Hearing the Word

Mark 4:24; Luke 8:18.

A very distinct responsibility is indicated by these scriptures for all hearers of the word of God. The servants of Christ have their responsibility in speaking; but it is altogether a different one from that of their audience. Theirs is well described by the apostle when he says, "We are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of [or 'from'] God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ." (2 Cor. 2:17.) As a messenger from God Paul owns the responsibility of speaking before God, and of delivering his message faithfully - of not corrupting or adulterating it. The hearers, on the other hand, are in the first place to take heed what they hear. They are under the responsibility of testing the message delivered to them, of ascertaining whether it is really a divinely-sent message for their souls. The Bereans are an example of this, in that after hearing Paul and Silas they "searched the scriptures daily whether these things were so." (Acts 17:12.) It is on the same principle that it is said, "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge." (1 Cor. 14:29.)

Were this the whole of the responsibility there might be much testing and criticising without spiritual profit, much occupation with the letter which killeth, instead of with the spirit which giveth life. It is on this account that our blessed Lord, in the second scripture, warns us to take heed how we hear. There is therefore a state of soul requisite for listening aright, an upright condition before God without which the plainest message may be misconceived and perverted. Cornelius, with his friends, is an example of this when he said to Peter, "Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God." (Acts 10:33.) To neglect the how is as fatal as to forget the what; and hence, while the hearer must ever seek to be in the right condition for the reception of the message, he must also remember that infallibility is only to be found in God's word, and therefore that everything brought to him purporting to be from God must be tried by the perfect standard of the Scriptures.