Robert C. Oliver Contributing columnist
October 11, 2013
At the time that Jesus promised to build His church, He told His apostles that He would give unto them the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:18-19). Peter’s sermon on the first Pentecost following the Lord’s ascension back into heaven was the first time these keys were used, showing those present on that day how “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). The text then says, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Some time later, Peter and the other apostles were put in prison for preaching the gospel (Acts 5:17-18). After an angel released them, they returned to preach the gospel in the temple and were again brought before the Jewish authorities (Acts 5:21-28). After Peter told them about the salvation found in Christ Jesus, the text says that, “When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them” (Acts 5:33). In the seventh chapter of Acts we read of Stephen preaching to the council. After preaching the salvation found in Christ, the text tells us, “When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth” (Acts 7:54). All three of these examples took place in the same city, Jerusalem. The same message was preached in all three cases. The audience was made up mostly of Jews in all three examples. In two of the examples, it was even the same speaker. But, notice the great contrast found in the end result of the preaching between the first example and the last two. In the first, the preaching resulted in people becoming saved. In the next two, the people sought to kill the messenger. What accounts for such a disparity of results?
Really, it is all in how one receives the word of God. The apostle Paul in writing to the church of Thessalonica said, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (I Thess. 2:13). That which effectually worked in these saints was their reception of the gospel as being the word of God. As Jesus prayed to the Father in heaven, He said of His apostles, “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me” (John 17:8). In both of these cases, it was a recognition that the gospel was a revelation from God. To Timothy, Paul wrote, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” (II Tim. 3:16). The word “inspiration” means that the scriptures are “God breathed”.
Those who hear the gospel and understand that it is indeed the word of God are happy to have heard it and eager to obey it. Recall those back on the day of Pentecost who, after hearing the word asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:37). A couple of verses later we read, “Then they that gladly received the word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). Not all that hear the word recognize it to be the word of God. Even though Paul praised the Thessalonian church for their recognition of this truth, many in Thesslonica rejected the word. After having left Thessalonica, Paul went to Berea and of those at Berea, Luke records, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).
If the New Testament is indeed the authority in the realm of Christianity, then obviously it is all a matter of how we receive it when we hear it. Paul says of the gospel, that it is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:16-17). He told the Galatians that “the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11-12). He told the Corinthians that when he spoke, he spoke, “not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth…” (I Cor. 2:13). In other words, the very words that these New Testament writers used were the words given to them by the Holy Spirit.
One final point needs to be made as we close. We need to receive the word as it is in truth, the word of God, because in the last day, we will be judged by it. Jesus said, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words. hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). Paul wrote, “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Rom. 2:16).
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