Jan 20, 2023 What Happens When We Gather to Hear God’s Word? – Words of Grace – January 20, 2023
When a congregation gathers on the Lord’s Day to read from a portion of the Bible and give its attention to what is read in the form of a sermon, what is happening?
From one perspective, it seems obvious what is happening. One man is standing in front of a group of people doing his best to explain what was just read while the people do their best to follow along with his sermon. Everybody is hoping to get something out of the experience.
From another perspective, much, much more is happening. The Bible itself tells us so.
When we read the Bible, we are hearing the word of God (2 Peter 1:21). God has graciously given us his word in written form through his chosen prophets and apostles.
When the Bible is taught and preached, God’s Spirit is actively bringing the message of the Bible to bear on our minds and hearts, shaping the way we think, feel, and live. Faith comes from hearing the word read and preached (Romans 10:14-17). Here, it is important to understand that the preacher of the word is not the main thing. Yes, the preacher is preaching. He has prepared, prayed, and is now delivering a sermon. But the work is being done by the Holy Spirit. The preacher is being obedient as a servant of the word. The Spirit is using the God-ordained means of the read and preached word to transform lives.
When the congregation hears the word, the Spirit is acting upon people. The emphasis here is on what is happening in them. Some are being convicted and brought to repentance. Some are being enlightened and instructed. Others are being comforted and strengthened. All who hear the word of God read and preached with faith are experiencing in some way its power to lead us to Christ and transform us into his image.
Worship is happening as God is being exalted in his own word. Prayer is produced as the word is turned into petitions for God to “make it so” in and among us. Fellowship is being deepened as the bread from heaven is broken and shared among us. Evangelism is underway as the gospel is clearly offered to everyone. Disciples are being made as Christ’s commands are being taught and obeyed.
The congregation collectively is being built up, guided by a vision of reality, given a mission, and sent out girded with truth and confidence to be salt and light in the world.
All of this, and more, is happening when we gather to hear God’s word.
If this is happening, how does that impact the way we gather? Let’s come to church prayerful and prepared. Let’s order our lives before we come to put ourselves in the best frame of mind to hear and receive God’s word. Let’s be expectant that the Holy Spirit will work and be responsive to him. The best way to honor the Spirit and the word of God is to hear in faith.
Pray with me this weekend as we prepare to hear from 1 Peter on Sunday.