The Word of God is called a double-edged sword, which divides and judges (Heb. 4:12). Jesus, as the Word of God made flesh (Jn 1:14), taught his disciples that he cuts and divides people (Luke 12:49–53). To the Jew, Jesus is a stumbling block and to the Gentile, talk of Him is foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23). Knowing this, it is right to say resistance to God’s Word is as old as the Garden of Eden.
The prophet Amos was a farmer and herdsman from the southern kingdom of Judah. At that time Israel was a house divided because of a power struggle between the anointed throne of David in Jerusalem and rebellious throne of the ten northern tribes. For two hundred years (930–722 B.C.) the tenuous relationship existed. Amos was told by God to go from the south to the north and to preach the Word of judgment against the disobedient leaders and people in the idolatrous lands from Samaria to Dan. The leaders conspired against Amos when Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, brought charges against the preacher to Jeroboam, the king of Israel (Amos 7:10–17).
When the prophet was confronted by the leaders, they told him to go away. Amos’ defense to them was that he was not particularly happy about God’s assignment for him, either. Still, the prophet was faithful to preach the message the people did not want to hear regarding God’s displeasure with them. Amos’ prophetic Word against the rebels was fulfilled in the years that followed.
Peter was a reluctant follower of Jesus turned willing preacher after he was baptized by the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). He, like Amos, preached a challenging message to the Jews who gathered for the festival at Jerusalem. The outcome was different because of the peoples’ response to the Word of judgment proclaimed against them by the apostle. Instead of responding like the inhabitants of the northern kingdom in the 8th century B.C., they were “pierced to the heart,” and they “received the Word” (Acts 2:37–47). God gave life to them as individuals and to the church.
To be in a church where the Word of God is truly preached will make people uncomfortable because the Word and the Spirit convict them of sin. The Law of God illumines sin, and the hearers of the Word are convicted by the Holy Spirit. There are only two responses to this divine conviction: rebellion or repentance.
Rebellion compounds sin because people will run away from conviction like a criminal runs from his obligation before the judge while free on bail. American congregationalism unfortunately lends itself to this rebellion as some in the flock go wayward looking for greener pastures where the Word is not preached and conviction is not known. They soon suffer in distant fields as Israel learned in the Assyrian diaspora.
Repentance is the better response to the Word of God preached in every era and in every place where people are truly called by His name. We are assured He forgives those who turn from the wicked way of chasing after idols (2 Chron 7:14). Therefore, when the people willingly respond to the message from the willing preacher — God will add to their numbers and mature them (Acts 2:37–41). Jesus said it best, “Obey all I have commanded.”
July 4, 2021