Believe It Or Not
In Acts 17, we find two common reactions to gospel preaching. Some “believed” and others “believed not.” Let us notice what the Bible explains as to why these are two reactions that people have toward Bible truth.
You might think that all would readily accept an offer of free salvation, but such is not the case. The reason is because of the nature of truth as opposed to error. Truth contains commands to which the sinner must submit whereas error does not. When truth is preached today, we will find these commands mentioned. Grace teaches man to turn from sin, not “continue that grace may abound” (Titus 2.11-12; Romans 6.1).
Jesus commanded that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations” (Luke 24.47). This applied to the apostle Paul as well as the eleven on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Paul and Peter preached the same messages.
In Acts 1.2, we are told that Jesus had “given commandments” to the apostles in regard to what to be preached concerning him. These commandments pertained to what people were to do in “calling upon the name of the Lord.” We can determine what those commands were from when they preached in the book of Acts, as well as what was obeyed by those to whom they preached. Let it again be pointed out that in “calling on the name of the Lord” there is a “form of doctrine” to be obeyed “from the heart” (Romans 617). It must correspond to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as seen from 1 Corinthians 15.1-4.
Of those in Thessalonica, we find that Paul “reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.” Yet we find that others who heard the same message “believed not” (Acts 17.5). It is recorded of them, “But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy…”
Why did some believe while others did not? Today, why is it that some readily accept truth while others reject and despise the message of truth? The answer lies in Jesus’ teaching about the heart of man in Luke 8.4-15.
In addition, there are there other tests that show why some can “see” the truth clearly, while others “see, yet see not”:
- “And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, lest his works should be reproved. But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest that they have been wrought in God” (John 3.19-21). Some cannot see or understand truth because they love darkness. Their deeds are evil, and they don’t want their evil deeds reported. The truth is not beyond their ability to understand; rather, their heart’s desire is to continue in evil.
- “If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself. He that speaketh from himself seeketh his own glory; but the that seeketh the glory of him that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him” (John 7.17-18). Some cannot see truth because they seek their own glory rather than God’s glory.
- “…and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2.10-12. Some cannot see or understand truth because they have no love for truth, but their pleasure is to continue in unrighteousness.
Those who understood the things Paul preached about Jesus had a desire to please God, hence we read of them, prior to hearing Paul preach about Jesus’ authority, being God-fearing or devout. Their hearts were honest and sincere, as were Cornelius, Lydia, and Saul of Tarsus, who “lived in good conscience” even during his persecution of Christians (Acts 23.1). These who believed not “moved with envy.” So likewise, will people do so today when the truth exposes their evil deeds and their love for unrighteousness. The word of God is described as “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 mirror, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4.12).
How people react to the truth reveals whether they are just religious, honoring God with their lips while in reality their heart is far from him (Matthew 15.8-9). If hearts are honest and sincere, whenever individuals see that they are not in harmony with what Jesus commanded, they will change (repent) because their will is “to do the will of the Father.” What about you? What is your view of Jesus’ commands?