God’s Word at Work

“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

In 1 Thessalonians 2:1–12, Paul describes his ministry as one of truth-telling not motivated by greed in order to counter charges that he taught error for the sake of financial gain. Having reminded the Thessalonians of the manner of his ministry among them, he begins a new section describing his thankfulness for the Thessalonians for how they responded to his ministry.

Paul begins this section by thanking God that the Thessalonians received the word he preached as the word of God, not the word of men (v. 13). In other words, the Thessalonians did not reject Paul’s message but believed and obeyed it just as one should when one hears God speaking. Augustine of Hippo points out that Paul thanks the Lord for the Thessalonians’ reception of the gospel because it was the Lord who enabled it: “God . . . is the one who brought it about that the Thessalonians, when they had received from the apostle the word by hearing it, received it not as the word of men but, as it truly is, as the word of God.”

This word of God “is at work in you believers” (1 Thess. 2:13). Many commentators point out the Greek verb translated here as “work” (energe ) is used elsewhere in the New Testament almost exclusively for God’s working. Paul uses it specifically in 1 Corinthians 12:4–11 for the Holy Spirit’s empowerment of spiritual gifts in the people of God. We see, therefore, a close connection with the power of God and the word of God in today’s passage, which emphasizes that the Lord works in believers primarily through His word and Spirit. In context, this word refers primarily to the gospel but can be extended to cover the Old Testament and the entire Apostolic tradition, or the New Testament. Putting this all together, we see that the Lord achieves His purposes in His people chiefly by using the Word of God—the Scriptures—to regenerate us, correct us, and build us up in the faith. Moreover, He works through His Word continually over the course of a believer’s life, for God is presently “at work in you believers” (1 Thess. 2:13).

Therefore, we should be dedicated students of Scripture, spending time regularly under its instruction. As question and answer 89 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it, “The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching, of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.”

Coram Deo

The word of God at work in the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 2:13) was the message Paul preached to them. This indicates a close connection between the Spirit of God and the preaching of the Word of God. It is vital for us to sit regularly under the faithful preaching of God’s Word by appointed elders, pastors, and teachers because that is where the Lord regularly chooses to do His work.

Passages for Further Study

Isaiah 55:10–11
1 Cor. 1:18–25
2 Timothy 3:16–17
Hebrews 4:12–13

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