Seeing But Not Perceiving
Paul's encounter with the Jewish leaders in Rome was to enable them to see how Jesus was the Messiah they had been anticipating (Acts 28:17-22). But, as he spoke, the leaders started arguing with each other. Some may have wanted to hear more, but the majority had made up their minds to reject Paul's message even before they came to his house. It was not a reasonable discussion of different opinions, but an open demonstration of how closed some of their minds were.
Paul saw how Isaiah's words exactly fitted the leaders' hearts. There was no value in blurring the truth: Paul had come to Rome to expose the truth about Jesus in all its clarity. So he quoted from Isaiah 6:9-10, prefaced by the statement that God the Holy Spirit was speaking through Isaiah's pen revealing more than Isaiah originally understood (1 Peter 1:10-12).
The task of evangelism is to sow the Word with the expectation of reaping. But alongside that, there will be people whose hearts are so hardened against the truth that they cannot understand the message, because they do not want to. Isaiah's prophecy shows God's judgement on those who callously resist the Word of God. Jesus also used the same verses from Isaiah in John 12:40, to alert the Pharisees that He had not come to play religious games or intrigue them with new ideas. The fact that the leaders went away after Paul spoke the Scriptures to them showed that, although they were deeply religious, they were not in God's family (1 John 2:19).
Gospel proclamation is both the message of grace to those who will receive it, and the message of judgement to those who choose to refuse it. Jesus and Paul, and all who are faithful to God's Word will not blur the clear edges of the gospel. It is a matter of eternal life and death (John 3:18). Those who refuse the life of Christ may think that their proud defiance will diminish the truth. Not so. The Lord knows their hearts; they need to know that if they turn to the Lord they will be saved; but if not, there is no salvation anywhere else (Acts 4:12). That is the hard task for the gospel messenger – a task for which Jesus and most of His apostles lost their lives. But the gospel messenger must not keep silent: those who will repent will receive eternal life and those who do not, can never say that they were not told the truth. That is why the gospel message is so awesome. It is very dangerous to refuse God when He speaks (Hebrews 12:25).
© Dr Paul Adams