As The Manner of Some Is
Some…gladly received his word.
Some…stopped their ears.
The two passages above represent the only possible reactions from people when they are “cut to the heart” by God’s word. They will either accept or reject his word. God’s word convicts the heart of sin.
We read in Hebrews 4.12, “…for the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
The apostle Paul stated that scripture has a fourfold benefit. He wrote, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3.16-17).
Paul, in his charge to the young preacher Timothy, foretold of those who would close their ears to God’s word: “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4.1-4). This term “fables” is mentioned by Paul in his epistles to both Timothy and Titus as it relates to preaching. He spoke much about it in them. In 1 Timothy 1.4, Paul said that fables “give rise to useless speculation rather than advance the plan of God, which is by faith.”
The appeal of fables is that they satisfy the passions for what is forbidden. This is why Paul described them as worthless or irreverent in 1 Timothy 4.7. Fables do not “prick the heart” in regard to sin. Those who seek to satisfy their passions through religion will seek a preacher who will “tickle” their ears (2 Timothy 4.3-4). Clearly, fables are contrary to sound doctrine (1 Timothy 1.10).
When people reject truth, they will turn to fables. Paul warned disciples about the preaching of fables. Preaching fables is a perversion of God’s word (2 Timothy 4.3-4; Titus 1.14). Peter assured those to whom he wrote that what they preached about Jesus were not fables: “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1.16).
Luke, in his writing of the Acts of the Apostles, described those who would “gladly receive” God’s word. The different reactions to the word of God declare what the word of God has revealed about the hearts of the individuals who hear it. A good and honest heart will “gladly receive” the word and do as the word instructs when “cut” (Acts 2.41). Out of the many Jews present on the day of Pentecost, about 3,000 received the word with joy. They were “cut to the heart,” yet received the message with joy. They acknowledged their guilt and wanted forgiveness.
However, those in Acts 7 had very different hearts. They had previously been unable to “resist” the wisdom and the spirit by which Stephen spake (Acts 6.10). Jesus, in forewarning his disciples of persecution from those who would reject his words, said, “This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict” (Luke 21.13-15).
When truth and fables clash, the one who is preaching truth will stand out by the wisdom and spirit in which he preaches. The one whose preaching is a perversion of truth will react in emotional outbursts of anger and underhandedly try to discredit his opponent, not being able to “gainsay” (prove wrong) or resist (oppose; withstand) exposure of his perversions. He will do similarly as those did toward Stephen. He will “secretly induce, stir up, and set up false witnesses.” Why such underhanded tactics? Because he can’t answer the “reproof, rebuke, and sound doctrine.”
A preacher of truth never has to resort to underhanded measures or lose his composure, for the power is all in the message of truth. The message reproves, rebukes, and is sound. No loopholes or contradictions are to be found without dishonest tactics.
The nature of the heart is revealed through simple proclamation of truth; it “cuts” both ways. It will either approve or disprove the individual. Sin will be exposed when true preaching is proclaimed. If one loves truth, he will repent and be baptized; if his love (i.e., god) is pleasure in unrighteousness, he will resort to underhanded measures and/or lose his composure in resistance.
The Lord so forewarned of this reaction: “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reported. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3.17-21).
How do we react to God's reproof?