The word proclaimed is not of human invention. It is God’s word. Therefore it is of ultimate authority and significance. The Lord does not speak casually or unnecessarily and so it is imperative that we give it our attention.But such reverence and submissiveness towards God is not a human tendency. Grace is the enabling necessity and so it is earnestly sought to donate the meekness that makes the heart porous to the preached word.
We must be permeated with divine influences before we are disposed to accept and assent to the gospel. A softening process needs to accompany the exercise of hearing. Our hearts rage against God until he tames the beast within. We are too proud and rebellious to receive. By nature we dispute and deny the word. We must learn to hear gently and obediently. Inner attentiveness is the gift of God. Understanding is the enlargement of that gift. We may make grammatical and logical sense of the message but its pertinence to us and power within us is not realized until the Holy Spirit attends its delivery and brings it home.
Man considers himself too wise to be taught. The factual information he receives is considered obvious to his mind and the knowledge he gains he fancies he has always assumed. “I know that” is the retort of the heart. The teacher is merely spelling out what he has always grasped if not articulated. He was bound to discover it eventually through opportunity and acumen. The sinner credits himself with more wisdom than he actually possesses.
Teachability in the things of God is one of the prime indices to the reality of regeneration, the renewal and mellowing of the human spirit. The un-renovated mind resists truth, suppresses it, or disputes with God with a swollen sense of superiority. “Knowledge puffs up”, avers the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 8:1), and it makes us sullen and argumentative under instruction. Meekness welcomes the lessons of the word and loves to hear them over and over again. We are never past masters and there is always something new for head and heart as we grow in awareness and sanctification. The nuances within the word are innumerable. We discover new facets to treasure and new faults to repent of. The believer instinctively bows before the word and refrains from boastfulness (What do you have that you did not receive? 1 Corinthians 4:7). As much as some folk listen to the word habitually they actually hear it selectively or dismissively.It wafts over the ether to the ear but does not win its way to the heart or conquer the will. They listen to it with the air and inner arrogance of the theatre critic assessing as to whether its suits them or not. They may discuss or controvert the doctrines of the word quite ably,but these truths are not tenderly accepted and cherished with any sincerity. Karl Barth warns against the tendency to dominate the word in attitude and argumentation. We can wield it aggressively, competitively, or cleverly for the sake of self display and reputation. Again, Barth, who has written more than most authors could ever accomplish, cites the folly of presenting his barrow loads of books to God with any sense of acceptableness or achievement. The word is the Lord’s. It is above us and we are under it. It cannot be manipulated toward our own ends or interests. It is the vehicle of divine truth and glory. It cannot be wrested away from its saving purpose for our own perverse and self serving purposes. It comes as a gift, its comprehension is a grace, it is received in a mood of grateful humbleness. He opened the heart and granted illumination. He softened the heart so that the precious seed could settle within it. He cleansed the inner eye so that it could see clearly.
We come to the word as fools and ignorant. We approach it as beggars. We renounce our own discernment. We come to the Author and Master of the word praying for understanding and pleading to be taught, requesting that along with comprehension will come the desire for honest consent and eager compliance. We open the Bible like no other book. From first to last page natural ability stands aside as the servant of supernatural disclosure. The Spirit must read to us, pointing to every word lest we get carried away by our own pridefulness, prejudice, and hasty assumptions. If we come to the Scriptures to object or correct we will find ourselves in a maze of human error and invention, contriving our own destruction from that which is meant to save. Heresy is simply the indulgence of our own preferences, smothering the true word with our own parasitical perception of things.
It is not the accumulation of knowledge in itself, or the academic skills of interpretation that are principally sought, but the knowledge of and resemblance to Christ. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christexhorts the apostle Peter” (2 Peter 3:18). Grace grants true admission toknowledgeand accompanies its progress. If grace is absent knowledge is flawed.
We do not sip the word with the smug confidence of the connoisseur, depending on our own judgment of what tastes right and good, we drink it in and savour it for our own sustenancein grace and life in Christ. We are not seeking knowledge especially for ourselves which is kept secret from others and admits us to the elite of the kingdom. We crave the common word that is the wealth of all the people of God. With all the children of God we bend the knee and outstretch the empty hand, saying:
May it please you to give to all your people an increase of grace to listen meekly to your Word, to receive it with pure intention, and to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in our lives:
Hear us, good Lord.