Hearing the Word of God

If we want truth, we must hear it from God's Word.

Starving for Truth (7)

“Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him morewill be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.” Luke 8.18

How then shall we hear?
What does it mean to hear the Word of God? We have examined the fruit of hearing, and we can identify a sore lack of such fruit in our day. Where such things as repentance, holiness, good works, fervent witness, and world-changing action are lacking, we are in the midst of generation weak in faith and languishing in a famine of hearing the Word of God.

But what is it to hear the truth in such a way that it yields the fruit for which it is intended?

The Westminster Larger Catechism concisely answers this question. Question 160 asks, “What is required of those that hear the word preached?” The answer is a devastating indictment of our pick-and-choose approach to the Word of God:                                          

“It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the Scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the Word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts; and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.”

Here, truly, is guidance for every student of the Word of God: diligent and prayerful preparation for hearing the Word; careful examination of what is heard by comparison of Scripture with Scripture; trust in God’s Word, love for Him, humility before His mercy and grace; a mind ready to be shaped and to respond; deep pondering and questioning of the Word; heartfelt embrace of its teachings; and faithful obedience to its every demand.

Such hearing of the Word of God is the very thing that we lack, and the only thing that can deliver us from our famine of hearing and get us back on the path of renewal and reformation once again.

Faithful teachers and guides
But to achieve such hearing of the Word of God, we need faithful teachers and guides to lead and instruct us. Most of all, we need the Spirit of God to instruct us in the whole counsel of God in Scripture, searching all the Scriptures and comparing one passage with another to guide us into all truth, showing us the glory of God, and working in our mind, heart, and conscience to transform us into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ. Pray for and seek the filling of God’s Spirit, for only He can lead us out of our present famine into a feast of growth and ministry.

But it also pleases God to put faithful teachers and guides in the community of His people, and we should seek out such teachers to help in our feeding on God’s Word. But how can we tell which teachers are, like the Spirit Who fills us, faithful and reliable to guide us into God’s truth?

Acts 8 tells the story of one such faithful teacher, Philip (Acts 8.26-40). We can see from his example five characteristics of teaching which is designed to help us hear the Word of God as we should.

Five characteristics
First, we consider Philip’s aggressive approach. He ran up to the Ethiopian in his chariot (v. 30). The Ethiopian’s invitation to Philip to join him in the examination of God’s Word was the direct result of his initiating contact. Faithful teachers are eager and determined to lead people into the Word of God, and they take many initiatives in doing so.

Second, Philip knew the value of pointed questions. “Do you understand what you are reading?” he asked, hereby challenging the notion that mere reading of Scripture was enough, and implying that greater depths of discovery were essential for truly hearing the Word of God.

Third, Philip led the Ethiopian to search the Scriptures. Beginning with Isaiah 53, he preached Jesus to the eunuch, comparing Scripture with Scripture (1 Cor. 2.13) to make the Gospel story vivid, relating text to text as he built his case for the claims of Christ.

Fourth, Philip left no doubt as to the implications of the Word of God. The eunuch was made to understand perfectly well what the Gospel required of him (v. 37).

Finally, Philip led his reader to take specific Kingdom action consistent with the message he had studied (vv. 36-38). His mission to the Ethiopian was not complete until the eunuch had come to repentance and saving faith, had submitted to baptism in the name of Jesus, and was rejoicing in the newness of eternal life.

These five practices, it seems to me, coupled with a readiness to hear the Word of God, are the great need of the day if our truth-famished generation is ever to move beyond mere reading and study of God’s Word to real hearing of it. This is the kind of teaching and learning that the Spirit of God is willing to use in guiding students of God’s Word into all truth. This is the kind of feeding on Scripture that can deliver us from our famine of hearing the Word of God.

For reflection
1.  Review the Catechism’s definition of what it means to hear the Word of God. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the highest rating, to what extent does this definition describe you? Explain.

2.  How can we be sure that we are submitting to the Holy Spirit as the primary Teacher of God’s Word?

3.  How can we encourage the teachers in our churches to be more like Philip?

Next steps – Demonstration: Share this week’s study with a few friends. Make copies or send them a link to the weekly PDF. Work through the lessons together as you strive to be more consistent in hearing the Word of God.

T. M. Moore

This week’s series, Starving for Truth, is available as a free PDF download, for personal or group use. Click here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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