July 13, 2014

Will They Believe – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

Everyone believes in things they have not seen. They do so for many different reasons, some reasonable, some ridiculous, with many steps in between. Most of us have faith in the identity our Mother and Father. Most believe George Washington was our first president and that Barak Obama now lives in the White House, without actually seeing either. A significant number believe that extra-terrestrials inhabit our planet and that tin-foil hats can protect from their mind controlling electromagnetic fields. Many disciples believed that David Koresh of Waco, Texas, was the real Messiah.

Where does New Testament faith fit into this picture? John Calvin taught that faith was a gift from God that you get if you are among the elect. You get it when you “pray through,” or have your “salvation experience.” The idea of some brethren is not that different. They say you “get” faith when you read the Bible, quoting Romans 10:17.

The faith that we see in the New Testament is the result of an honest, noble heart with a high regard for truth that is willing to yield to the evidence, much of which is found in God’s Word.

On the first Day of Pentecost after the resurrection, Peter had the opportunity to address such a crowd. Acts 2 records the process of the production of faith in the hearts of devout Jews who were ignorantly guilty of crucifying Jesus. Peter skillfully marshals evidence from the prophets Joel (vs.16-21) and David (vs.30-31), from eyewitnesses (v.32) and from the supernatural evidence that the crowd had seen and heard (v.33). Then he forcefully concludes…

Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ …(Acts 2:36)

The result of this process was they believed and obeyed.

Philip followed the same procedure, recorded in Acts 8.

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. (Acts 8:5-6 ESV)

The Apostle Paul repeatedly followed the same procedure. Consider the record in Act 13. When the magician Elymas opposed the truth, Paul miraculously struck him blind.

“…the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence,” (Acts 13:7) was watching. “Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened,…(Acts 13:10-12)

In a recent publication by a prominent creationist, the question was raised, what would be the result of finding Noah’s ark on Mt. Ararat? He responded by citing Abraham’s conclusion about the rich man’s five brothers. “…they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16:32) He thought the dishonesty of these five men proved that no one would be convinced by clear evidence. This conclusion denies the obvious implications to the contrary demonstrated in the above examples, and it discourages efforts to take advantage of similar opportunities. “It won’t work.” Furthermore, I know the conclusion is wrong because Jesus said so.

Citizens of two cities of Galilee witnessed most of the miracles of Jesus, evidence that clearly demonstrated the divinity of Jesus. He severely rebuked the dishonesty of these cities because they saw but refused to repent. But, should we conclude that no one will be convinced by such evidence? Absolutely not. Jesus said Tyre and Sidon, like Nineveh of old, would have responded honestly. Jesus said this evidence would have convinced them.

“Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented…” (Matthew 11:20-21)

In the parable of the sower, Jesus taught that some people respond honestly and some do not. Some soil is hard and rocky. Some is fertile.

“But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, (Luke 8:15)

What should we learn from this? First, we have the responsibility to honor the truth, to respond honestly to the evidence. (The opposite is implied if it doesn’t work.) Second, honest people will respond to clear evidence. Unless we think we are the only honest people in the world, we need to be busy presenting it.

 

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