by G.I. Williamson
It’s a matter of first importance that we hear the truth of God. You might just as well hear no gospel at all as to hear a false gospel. The apostle Paul said that “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse” (Gal. 1:8)! And having said it once, he said it again (v. 9). It’s only by hearing the truth that we may believe to the saving of our souls.
But it’s almost as important to take heed how we hear, as it is to take heed what we hear. “So pay attention to how you hear,” says our Lord. “To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them” (Lk. 8: 18) .
Those who are careful with respect to what they hear – who won’t attend or belong to a church that doesn’t uphold the truth of God – seem to have the true faith. Yet the words of Christ clearly disclose to us the fact that the soul’s true welfare is not absolutely sure from this one fact alone. If we don’t take heed how we hear, we may have taken away from us even that which we now seem to have.
How then ought we to hear the Word of God? Certainly the first thing is to be sure that we hear it regularly. When the Bible speaks of not neglecting our meeting together, as some do (see Heb. 10:25), it indicates what our constant practice should be. The person who’s not diligent and faithful in being present to hear the Word of God may be concerned about what he hears, but he is not concerned about how he hears. How faithfully do you hear God’s Word?
Second only to this is the need to concentrate. We must give God’s Word the consideration it deserves. Much of the benefit that we ought to receive from the preaching of God’s Word is lost because the mind is occupied with other thoughts. We read that the noble believers of Berea “listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth” (Acts 17:11).
They didn’t go home from the service to bury the Word of God under news, or sports, or entertainment, or other diversions. They gave the whole day to the due consideration of what they’d heard. We ought to examine what we hear carefully. We ought to meditate on it quietly and intently. And when we’ve compared what we’ve heard with other parts of Scripture that we know, we ought to strive to “take it to heart” and correct ourselves accordingly. “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it” (Heb. 2:1).
Finally, we ought to hear the Word of God in the humble posture of prayer – asking God to convict and cleanse us, to renew and strengthen us according to his Word. We hear much about the weakness of the pulpit today. We ought to hear more. May God speed the day when those who now sleep in the pews may wake up and demand the pure Word of God from every pulpit in the land. But in the meantime, I venture to suggest that not a little of the cause for the spiritual weakness of our day is the fact that even in such churches as do still preach the pure Word of God, many people do not take heed how they hear.
Doubtless both pulpit and pew need to pray more earnestly for each other. We need zealously to pray that God will send forth from the pulpit of our church his Word with power and authority. And we need to pray that it may then be received “not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe” (1 Thess. 2:13).
If Jesus himself were to speak from the pulpit next Sunday, you wouldn’t have any time for or interest in other things. His message would be on your mind and in your conversation all day. May God grant that Jesus Christ himself will indeed speak to you next Sunday as his servant proclaims his Word. Pay attention, then, to how you hear.
reprinted from The Presbyterian Guardian May 1962 (slightly edited)