Reflections on 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.
1 Thessalonians 2:13
Preachers are aware of many things as they prepare. They’re aware of the people they will speak to—the mom in the third row in the middle of a divorce, the atheist friend who is visiting on account of her neighbor’s invitation. We’re aware of our appearance. We don’t want to be that guy who preached with his fly down. We’re aware of the clock. Will this sermon that I’ve already drastically edited fit into the time remaining in the service? We’re aware of our notes, wondering whether they will serve us well or fail us?
Preachers are aware of many things, and if we’re not careful, we’ll become subtly unaware of the main thing—we are mounting the pulpit to share the very words of the living God. The Apostle Paul was keenly aware of this: “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” (1 Thess. 2:13).
Paul’s preaching was just as human as our preaching. He reminds the Thessalonians that the word they heard came “from us.” It came from ordinary guys—men with real time constraints, men with self-awareness (no doubt Paul’s cohorts were aware that they were not all equally gifted), men with illnesses (Paul with his eyes, Timothy with his stomach), men who followed the occasional rabbit trail (see Eph. 3:1–21, especially 2–14).
Nonetheless, the Word they spoke was not the words of men. Though it came immediately from men, it came ultimately from God. True to form, this word from God came with powerful life-changing results. It was “at work” in these believers (2:13). It birthed in them saving faith, laboring love, and steadfast hope in Jesus Christ (1:3). It filled them with the Holy Spirit’s power and deep conviction (1:5). So powerful was God’s work in them that it made God’s invisible work of election visible through their lives (1:4). This word made them “imitators of the churches of God in Christ” (2:14), so that, like it does everywhere it goes, it created men and women who “suffered” for Christ’s sake (2:14). The Word we preach comes from very ordinary human lips but it comes with power that says, “let there be light” and “the light of the glory of Christ” shines in the hearts of many who hear us (Gen. 1:3, 2 Cor. 4:6). As Calvin says, this word produces in God’s people such “reverence, fear, and obedience inasmuch as people, touched with a feeling of divine majesty, will never allow themselves to play games with it.” What a word we preach!
Brothers, often when I mount the pulpit I’m aware of the little things, like that uncooperative microphone wire on the side of my face. But we must remain aware of something far greater. The word we preach is not our own. It is God’s. It creates worlds. It gives faith. It grants repentance. In our congregation it will not fail to produce and grow new creations in Christ! This thought fills me with awe and gives me confidence to speak nothing but his Word.