Acts 28 Part 2                                   Back to Bible Studies     

Well here we are at the end of our study of Luke’s letter to Theophilus, the Book of Acts. This is the last study of this book.

 

Looking back to last week, we finished the study reading about Paul’s obedience to the Lord, his willingness to persevere and teach “the hope of Israel”, who is Christ, to the Jew’s again in Rome (v. 20). Recall that Paul has brought this message to the Jews many, many times over. Often to a hostile crowd who made many unpleasant accusations against him. He taught from morning to evening; “Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe” (v. 24).

 

So as we read through Acts verses 21 to 31 again we refresh our minds and remember that Paul quotes Isaiah just before the Jews depart:

 

“’You will be ever hearing but never understanding;

you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’

For this people’s heart has become calloused;

they hardly hear with their ears,

and they have closed their eyes.

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

hear with their ears,

understand with their hearts,

and turn, and I would heal them.” (v. 26-27)

 

One has to ask, “what is it that has caused the Jews to land in this situation?” That is, how do they continuously hear God’s message through Paul and the other disciples, yet not believe? This mystery will be the focus of tonight’s study.

 

First we must note that Paul quoted Isaiah in slightly different words:

 

“’Be ever hearing, but never understanding;

be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’

Make the heart of this people calloused;

make their ears dull

and close their eyes…” (Isaiah 6:9,10)

 

Note that the original text, from the Septuagint uses the emphatic tense here. This is lost in modern translations but in this case Paul uses it too. “Make” is emphatic, it is not optional, but will happen here. “Make the heart of this people calloused;”.

 

But before we move into this part of the text let’s look briefly at Acts 28:24. We read here that “some were convinced” and “others would not believe”. Not believe or disbelieved comes from the original Greek word “epistoun”. Epistoun is greek but can be linked to the Hebrew word which translates to “stubborn refusal”. So some believed and some refused to believe. This suggests they actually made a choice. Yet if we read verses 26 and 27 it looks like God was keeping them from hearing and seeing. We can trace this unbelief all the way back to Deuteronomy chapter 29, our homework from last week.

 

“Your eyes have seen all that the Lord did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those miraculous signs and great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.” Deut 29:2-4

 

The Jew’s who had just escaped Pharaoh in Egypt, they had seen many signs that God had given to Moses, and they had escaped slavery. Yet they did not believe and so the Lord led them to wander in the desert.

 

When the Lord looks to renew his covenant with the Jews he cautions them “When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, ‘I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.’ This will bring disaster…” (Deut 29:19).

 

In Matthew 13:10-17, the disciples asked Jesus “’Why do you speak to the people in parables?’ He replied, ‘the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.’” Is this a judicial blindness placed upon them because of their continuous unbelief?

 

Hebrews 3:7-11 also refers to Deuteronomy 29. They always see God’s work, but never understand what the Lord is trying to do. What was God trying to show them in the desert? He wanted to show them they needed to rely on Him. He persisted with miracles for 40 years, their clothes and sandals did not wear out, and he provided food for them despite being in the desert. Somehow they didn’t see the significance of this lesson. Later Jesus experiences the same continuous disbelief (John 12:37-40). He quotes the words of Isaiah (Is 53:1-2) where Isaiah is speaking of Jesus, “…because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him” (John 12:41).

 

So what are the Roman Jew’s not seeing? What is this stubborn refusal all about? After all this work throughout Jewish history, repeatedly showing them signs and wonders He even sends his son and still they cannot see Him. They are refusing to see Jesus for who he really is! God did not blind them from the start, but as a result of their continued refusal to see Him. Even today we see this continued disbelief. Look at creation and Darwinism as an example.

 

Now there is one more question we need to consider in this study. Who stands to gain from the hardening of hearts? The Lord hardens their hearts, yet he does not gain from it. No, it is Satan who gains: “..god of this age has blinded…” (2Cor 4:3,4). Sin’s deceitfulness is self-reliance. Saul found this out in 1 Sam 15:13-23. Recently Peter Thomas, while teaching the book of Hebrews at Capenwray, Geraldine, stated “partial obedience is still disobedience”. Satan gains from our sin. We may have little things in our lives that are gaping holes of deceit, idols such as a car, money, a garden, a career. We let these take precedence in our lives rather than following Him.

 

Back to 1 Sam 15, Saul believed something that wasn’t the truth and so he was condemned. In fact, Samuel was so worried about Sauls interpretation of what God wanted him to do he finished the job and kills Agag. Samuel was not deceived, he didn’t doubt and was obedient to the Lord.

 

The Jew’s refuse to see Christ as the Messiah. They had their own preconceived idea of who the Messiah should be. Like Saul, this idea was not the truth, despite Jesus demonstrating who he was time and time, again and again. It happened in the desert after Moses led the Jews out of Egypt, and it happened again after the book of Acts was written. At approximately 70 AD the Jews remained “hardened” and Jerusalem and Israel (the temple) was destroyed. We still see hardened hearts today and hardened hearts lead to blindness.

 

Back in Exodus 19 and 20 God made a covenant with Israel. One that was broken due to “stubborn refusal”. We now have a new covenant in Jesus Christ as a result of His dying on the cross and this brings us to the real question of this study…are we willing to accept Him…or not?