“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:” II Thessalonians 3:1
Paul referred to the message he proclaimed as “the word of the Lord.” It was not Paul’s word, nor is it ours, but it is God’s Word. Paul’s fondness for the church at Thessalonica is indisputable. He commends them for their love for each other, their faith, and their evangelistic zeal. In the above Scripture, he entreats them to pray for his preaching ministry, with the desire that the Word of the Lord might impact others, as it had this local church.
This phrase, the word of the Lord, is a very descriptive phrase. In a day when the Bible is being tampered with and trampled on, it is always in order to remember it is “the word of the Lord.”
A Divine Message
Paul knew this was not just a word from men. This was not just the opinions of men. The message he preached was the mind of God, it is God’s opinion, God’s Word, a message from God.
Some might argue, “But we are Bible believers, we’re here with our Bibles open before us, don’t you think that we know that this is a message from God?” I think sometimes we know it intellectually, we know it historically, but in a practical sense when we read the Bible, when we hear sermons about the Bible, when we think about what the Bible says from a very practical sense, some days we don’t give it the gravity it deserves – that it is a message from the Lord. If you were to take your concordance or Bible study program, and look up all the occasions where it says this phrase, the word of the Lord, I think you might be amazed at how many times it is found in the Scripture.
The first use is in Genesis when the word of the Lord came to Abram. God spoke to Abram. Many times in the first five books of the Bible, the word of the Lord came to Moses. Moses acted according to the word of the Lord–not according to his own inclination, not according to his intuition, not according to his preferences, but according to the word of the Lord. In I Samuel it says the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel by the word of the Lord. In the days of David and his struggle with the will of God, the Bible says the word of the Lord came to Nathan the prophet. The word of the Lord came to Solomon, the word of the Lord came to Jehu, the word of the Lord came to Elijah. The Bible says the word of the Lord came to Shimei, the man of God. The word of the Lord came to Isaiah and Jeremiah. The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel, to Daniel, and to Hosea. We could go on for many minutes about the various people that God’s Word came to. I’m thankful today that we have a God who can speak. We have a God who can communicate. We have a God who can make His will known. He has spoken through His prophets. He has spoken through His Son, and He has spoken to us through the revelation of His Word.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 says, “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.” In this first epistle, Paul is commending them on their spiritual progress, and in doing so he attributes their progress to the fact that they didn’t receive this Book as the word of men, “but as it is in truth, the Word of God.”
I want to say something to our young people. Many of you come to church regularly, and you have a Sunday school teacher who teaches you that this Bible before you is the very Word of God. You go to Children’s Church and you have someone who stands before you and tells you that the words that we have before us are the very words of God. Many of you have parents who believe exactly what I’m saying about the Bible, it’s the Word of God. I just want to let you know, somewhere along the road, somewhere in your future, there may be someone who tries to confuse you about that, who tries to cast doubt in your mind about this Book, about the authority, the authenticity, the veracity of the Word of God, and you need to understand not just because I say it, but because God says it, that this is the very Word of God.
How do you view the Bible that you hold in your hand? Critics try to find inconsistencies in it. Doubters and skeptics mock at the inspiration of the Scriptures, saying it was written by men. But the Bible says of itself, that “holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Peter 1:21). It is divinely inspired and miraculously preserved. It is the very Word of God. Jesus said not one jot or tittle of this Word would pass until it was all fulfilled. Jesus, the Son of God, the incarnate Word, said everything you read in your Bible can be trusted. Heaven and earth will pass away, Jesus said, but my Word shall not pass away. Don’t listen to the critics. Don’t listen to the scoffers. This is a divine message.
Because this message is divine in its origin and nature, meaning that it came from God, there are some things I want to mention that it demands from us. First of all, it demands respect–respect for the message. It is God’s message. How can one take any message lightly if it’s God’s Word? And I think you would agree with me today that respect for the Word of God is woefully lacking in our day. Those who tamper with the Word of God, those who try to put the Word of God in the gutter language of our day, do not respect the Word of God. I love the language that Isaiah used where he speaks of those who “tremble at His Word” (Isaiah 66:5). The Word of God should be taken seriously, it should be respected, because it is God’s Word.
This is reminiscent of King Josiah’s reaction when a portion of God’s Word was discovered. The king of Judah ordered that the Book be read to him. As Shaphan the scribe read these words in the presence of Josiah, the king rent his clothes and wept. He was moved. He was shaken because he took seriously what was read. Where is that kind of respect today?
We ought to take the Bible seriously, at all times, but especially in the House of God. When the Word of God is taught and preached, we ought to listen to His Word intentionally. We ought to listen to His Word with discipline, not because of the oratory ability of the speaker, but because the message of the “word of the Lord” is from God. We ought to be attentive and respectful, not because of the illustrations or humor used, but when we hear the Word of God, we ought to take it seriously. This phrase, the Word of the Lord, demands respect–respect for the message–but there is something else it demands.
It demands obedience. When God speaks, we ought to obey Him. If it is God’s Word, when God commands us, we ought to obey. The number of people who refuse to obey the truth, the people who deliberately disobey, or indefinitely postpone whether they are going to obey the truth or not, is certainly on the increase. This is not just true of those who are in the world, those who are lost, but by people who sit in church houses. They hear the Word of God, and they’re going to deliberate about what they’re going to do about it. If it’s God’s Word, we ought to obey it. If God said do it, we ought to do it.
Jesus told the disciples, after spending all night on a fishing expedition that brought them nothing, to go into deeper water and let down the net for a draught. Peter said, “Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.” When God speaks, we should obey. Because the word of the Lord is divine, it is God’s message, we should respect it and obey it.
In addition, because it is God’s Word we are to believe it. By that, I mean we ought to have confidence in the message. Because it is God’s Word, we can believe it and trust it.
Titus 1:2-3 says, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Savior.” God cannot lie. Our God, who cannot lie, has manifested His Word through preaching. We ought to believe what God says in the Bible, because it is the Word of God.
I’ve only had two pastors prior to becoming the Pastor at Mt. Zion. I loved their preaching, and I loved how it affected me, but my confidence in the words that they preached was not in them. My confidence in the words that they preached was in the God who gave the Word. We ought to believe the Bible. The Word of God is a Divine message.
A Dynamic Message
There is another thought to consider about this phrase, the word of the Lord. Not only is it a divine message, but it’s also a dynamic message. In 2 Thessalonians 3:1, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:” Paul was confident that the message he preached had the power to impact lives. It is a dynamic message. It is powerful. It can change our thinking. It can change our living. It can change our lives.
He wanted his message to have “free course.” The truths of the Bible have a purpose, a goal, an objective, an intended result. God never intended that His Word be listened to with no response or no reaction. God wants His Word to affect us. God wants His Word to influence us. Notice what he said in verse 1: “that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified even as it is with you.” In essence Paul wanted them to pray that the message he preached might impact others the way it impacted those in Thessalonica. And it did impact them.
That’s the testimony of the church members in Thessalonica. It powerfully impacted those people. II Thessalonians 1:3-4 describes examples of those changes, “your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:” This is no ordinary message: this is no ordinary book. It is like a hammer, a fire, a sword. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth in chapter fourteen that when the word of God is proclaimed, those who are ignorant or unlearned listen, “he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest.” The word of the Lord is a dynamic message.
A Dependent Message
What is meant by saying it is a dependent message? Simply put, there are factors that will contribute to the influence of God’s Word. The verse we are considering, 2 Thessalonians 3:1, says,“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course.” Paul was convinced that the ministry of the word of the Lord was affected by human input or involvement. What are some factors that contribute to the influence of this powerful message?
First it must be proclaimed. People can’t be impacted by a message they never hear. It must be proclaimed. 1 Thessalonians 1:8, underscores this thought. “For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to Godward is spread abroad;” This message must be proclaimed. Many of us could testify to the life-changing power of the Word of God. It has changed our lives. It has changed our thinking. It didn’t just save our soul from Hell, it has changed our world-view. It has changed our thinking about our lives, our families, our future, and our priorities. It has affected the way we live, but it cannot affect people who have never heard it. This message must be declared.
The “word of the Lord” can change lives. Because we know that is true, we must do all we can to get the message out. We need to spread the Gospel. We need to tell others about it. It’s a dynamic message and a Divine message, but it’s a dependent message because it has to be proclaimed. It must be told. In Romans 10:13 we have the promise, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved.” What great news this is! But the chapter goes on to ask, “And how shall they believe in in him of whom they have not heard?” This is a divine and dynamic message, but in order for it to have its way in lives, it is dependent on the message getting out. How are they going to hear it unless somebody tells them?
Another factor that influences the message of the word of the Lord is prayer. Not only must it be proclaimed, but it should be supported by prayer. That’s the plea of Paul, “pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course.” Paul would preach the Word, and his message had the power to impact lives, but the preacher knew God’s work was supported by believing prayer. Our prayers can make a difference. Our message is from God, and it is His mighty power, but we ought to pray as we sow the seed. We ought to pray that God’s Word will impact hearts.
The “word of the Lord” is dependent upon being proclaimed, and it is dependent upon the prayers of saints, but also it is dependent on those who believe the message. Just hearing the Bible is not what changes lives. It is when we believe the Bible that our lives are impacted. There are those who have heard many sermons, yet remained unchanged. This does not mean the Bible is not powerful. Let’s be reminded of the words of I Thessalonians 2:13, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when you 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.” God’s Word is pure and powerful and has the ability to change us. And the more we believe His Word, the more it works in us. It is not the activity of preaching alone that changes lives, it is the believing of the truth.
This is precisely how we came to salvation. We heard the message of the Gospel. Maybe you were reading the Bible or a Gospel tract. Perhaps you were sitting through a sermon or listening to a personal presentation by a soul-winner, but someone showed us that according to God’s Word all of us are guilty sinners and that the wages of our sin is death. Because the Word of the Lord said so, we believed it. We considered ourselves guilty as charged because that’s what the Bible said. But we also learned from the Word of the Lord that Christ died on the cross for our sins. He paid the penalty in His sacrificial death for every sin you and I have ever sinned. And we saw from the Word of the Lord that we deserved to go to Hell.
But that wasn’t enough. Just knowing that won’t save you. We had to believe the Gospel, we had to turn from our sin and personally receive Christ as our Savior. We had to receive the gift of eternal salvation, believing on Christ as our Savior. When we believed the message, our lives were forever changed.
What I’m saying is, you have to believe it. God’s Word is a divine message, and a dynamic message, but you and I must believe it. We’ve all seen this. We’ve watched lives transformed by hearing the Bible and believing and acting on what it says. We’re watching it, even in our church today–we’re seeing lives transformed. Families being made whole. Hope being given because God’s truth is received and believed.
But the opposite is also true. We have witnessed as people have heard sermon after sermon with no response. Their lives continue to spiral out of control. They sit in the same service, hear the same message, the same music, and the same preacher. What’s the difference?
Hebrews 4:2 explains it this way, “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” They heard the Gospel just like we heard it, but what they heard didn’t help them, didn’t profit them. Why? Because they didn’t mix faith with it. They didn’t believe it.
The Word of the Lord is God’s Word, His divine revelation to us. It is dynamic and powerful: it can change lives. But to complete the purpose God has for it, the message must be proclaimed, we should pray for God’s Word to have free course, and it must be believed.