1 Thessalonians 2:13
For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when you received the word of God which you heard of us…
I. HEARING THE WORD. The temper of soul in the Thessalonians was so great a favour that Paul thought he could never praise the Author of it sufficiently. He knew his spiritual children could not but thrive when they received their meat in such a manner as the Word of God. It is the speech of Senaclaeus concerning Diarius the martyr — "Methought when I heard him speak, I heard the Holy Ghost Himself preaching to me." Truly the want of this hearing is one main cause why the Word of God doth so little good. The devil is very diligent at duties: he is every Lord's day the first at church. The children of God never gather together but Satan is among them. His great design is to render this engine of the Word fruitless, whereby the strongholds of His kingdom have been battered and broken down. Therefore, as a jailer will sometimes let his prisoners have their hands and feet at liberty so long as the doors of the prison are barred that they cannot run away, so he will let men have their hands at liberty for some acts of charity, and their feet at liberty to walk in some paths of virtue, so long as he can have the doors of their ears and hearts locked fast that they cannot get from him. He knoweth that Christ waiteth at the outer door of the ear, that He might thereby come to the inward door of the heart, and deliver the poor captives out of his hands. For this cause, it it be possible, he will keep the street door shut; he will hinder men from hearing as in God's presence; he will find them other work to do than to hear. It may be he will get them to play and toy, or to talk to their pew fellows, or to be reading, or to have their hearts in their own houses, while their bodies are in God's house; or as a child, though they are at their book, he will make them look off, if but a butterfly come by; he will set them about some business or other, unless they are serious as in God's sight, that they shall never have so much leisure as to hear even when in church. Yet did they but believe the invaluable worth of their souls, the consequence and weight of their unchangeable estates, what a searching time the hour of death will be, and what dreadful things will be seen at the day of judgment! Good Lord, how would they hear! The minister need not then call them to attend to the Word of God; they would of themselves give it their ears, and minds, and hearts, and think all too little for it.
II. RECEIVING THE WORD. The Word is a salve of sovereign virtue. Some talk of the weapon salve that it heals at a distance: but the Word will not; it must be applied to the sore, or it will never cure. The Word is seed; preaching is the sowing of this seed; application of it to the heart is the harrowing of this seed into the earth. If the seed be thrown on the ground and not harrowed in, it can effect no harvest. It must be received. A good hearer is said to eat the Word (Jeremiah 15:16; Proverbs 9:5). It is not the bread in the cupboard of the Bible, or on the table of a sermon, which will nourish the soul, unless it be by application of it, eaten and taken into the stomach; the glass of wine in the hand will not make the heart glad; the precious promises in the ears will not rejoice the spirit; they must by application be drunk down, then they will refresh and comfort the conscience. Faith is both the mouth to receive in, and the stomach to digest, this spiritual food. It is worthy of observation how frequently the Holy Ghost attributeth the famous effects and heroic acts of the Word to this commander-in-chief, under whose courageous and wise conduct it warreth. The Word fighteth boldly, and worketh miraculously under the banner of faith (Romans 1:16). If the threatenings and curses of the Law are preached, faith is to them as the powder is to the bullet, causing them to make great havoc upon the lusts of a man. Faith turns stones into bread, and helpeth the Christian, like Samson, to fetch meat out of the eater. If the precepts and commands of the Law are preached, faith is the eye to see the equity in them, and the excellency of them; and faith is the hand to put them into practice. If the promises and comforts of the gospel are preached, faith is to them as induction to a minister; and gives him actual possession of them, making them his own. Faith in the threatenings causeth humiliation; faith in the precepts causeth subjection; and faith in the promises worketh consolation. If at any time thou goest from hearing both dead and undone, thou mayest say to faith as Martha did to Christ, "If thou hadst been here my soul had not died." The unbeliever, like a man in a swoon, shuts his mouth against those life-recalling cordials which are before him in the gospel. Other sins wound the soul, but unbelief, like Joab, strikes under the fifth rib, and kills outright. So it cometh to pass that the Word is preached to many, but not to their profit. They hear the minister as chickens hear the hen; the hen calls them to come to her; they lie scraping in the dust, and will not hear her, till the kite cometh and devoureth them. But when the Word cometh with power the soul heareth it, as Peter heard the cock; he goeth out and weepeth bitterly when he hears of the boundless mercy he hath deserted, the matchless misery he hath deserved, and the infinite love he hath abused. When we are hearing, like the Thessalonians, our souls must be changed into the similitude of the Word, that it may come to us with power. As the working of physic kindly and well commendeth both the physician and body of the patient, so the powerful operation of the Word doth highly applaud both the skill of the Saviour and the state of the soul. It is written of Philetus, a disciple of Hermogenes, that, going to dispute with St. James the elder, the apostle preached Christ to him so powerfully, that he returned to his master, and said to him, "Majus abieram, Christianus redeo;" — I went forth a conjurer, but am come back a Christian. Oh, how happy will it be for us, whatever our end in going to church, yet when we return, we may upon good ground say, "We went forth proud, but are come home humble! We went forth bond slaves of Satan, but are returned free men of Christ! We went forth carnal, malicious, and obstinate sinners, but are come back spiritual, gracious, and heavenly saints!"
(G. Swinnock, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
WEB: For this cause we also thank God without ceasing, that, when you received from us the word of the message of God, you accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which also works in you who believe.