“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
Today (and yesterday, and the day before) this “receiving the word,” how it’s “accepted,” and subsequently how it works in believers is the focus of interest. So the first question is, how am I supposed to receive the Word of God? Is it just about hearing and agreeing? Or is there something more? And will how I receive Your Word effect the way that Your Word works in me?
“Paralambano” is the Greek word used for the word receive here. But that’s not the only way it’s translated in Scriipture. A lot of the time it is translated in a sense that means “to take from” like when two are standing in the field and one is taken and the other left behind. Strong’s Concordance says it can mean to “receive near, i.e. associate with oneself (in any familiar or intimate act or relation)…” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon gives me a lot to choose from. Not only can it mean to “join to one’s self, to take to,” but it can also mean “an associate, a companion; to accept or acknowledge one to be such as he professes to be; not to reject, not to withhold obedience; to receive something transmitted; an office to be discharged; to receive with the mind.” Now that’s a lot to choose from.
If I look back in Scripture at the ways “paralambano” is used I see more instances than I’ll list here. But here are a sampling of uses. Joseph is told to fear not to take Mary as his wife…to arise and take the child to Egypt…the devil took Jesus up to the holy hill…and took Him up to the high tower…it’s of that spirit who was sent out and took seven more worse than before unto himself…Jesus taking Peter, James, and John up to the mountain…it’s when you confront a brother who has trespassed and you take others as witnesses when he won’t listen to you…Jesus taking the twelve disciples apart somewhere…it’s where one shall be taken and the other left behind…and it’s something that has been received, not just as in information, but something received that is acted upon. So what is the meaning here?
What does it mean to receive Your Word that is heard in a way that shows it’s the Word of God and not of men? I mean, what’s the difference between how someone hears and receives Your Word and how someone maybe hears and receives the words of business icon Warren Buffet? Because these Thessalonians had heard the words that Paul was speaking, but they didn’t account them to his credit. There was something in what Paul said that caused them to account those words to God.
I wonder if part of our awe will come from where we decide to look for our answers. If I look to man for answers, man will awe me. But what about these particular believers we’re looking at today, Lord? If Paul’s habit was to go to the Jewish synagogues first, that might influence how I perceive these believers coming to the truth. Because the main focus in the synagogues was the Torah, Your Word. So, somehow, I’m thinking, that even if these wound up being predominantly Gentile believers, that just somehow, they were drawn back to the Torah by Paul and that somehow they were being influenced by believing Jews. I mean, wasn’t that what Paul was? But there were others. And If someone wants to know about the true God, where do they go for the information? Since the Word of God has been in any written form, they go there. So they would hear Paul and be convicted. They would hear Paul and think, “This sounds like the truth about God.” But how would they know? They would have to go back to the Torah. How do I know? I have to go back to the Word of God, Your Word.
But I don’t think they just received it by hearing or receiving it with their mind. This verse tells me it went and it goes deeper than that. It tells me that when someone receives the Word of God it takes them and they are taken with it. It takes them out of thinking like men and they are taken to think as God thinks. They are taken from an old way of thinking into a new way of thinking. They are received near You, associated with You in a familiar, intimate relation. It goes way deeper than hearing and obeying. It’s when you begin to relate to the Word and to the One who spoke the Word. It becomes a part of you. It’s more than a belief. It’s a Living Reality. It’s bigger than you, it’s bigger than Paul, because it goes straight to God.
So even though these believers learned and received and heard and saw all this stuff in and from Paul, as they habitually performed it for themselves, God was with them. (Philippians 4:9) Why? Because they were believing and receiving Jesus and all that He was when they received Paul as being truthful. So though they believed Paul, they were showing that they believed You, God, by their actions. And if I hop back to Philippians 4:1, I can’t help think about something Paul says there. He begins to summarize his letter with this, “Therefore, my brethren whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” And I wonder if that beloved isn’t referring back to You, Lord. Now, maybe he’s referring back to the Philippian brothers and sisters as his beloved, but I can’t help thinking about You as being beloved. And I wouldn’t doubt that Paul was thinking of that because wasn’t that what he was always trying to lead us to? Isn’t the whole goal to seek You and follow You as my Beloved. And if that is how I receive You and all the words I find truthfully spoken about You, I’d say I would begin to have an intimate relationship and knowledge of You and Your ways and I would be more greatly influenced by my Beloved than by anyone else in the world.
Paul continues to instruct us in how to receive Jesus in Colossians 2:6,7. “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him: rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” How did I receive Christ Jesus? How do I receive Christ Jesus? “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) Paul is talking about You, God, sending people to proclaim Your Good News, to proclaim Your Word to those who haven’t heard the truth. But some don’t obey it, some don’t believe, some don’t receive it and aren’t received by it. They don’t take it to themselves and for themselves when it is offered. And to be taken by it, to be taken by You, we must respond first by taking You to us and for us. I cannot receive what I do not or will not take.
Did you ever try to love someone the best you knew how? But somehow, it wasn’t ever enough for that someone. Somehow, they didn’t perceive any of it as love. It’s like having this boxed gift offered to you but you say, “No thanks, I’m OK. I don’t need that.” And you don’t even realize what’s inside. I mean sometimes, we just don’t know how to receive things. We think we have something to offer others and even God, yet we think we don’t need anything, or else we want it a particular way. So we hear the Word of God and You saying, “I have something for You.” But our response is, “I’m pretty sufficient on my own. I’m good, really. I don’t need that. You better give it to someone who is needy. I’ve got things under control myself.” Really? I don’t. I’m in desperate need. I haven’t got a thing under control. Because the minute I think I do, that’s the minute the carpet gets pulled out from under me. I need Someone to help me stay standing or to pick me up when I fall.
Because, again, it’s not just receiving a gift that I get to set up on a shelf. It’s not just about being loved and knowing that. It’s all about a gift that changes my life and that takes over the way I live and who I am living for. Paul tells Archippus in Colossians 4:17, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you fulfil it.” Receiving the Word, taking the Word to myself and letting myself be taken in it by You, leads to something. Receiving the Word leads to receiving my ministry. Now, our ministries may differ but ministry matters. And today we’re talking about the ministry of the Word. Here’s how important it is.
When the twelve apostles were ministering to the early church, they were ministering by waiting on tables and serving the widows. Remember how all the church was gathered together and had sold their things and had all things in common? But the twelve found that a problem. They felt that You, Lord, had called them to the ministry of the Word. In their own words they said, ““But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word.” (Acts 6:4) So, led by You, Lord, they appointed faithful, Holy Spirit filled men to the ministry of serving in that place so they could be freed to devote more time to prayer and speaking and studying the Word. So maybe that tells me, that I need to be careful that prayer and the ministry of the Word ought to take priority in my life. I’m not to forsake the ministry of serving; I still need to be busy serving, but I need to be cautious that my serving doesn’t pull me away from my growing in You, my spending intimate time with You, my going to You for direction, and my sharing Your word with others.
Last year I was blessed again with the opportunity to serve in the mission field in the Philippines. And I had opportunity to share Your Word. And some days are so busy and so early and so late, that sometimes, I don’t get to spend as much time in Your Word with You like I do at home. I’m still walking with You every moment and getting this glorious opportunity to serve You by serving others in ways I normally don’t get to back home, but I really miss that time with You and I alone. I wouldn’t “forsake” the mission field because You have laid the people on my heart. But, I need that time to receive from You so that I have what You give me to give to others. I can’t fulfil any other service rightly, unless I’m taking what You’re giving me because it’s what I need for the service.
I suppose You are raising up leaders. But the whole thing boils down to whether we are taking the time to receive Your Word and how we are receiving it. Service without Your guidance and without being directed by Your Spirit and truth is just work and all about me, unless my focus remains on Your Word. And when taking Your Word to my heart and life becomes the most important thing to me, then I can’t help but want to spend time in prayer, and I can’t help but want to share Your Word with others, and I can’t help but want to reach out to others in their need.
You know, I can’t help but think about Peter and John that day they saw the lame man. And they had nothing to give. They didn’t have anything “worldly” to help him with, not a cent. But they gave what they had in Jesus’ name, the power of God to heal him. I want to be like that. I want to be so intimate with You, Lord, through Your Word, that You give me eyes and hands and Your power to meet deeper needs, the need for You. Because what I receive from You gives me the power to fulfil Your desires, and it’s Your desire that others receive You. May I desire to take Your Word to my heart and life deeper and deeper every day. May I be devoted to prayer and Your Word, so that You overflow from me and fulfil Your every desire in me. Make me a servant in every respect, but first and foremost of Your Word. Because I can’t lead unless I receive You to lead me moment by moment.