When men's sins are exposed by the gospel they often close their ears and refuse to hear.
When Paul came to Jerusalem for the last time and gave the Jews a defense of himself and the gospel, we are told of the following reaction of the Jews concerning his statement about being commissioned to preach to the Gentiles in Acts 22:22-24.
"And they gave him audience unto this word; and they lifted up their voice, and said, 'Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.' And as they cried out, and threw of their garments, and cast dust into the air, the chief captain commanded him be brought into the castle, bidding that he should be examined by scourging, that he might know for what cause they so shouted against him."
The Jews would not hear another word of the message which Paul spoke. It had become too offensive to their ers to endure any longer, so they convicted him in their hearts of improper conduct and were about to kill him.
This was not the first time the Jews had done such a thing. When Stephen preached to them, the Jews "stopped their ears," rushed upon him, and stoned him (Acts 7:57,58). They had done so because they had no desire to hear any more of the message which Stephen dared to present. In their intense anger over what he said, they stoned him. Why was this so?
Paul and Stephen were messengers of the gospel, and it was for that reason that they suffered in the flesh. The Jews did not want to hear the gospel. By it their sins were revealed, and they were "stiffnecked and obstinate," as Stephen and Isaiah respectively labeled them. The Jews ceased to listen when the words spoken to them had become a stumbling block (1 Cor. 1:23).
There is much that we can learn from the inflexibility of the Jews. The gospel, as we are told in Heb. 4:12, "is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart." The gospel, when preached properly, will cause a single reaction, one shared by the accounts of Acts 2 and 7: the piercing of the heart. Many will be pierced in the heart toward repentance, having recognized the need for the salvation in Jesus Christ and the need to repent, as seen in Acts2:37,38. The gospel will also pierce many in the heart leading to rejection of Christ and Him crucified, as is evident by the lesson of Stephen in Acts 7;54. What, then, is to be done when they will hear no more?
We must recognize that it is inevitable that some will not accept the gospel, and that it will offend many; after all, many do not want to hear that they are lost in sin and that their actions are wrong -- both those who have no belief and those who would profess "Christianity." Many who are lost do not want to believe they are lost, and they will forcefully reject the gospel message. It is far easier to suppress the truth in unrighteousness than to recognize the gospel as the power of God to salvation (Rom. 1:16,17).
We must also remember the wisdom of Jesus: "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, as ye go forth out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city" (Matt. 10:14,15).
We must look to the time when our works toward some are not producing fruit, and recognize that our words will not penetrate the hardened heart. We wish fro their salvation, yet they themselves must desire salvation.
What happens, however, when "they" are no longer a problem, but "we" are the ones refusing to hear? We must always give diligence to make sure that we retain an open heart, so that we may constantly accept the nurturing and admonition of the Lord, and constantly examine ourselves to determine that we have not fallen away from Christ Jesus, as we have been told to do in 2 Cor. 13: 5. May we always give heed to Christ and His Words of life.
By Ethan R. Longhenry in Biblical Insights, Vol. 4, No. 12, Dec. 2004.
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