“He that has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matt 11:15; 13:9; 13:43; Mark 4:9, 23; Luke 8:8, 14:35) This expression is frequently used by Christ. It means – We are all formed by nature to learn God’s commands; answer, therefore, to the best of our abilities, and obey him. (Cf. Psalm 40:6; Hebrews 10:5) But why is it so important to hear the Word of Christ?
Jesus told his disciples: “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3) This does not mean that they were perfect, but that they had been under a process of purifying by his instructions all the time he had been with them. He had removed their erroneous notions of the Messiah; he had gradually reclaimed them from their fond and foolish views respecting earthly honors; he had taught them to be willing to forsake all things; and he had so trained and disciplined them that immediately after his death they would be ready to go and bear fruit among all nations to the honor of his name. The word of Christ is spoken to all believers; and there is a cleansing virtue in that word, as it works grace, and works out corruption.
Jesus prayed for his disciples: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Sanctification in the heart of a Christian is progressive. It consists in his becoming more like God and less attached to the world; in his getting the ascendency over evil thoughts, and passions, and impure desires; and in his becoming more and more weaned from earthly objects, and attached to those things which are unseen and eternal. The word also means “to consecrate, to set apart to a holy office or purpose.” (Cf. John 17:19; 10:36) When Jesus prayed here that God would sanctify them, he probably included both these ideas, that they might be made personally more holy, and might be truly consecrated to God as the ministers of his religion. Ministers of the gospel will be really devoted to the service of God just in proportion as they are personally pure.
Truth is a representation of things as they are. The Saviour prayed that through those just views of God and of themselves they might be made holy. To see things as they are is to see God to be infinitely lovely and pure; his commands to be reasonable and just; heaven to be holy and desirable; his service to be easy, and religion pleasant, and sin odious; to see that life is short, that death is near; that the pride, pomp, pleasures, wealth, and honors of this world are of little value, and that it is of infinite importance to be prepared to enter on the eternal state of being. He that sees all this, or that looks on things as they are, will desire to be holy. He will make it his great object to live near to God and to glorify his name.
In the sanctification of the soul God makes use of all truth, or of everything fitted to make a representation of things as they are to the mind. His Word states that and no more; His Spirit and His Providence do it. The earth and the heavens, the seasons, the sunshine and the rain, are all fitted to teach us his goodness and power, and lead us to him. His daily mercies tend to the same end, and afflictions have the same design. Our own sickness teaches us that we will all die some day. The death of a friend or love one teaches us the transiency of all earthly comforts, and the necessity of seeking solid and lasting joys. All these things are fitted to make just representations to the mind, and thus to sanctify the soul. As the Christian is constantly amid these objects, so he should be constantly growing in grace, and daily and hourly gaining new and deeper impressions of the great truths of religion.
St. Paul told the Ephesians: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Eph 5:25-27) The immediate object of Christ was to cleanse the church, and for this end he used the Word as a purifying agent, washing her by means of it. The difference between selfish and unselfish love is seen here: a selfish lover cares for his wife in his own interest – like Samson, desires to have her simply because she pleases him, and, in his converse with her, thinks, not of her good, but of his own enjoyment; but the love of an unselfish lover constrains him to seek her good, to do nothing that will hurt her and damage her in any manner of way, but to do everything that he believes will advance her well-being, especially in the highest sense. He finds her polluted (Cf. Ezekiel 16), and his great instrument of cleansing is “the Word” (Cf. John 15:3; John 17:17) – the Word in all its searching, humbling, rebuking, correcting, informing, stimulating, refreshing, and consoling power.
St. Paul told the Romans: “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ’How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Rom 10:12-17)
There is not one God to the Jews, more kind, and another to the Gentiles, who is less kind; the Lord is a Father to all men. The promise is the same to all, who call on the name of the Lord Jesus as the Son of God, as God manifest in the flesh. All believers thus call upon the Lord Jesus, and none else will do so humbly or sincerely. But how should any call on the Lord Jesus, the Divine Saviour, who had not heard of him? And what is the life of a Christian but a life of prayer? It shows that we feel our dependence on him, and are ready to give up ourselves to him, and have a believing expectation of our all from him. It was necessary that the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles. Somebody must show them what they are to believe. How welcome the gospel ought to be to those to whom it was preached! The gospel is given, not only to be known and believed, but to be obeyed. It is not a system of notions, but a rule of practice. The beginning, progress, and strength of faith is by hearing. But it is only hearing the word, as the word of God that will strengthen faith.
As you can see from the above verses, hearing the Word of Christ can strengthen our faith and sanctify us. These are qualities that all Christians should strive for so as to be effective and fruitful (Cf. 2 Pet 1:5-8). St. Peter urges us to pursue holiness, actively striving to manifest God’s divine nature in our lives, not only because this is our destiny (Cf. Rom 8:28-30) but because it is our duty (Cf. Eph 4:11-16). And we are to actively do so not only because of what it promises but also because of what it prevents. When we pursue spiritual growth with God’s grace, we will be received into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Cf. 2 Pet 1:11). If we cease to grow spiritually, we become ineffective, unfruitful, short-sighted, blind and forgetful, and will set ourselves up for a fall (Cf. 2 Pet 1:8-10). May we take the counsel of St. Peter to heart, and seek to obey them by the grace of God to His glory.
Let us praise God with the hymn “Your Words Are Spirit and Life”: