many, many churches where this process never takes place. Because there is not an underlying conviction that what we have here is the Word of God. And without the conviction that what we have in our hands is the Word of God, then the pastors will never address it as such, and people will never learn to anticipate it as such. So it's a very happy thing, by God's grace, to be involved in this process at all.

So that's the process, then. The Word from us was the Word of God, which was the Word at work in you. Secondly, notice the product.

For the process has a product. And the transforming power of God's Word is then seen at work within their lives. This, of course, is one of the great tests that we ought to look for in our lives concerning our reception of the Word of God. James says, Don't merely be hearers of the Word of God, but be doers also. And we have a right to anticipate that when we are receiving the Word of God, faithfully proclaimed, when we are anticipating it within our lives, that we will actually produce a product.

And the product is defined for us here. 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. And then he says, and I know this is true, for—the joining word—for you, brothers, first of all, became imitators of God's churches in Judea. This is what they discovered, the very Word of God. And they looked around, and they said, What do we do with the Word of God? And there were some other churches that had been planted before them, and they perhaps sent folks up to see what was going on in Judea and to find out how they were applying the Word of God and to hasten back down and tell them, This is how the Word of God is at work amongst them. And they were learning from the example of those who had gone a little before them. And that's just simple discipleship. You can never lead souls heavenward unless claiming yourself. You need not be very high up, but you must be claiming. And the churches in Judea were a couple of steps up from the church in Thessalonica, and so they sent up there, they found out what was going on, and they said, Fine, that's what we'll do. We'll imitate their example.

We have no details of it. When you learn to ski, if you try to learn to ski, you feel like such a bumbling fool for those early weeks. I speak with great conviction. When I came here in 83, the first invitation I received was to go with the youth group on a ski trip, which scared me to death, because I'd only had one horrible debacle in skiing with my wife since we had been married, and she was embarrassed and left me for most of the day. And one of the girls in the office came in and suggested that I signed up for the Plain Dealer Ski School. And I went out on my day off to the Plain Dealer Ski School and humbled myself to the instruction of these individuals.

And when they let you loose at sometime around 10.30 or 11 o'clock for the final hour, I found that the absolute best thing to do was to go up in the lift and just find somebody who knew what they were doing and just follow right down behind them and try and turn when they turn and try and bend when they bend and try and do what they do. And as long as you find a good example, you probably won't go too far wrong. And so the Word of God began to work within their lives, and its evidence was in their imitating the churches in Judea. Pause for a moment and ask yourself, if people came up to imitate us, what would they find as the kind of distinctive hallmarks of our church family? What are the things they would imitate? It would be dreadful to think that they learned from us how to be disillusioned, how to be complacent.

It would be wonderful to think that they learned from us how to be united, how to be expectant, how to be rejoicing, how to be progressing. They became imitators, and that was part of the product. But not only were the imitators, as a result of the Word taking root in their lives, but they also were sufferers. For you brothers became imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus, and, he says, you suffered from your own countrymen. Now, if you want the background to this at your leisure, you can go back into the Acts of the Apostles, and if you turn back to Acts 17 and 18, you have this historical background to what Paul is writing about here. In Acts 17 and 18, you may recall that Paul's opponents in the preaching of the gospel were Jewish, and they pursued him to Thessalonica, and then when he went to Berea, they pursued him to Berea, and when he went to Athens, they pursued him to Athens.

And after his arrival in Corinth—and it was in Corinth that he wrote 1 Thessalonians—it was Jewish opposition which led him to take the drastic step of turning his ministry away from the Jews and moving over to the Gentiles. It is a reminder that in generations not our own and in places removed from us, the issue of the gospel and the impact of it in our life has been to introduce people to the most manifold suffering. And one of the things that we ought to constantly thank God for is the fact that in all the history of this great nation, God has chosen in his providence to preserve the church in the United States of America from this kind of dreadful persecution.

Whether he will always choose to stay his hand, we cannot say. But it ought at least, as we read our Bibles, to be a reminder to us that if our brethren in all parts of the world and in all times in history, as a result of the process of the Word of God being received and applied in their lives, were ushered into suffering, that we surely ought not to hold out this forlorn, crazy dream of genuine Christianity producing within us all that is tranquil and fine and wonderful and peaceful. Well, that brings us to the third P, the word persecution. We need to look at this issue of persecution for a moment.

First of all, the process, and then the product, and then this issue of persecution. Halfway through verse 14, he says, You suffered from your own countrymen, the same thing those churches suffered from the Jews. And now Paul makes these graphic statements concerning what the Jews have done. And I want you just to follow along with me as I note them.

This is what he says. First of all, he says, They killed the Lord Jesus. They killed the Lord Jesus. Now, you ought probably, just to turn back to Matthew's Gospel for a cross-reference here, Matthew chapter 27 and verse 25.

As you're turning to that, let me say this, that to say such a thing today would be regarded as anti-Semitic. After all, we know that the Romans were involved in the death of Jesus, and so too were all of us, insofar as it was our sins that nailed him to the tree. Paul certainly understood himself to be involved in the death of Jesus, as he refers to it in 1 Timothy 1.13, as he regards himself as the chief of sinners. But despite the fact that the Romans were involved and the Gentiles were involved and you and I were involved in one degree in this death of Jesus, nevertheless, Paul is unequivocal in stating things as he does. He says, Your experience of suffering from your own countrymen is akin to the sufferings which came upon the churches as a result of the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus. And it is very, very clear that the Jewish people as a whole shared the blame and, frankly, came out and said so. Look at the chilling verse 25 of Matthew 27. When Pilate saw verse 24 that he was getting nowhere in trying to get one of these win-win situations affected, but that instead an uproar was starting.

He took water and he washed his hands in front of the crowd. He said, I am innocent of this man's blood. It is your responsibility, he said to them. You are the ones who are stirring this up.

You are the ones who want him dead. We are in the responding mode. You are the initiators. Now, it would have been possible for them to say, Oh no, it's not us.

It's not just us alone. But look at their response. And all the people answered, Let his blood be on us and on our children. Loved ones, it is impossible to explain two thousand years of Semitic history without paying attention to their bold statement in the twenty-fifth verse of Matthew 27. And it is in no way provoked by any sense of anti-Jewish sentiment to say this in clarity, what they asked for, they got.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. The persecution is revealed, he says, first of all, in that they killed Jesus. Also, they killed the prophets. These were their own folks. These were their own chaps, the fellows who were proclaiming the Word to them. And yet, nevertheless, they despised them and they killed them also. They had no time for anybody who did not tell them the way they wanted to hear it.

They wanted to hear news of peace, and somebody told them of terror, they would be done with them. And in Matthew 23 and in verse 29, we read in one of the woes of Jesus, he says, Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets. So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers. And we don't have time to stay with this tonight, but you see what he's saying. He's saying this to them.

It isn't enough for you. Your bloody, murderous approach to things cannot be finally absorbed by your killing of these people who've gone before. Now, go ahead and fill up the measure of your forefathers' sin.

And what he's saying is, Go ahead and kill me too. And they understood him. And, says Paul, the persecution was revealed in our own receiving of their response.

They killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. And so he says, They displease God. Everyone who rejects Jesus displeases God. And there is no matter more significant to God the Father than the rejection of his Son. For you remember, he said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

This is my beloved Son. Listen to him. And as they cried away with him, we would rather have Barabbas. In all of their devotion to God, they were actually displeasing the God whom they claimed to be worshiping. And, he says, fifthly, they are hostile to all men.

You see this progression. They killed the Lord Jesus, they killed the prophets, they drove us out, they displease God, and they are hostile to all men. The Jewish historian said of them, Towards all other people except their fellow Jews they feel only hatred and hostility. Now, how was this hostility represented? Well, we're told there in verse 16, Their hostility towards the human race extended to seeking to prevent Paul and others from preaching the gospel to them, and so to stop the Gentiles from being saved.

They were obstructing the spread of the gospel. And Paul acknowledges this. I think you sense, as I do, that there is material here for deep and profound thought—the process, the product, the persecution, and the pronouncement. Verse 16, in the final two sentences, In this way they always heap up their sins … to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last, or the wrath of God is hanging over them at the last. It's an interesting phrase, isn't it, in light of what Jesus had said to them in Matthew 26?

He says to them, Fill up the measure of your response. And here says Paul, They are heaping up their sins to the limit. They're eventually tipping the scales to the point where there is no other way for them to go, and eventually God's patience runs out. His patience ran out in the prophets. He sent the prophet Amos to them, and the prophet Amos had to say to them again and again, If you don't listen now, I can't promise you there will be a tomorrow. God's patience is running out. And so it is, that having heaped up their sins to the limit, the wrath of God has come upon them at the last. You're listening to Truth for Life, and that is Alistair Begg teaching about the power of God's Word.

We'll hear the conclusion of his message tomorrow. Here at Truth for Life, we believe the whole world needs to know about the transforming power of God's Word. And one of the ways that Truth for Life is investing the generous donations we receive from you is in the translation of biblical teaching. Our team is currently working with a dedicated group of international translators and publishers to make Alistair's Bible teaching available in a variety of languages. In fact, there are nearly 30 translation projects underway right now.

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Your support of just $20 or $30 a month goes a long way over a year. Being a Truth Partner is also a great way to build up a personal library while you support the international distribution of the gospel. When you sign up, we'll send you a copy of the Truth for Life Devotional as our way of saying thanks. And then each month, you're encouraged to request the two books we are featuring. All you have to do is call us or email us. You can sign up to become a Truth Partner online, slash truth partner, or call us at 888-588-7884. Thanks for listening today. Tomorrow, we'll learn the difference between having true compassion for those who are perishing versus unloving tolerance of unbiblical beliefs. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-19 06:02:54 / 2024-06-19 06:11:25 / 9

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