Receive or Resist

Receive or Resist
Robert Wurtz II

Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts 8:14-17)

The book of Acts is a breath of fresh air in every chapter. In Luke’s narrative we discover, in the simplest of ways, how the Gospel was preached, what was preached, and how the various people responded. From Jewish leaders to Roman officials; common Samaritans and pagan Greeks, multitudes heard the Gospel. There was no time to get too bogged down in theological debates; things were pretty straight forward. The Apostles preached the word and the people responded. Indeed, the book of Acts contains a God’s eye view of man’s reaction to the message. In this entry I wish to examine two categories of people: they who gladly received the word and they who resisted the Holy Spirit.

You Always Resist

You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom you have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. (Acts 7:51-54)

Our first example is taken among the very people that the Gospel was originally sent. Many Jews had already believed, but many had not. Some, such as Saul of Tarsus, were persecuting the Church. He would be present for this sermon.

The Holy Spirit was at work with the preacher to bring to bear the truth of what was spoken. Stephen had preached a powerful message; perhaps one of the greatest of all time. Nevertheless, the people refused to receive what was said, but, rather, continued in the pattern of their fathers- resisting the Holy Spirit and persecuting the messenger. You will notice later in Acts chapter 8 that the thing which characterized they who received the Holy Spirit was that they first received the word of God. This is the key. 

In Acts 2 the people were said to have “gladly received the word” and as a consequence were baptized. However, in Acts chapter 7, the people resisted instead of receiving. They resisted Stephen’s preaching and they resisted the Holy Spirit. God was trying to set them right, but they closed their eyes and stopped their ears. We have this passage in Isaiah:

That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it. (Isaiah 41:20)

You will recall that part of Paul’s commission was to “open their eyes” so as to turn the people from darkness to light. Paul preached so that “they may see, and know, and understand, and consider…” This is what Stephen had done. At first Paul (Saul) resisted the message and refused to consider. Nevertheless, in time Paul did see and understand. In fact, when we get to Acts 28 he thoroughly explains the process by another reference to Isaiah:

And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Isaiah the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Acts 28:25-27)

 Will you notice, “their eyes they have closed.” This is an obstinate refusal to recognize the truth of what is preached. Their heart had “waxed gross” or in the language of Hebrews, they had an evil heart of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:12) This means that their heart refused to receive what was said and consider it. No matter how much evidence was brought to bear, the people still refused to believe. They needed to be healed of their backsliding and rebellion, but they resisted the one who wanted to come in to them and do the work. One cannot receive the Holy Spirit without agreeing with God’s word and believing on Him. We simply cannot receive and resist at the same time.

Two Types of Hearers

In time the message was almost lost in the main stream as the Church became locked up in the Catholic system. God corrected this in time with the Reformation other great moves of God. Nevertheless, the high-speed evangelistic methods of the early 1900s destroyed nearly 400 years of progress in evangelism and New Covenant, book of Acts, Christianity. When the people refused to receive the word, many ministers changed the message. When this happened with famous preachers, many local ministers followed the trend.  this is why it is so rare to hear expounded the basic message of Acts: repent, believe, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit.

It is important to point out that following popular preachers feels like the safe thing to do. It’s an ancient temptation we all must deal with from childhood. How many of us have used the excuse, “Well, everyone is doing it!” – only to have our parents or teachers reply, “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you do that too?” Moses writing in Exodus 23:2a states,Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil. We have to preach God’s word no matter who likes it. That seems brash, but it is as simple as we can say it. We can’t keep wasting time worrying about offending folks. Rather, we ought to worry about offending God who has given us His word to see clearly. What sense does it make to follow the pattern of the radio and TV guys when the Bible is in our hands? We follow no one beyond their agreement and conformity to the Book. Stephen was gnashed on with the peoples’ teeth, but refused to compromise the message. We have not yet resisted unto blood striving again compromise. But then again, Stephen was genuinely full of the Holy Spirit.

How the people received what was preached was out of Stephen’s control. He knew this. It is not our responsibility to force people. We lay out the message and the response is between the hearer and God. If they receive it, wonderful! If not, Jesus said to wipe the dust from your feet. (Mark 6:11) Paul had to do it at times. Stephen didn’t get a chance. He was killed for merely being the messenger. However, when Philip preached in Acts 8, those people gladly received the very word that the people in Acts 7 rejected and resisted. What can we learn from this?

People Are What They Are

Modern western culture is sales-driven. It has been this way since the early 1900s when central banking came into fashion and money was readily available. Nobody is alive that can remember a time when products were sold strictly on their performance. Today, items are made to appeal to the unconscious desires of consumers. that is how you make sales. 

The trouble with this aspect of our consumer driven culture is that sales people have been taught to “land a sale” at almost any cost. People are prepared to stretch the truth, manipulate, appeal to selfish desires, or anything else to “get the sale.” Typically, and more basically, when you want to sell something to a person the goods or services have to appeal to their wants. We need to ask, should this method be employed in the Gospel?

When this consumer philosophy carries over into evangelism the preachers become salesmen and the product is the Gospel. Bill Bright, in the 1950s, actually employed a “crackerjack car salesman” in his training of the four spiritual laws. That sounds almost unbelievable, but it according to his wife, it happened. This is the “billion in print” tract that begins with, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life…” Is that ever said in the book of Acts? Absolutely not, but it is a safe thing to say and in part it is true. Nevertheless, this is not how the Gospel was presented. The problem was that this corruption of evangelism was never challenged in the main stream, so salesman preaching became the norm ever since. 

In contrast, the book of Acts reveals that none of the preachers were “crackerjack salesmen.” The Apostles presented the message and God’s requirements, and didn’t worry about landing the sale. Obviously they cared about souls, but they knew that if the message did not change the person- the preacher can’t change the message. Change only flows one direction; and it is towards the hearer.

Gladly Receiving

It is amazing how smooth things go when people “gladly receive the word.” No fuss over repentance and faith. No fuss over water baptism. No fuss over receiving the Holy Spirit. No proof-texting to avoid all of this. Sadly, when the resisting begins – so does the fuss. Many people appeal to reason, the epistles, or even the Old Testament to try and sidestep the straight-forward message of the book of Acts. Repent, believe the Gospel, be baptized in water, and receive the Holy Spirit is the basic package. The ink has been dry for almost 2000 years. Nevertheless, at issue is inward rebellion against God and a refusal to agree with Him and turn from the evil. Man can manufacture excuses like Henry Ford produced automobiles; but God is never at the mercy of excuses. He searches the hearts and knows its true condition.

Why So Many Never Receive

I believe that one of the greatest problems we face in the world today is that people, generally, have no idea how powerful God is. They are blind to the fact that He knows the deepest thoughts and intentions of our hearts; and He cannot be fooled. Many try it and end up empty. They refuse to receive the word and repent; they refuse to receive Christ; they refuse to receive water baptism; and they refuse to receive the Holy Spirit. Indeed they resist the word; they resist Christ; they resist water baptism (as did the Pharisees); and they resist the Holy Spirit. They will receive our fellowship and social activities; they will receive the pop music and singing (and the soulish feelings – believing it is the Holy Spirit); they will receive the aesthetics that feel more and more like the sinful world they enjoy; but they refuse the very reason for our existence. Many are unwittingly trying to fool sinners into feeling and experiencing something that they think is the Holy Spirit. Majestic impressions are not the Holy Spirit; they are emotional impressions. This is the modern consequence of rejecting Romans 12:1-2. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit does not come to bring a feeling- He comes to convince the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come. That is a staggering and sobering consideration. 

Two “One Accords”

 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. (Acts 8:5-6)

 The people in the previous chapter ran upon dear Stephen with one accord in their rejection of his word and their resistance of the Holy Spirit. In contrast, the Samaritans with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake. Both Stephen and Philip worked miracles. What was the difference? It was plainly the people. There was no middle ground. Fortunately things were cut and dry back then. There were no ministers changing up the message to allow a group that resisted the Holy Spirit and rejected the word to join and participate in the church. That would come later. So the question becomes, what line are we in? The new standards of modern times have no authority. They are a smoke screen. We must hold up the mirror of God’s word to our lives. If we were transferred back into Acts 7 and 8; what category of people would we be placed into? Would we run upon the man of God with gnashing teeth; or would we gladly receive the word, repent, be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit? All of the fussing in the world boils down to this reality. 

The Blessing of Receiving

The wonderful thing about receiving the word and the promises is that God will leave off convicting of sin and will pour in love, joy, and peace. The operation of the Holy Spirit changes when we stop resisting and finally submit. What an awesome truth! Once the foundation is laid, God wants us to live in a continual flow of His Spirit. The reason why Stephen could endure the violence of the crowd was because he had something the crowd did not have. He was full of the Holy Spirit. Full of love. Full of joy. Full of peace. How? At some point he had to open his eyes and see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this. He had to gladly receive the word; and then receiving the rest was not a fuss. 

Paul’s Gospel in Biblical Terms

Paul’s Gospel in Biblical Terms
Robert Wurtz II

“Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” (Acts 26:19, 20.)

Strong churches are comprised of strong Christians. Spiritual churches are made up of spiritual believers. To gain strong, spiritual Christians we need a genuine Gospel defined in Biblical terms. We don’t have to look far. If we read the scriptures carefully we can develop working definitions of all the terms associated with the Gospel such as repentance, faith, baptism in water, baptism in the Holy Spirit (receiving the Holy Spirit), etc. Bible words have histories and these histories existed in the consciousness of the people that John the Baptist, Jesus and the Apostles preached to. When preaching to the Jews they could refer to an event or a person and suddenly an entire context would come to mind. When the Gospel went to the Gentiles more explaining was required, but the message remained the same and the terms carried the same meaning. If we define Gospel terms Biblically and refuse to succumb to some lesser thing we are enabled to have Christians and churches that are strong and spiritual. If we pour other meanings into these words and settle for lesser standards we will fill the churches of God with goats, tares and chaff. 

What Exactly Did Paul Preach?

What did Paul preach? We have the record in his own words. About twelve years (or two-thirds) into his ministry, Paul went before King Agrippa to give an account of himself. He had been persecuted by Jew and Gentile alike and now has been taken before the authorities. What Paul tells the king is a summary of his ministry up until this time. Paul testified, “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” (Acts 26:19, 20. emphasis added) This is an amazing revelation. No more need to wonder what he was preaching in the beginning at Corinth, Demascus, or any other place. Understand that Paul preached essentially the same message to everyone. Therefore, if he says it to Corinth it is likely he has said the same things everywhere. It was a universal message. Some hearers may have been at varying levels of understanding to begin with, but in time they would all be taught the full revelation of all of the issues involved that we piece together in Paul’s writings. Did you notice that what Paul preached everywhere according to Acts 26:19, 20 is essentially the message of John the Baptist? For all that is said about Paul’s preaching, few ever make note of this one fact. Paul preached repentance everywhere he went in the John the Baptist sense of the word. 

Repentance not in vogue

In modern times repentance is marginalized to the extent that if one never read their Bible and only listened to TV and radio preaching, you may get the idea that Paul and the other Apostles only preached a so-called ‘easy-believism’. That is to say, if a person agrees to certain facts about the Gospel (‘believes’) they are said to be ‘justified by faith’. Some say repentance is somehow an outdated concept that only applied to the Jews of the 1st Century and not to Gentiles, or they suggest some other dismissive theology that widens the narrow gate. I have personally been told that repentance is not necessary for the Gentiles. Promoters of such ideas are contrary to Christ and the Gospel. A.T. Robertson commented on Acts 26:19, 20 saying, “Paul, the greatest of theologians, was an interesting practical preacher.” That is a way of saying that Paul, the greatest theologian, preached that all men should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. If thou wilt be as Paul, do likewise!

Genuine Faith  

When Jesus got ready to give an example of repentance He spoke of Nineveh, that repented at the preaching of Jonah. (Matthew 12:41) Though these people knew very little about God, they believed the message of impending doom (Jonah 3:4) and responded rightly by humbling themselves and mending their ways. Likewise when God got ready to give an example of genuine faith he gave us a long list of names in Hebrews 11. When Paul addresses justification by faith he uses one of those names, Abraham, a man like the people of Nineveh, that knew very little about God. God called Abraham out of the pagan city of Ur of the Chaldees and he obeyed. That is to say, he responded rightly to what God had said. This is genuine faith. Not ‘saying’ he believed and then his actions didn’t match. Each new revelation was met with a new step of faith. Then we come to these words, And he (Abraham) believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) This passage is quoted some three times in the New Testament and all in relation to justifying faith (Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, James 2:23). If we want to understand justifying faith we have to look at Abraham. He is archetype of genuine faith. It was not a one off assent of the mind or will: faith for Abraham was a lifestyle. He made a life of responding rightly to the things God revealed to him. Repentance and Faith are essential to the universal message of the Gospel. Two thousand years have not changed that fact. 

Building Upon Obedience

If a person refuses to believe how can they go on with God? Without faith it is impossible to please God, for they that come to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him. If a person refuses to repent how can they go on with God? God used to overlook ignorance, but now He commands all men everywhere to repent because He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness. Remember that we defined repentance as what the people of Nineveh did. Some may ask, who needs to repent? Why should men repent? Because Peter tells us that the Holy Spirit is given to those that obey God (Acts 5:32). This is a sobering truth. Going on with God is like walking through a series of doors, each of which requires that we exercise faith in obedience. If we do not believe the message of repentance we will not obey. This means the process is stopped. Sadly, some people want to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and have no desire or intention of repenting. What happens? They seek being ‘filled’ while resisting the Holy Spirit. This is a dangerous thing to do. I’m reminded of Paul, For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. (2 Cor. 11:4) The true Jesus demanded repentance and faith, what does the Jesus you preach or have heard preached demand? And if we are moving in a Gospel that does not require repentance and faith, what spirit can we expect to have received as a result? Apparently there is the possibility that, “…if ye receive another spirit.” At the risk of shocking you even more, I submit that when a person seeks to be filled with the Spirit and are still in flagrant rebellion they open themselves up to all kinds of wierd stuff. You can’t receive and resist the Holy Spirit at the same time, but apparently, accoring to Paul, we can resist the Holy Spirit and receive ‘another spirit’ that would not have been received by Paul. Going on with God means obedience. 

Filled But Rebellious?

When a person is truly repentant in the John the Baptist/Nineveh sense of the word and they are moving in the steps of the faith of Abraham (Romans 4:12), being baptized in water will not be a fuss. A person that is converted in this way is eager to obey God. This is the mindset necessary to receive the Holy Spirit. It can happen instantly or it can take a little time, but the ingredients have to be there. Some want to go on living worldly and like the sons of Sceva think they can receive the Spirit and move in the supernatural. There is no new thing under the sun. If a person is seeking the Spirit for a manifestation of power only they are in the same category with Simon in Acts 8 that thought the power of laying on of hands could be bought with money. Peter’s answer? Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” (Acts 8:22, 23 NKJV) This is an insightful and instructive passage. 

Water Baptism 

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41)

This is the key to right response to God and going on with God, “…gladly receiving the word.” 

Take Phillip for example. He is ministering to the Ethiopian eunuch apparently along these lines. After a time of sharing the Gospel we read, And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Acts 8:36, 38). This man wanted to follow through immediately with his faith. He truly believed, and as a result, water baptism was not a fuss; in fact, the man seemed to nearly run to the water. This is proof that he was legit. No begging. No arguing. No looking up proof texts for excuses. He joyfully obeyed. What’s stopping me right now?! This is how the disciples reacted to Paul at Ephesus, when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Again, this is a sign of true conversion. Jesus told Satan that man was to live by every word that is proceeding from the mouth of God. It was His desire and it will be the desire of those that truly are changed. When we are moving in truth we receive with gladness the word of God.  

Another Gospel or Paul’s Gospel

Recently a former US district prosecutor and his wife were building a home in an upscale neighborhood on Long Island, NY near the beach. They set the plans out and wanted the thing exactly as the plans read. When they discovered it would not fit on the property, they tore it down wood framing, foundation and all and started over. It was a $150,000 loss. The botched home construction reminds me of our times. We think that somehow God will allow us to alter the plans or flub the measurements and details and then He comes along and has to tear the thing down and start over again. We cannot improve upon God design for the churches of God. We have to employ the same things as did the Apostles, 1. repentance 2. faith 3. baptism in water 4. baptism in the Holy Spirit and all of them in the genuine article. If we remove any of these things we have no sure foundation. If we don’t have a sure foundation there is no reason to continue to build. There is no telling how many problems that we deal with every day in the churches of God could be greatly reduced if we would simply get back to this most basic message and stick with it. 

Gladly Receiving the Word

Gladly Receiving the Word
Robert Wurtz II

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. (Acts 2:41)

Our passage holds the key for all peoples everywhere desiring to go on with God. This key is encapsulated as a group among the hearers that were distinguished from the rest of the crowd. There was a group who gladly received his word. Before hand they had obstinately refused the word, but now more revelation has come and they see the truth for what it is. But more than seeing the truth, they gladly received it. The Greek word underlying gladly is only used twice in the New Testament and is exclusively in Luke’s writings in Acts. That word is ἀσμένως (asmenōs) and is derived from hedone meaning pleasure. This is insightful because the passage is essentially saying that the people found pleasure in receiving the word of God. By implication they had come to agree with the word of God in such a way as to gladly embrace it as if they were doing their own will. Simply put, they wanted and were pleased to obey God. 

Evidence of Pleasure

The proof that these people were pleased to receive the word was that they were eager to obey God’s revealed will. This is evidence of change. The carnal mind cannot please God because it is not pleased to hear what God has to say. The spiritual mind eagerly desires to know and do God’s good pleasure. We have an interesting passage related to Jesus, Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. (John 4:33, 34 NKJV) A careful look at our Lord’s comments are instructive. While the disciples were concerned about where their next meal was coming from and whether or not Jesus was going to eat, He was concerned about doing the will of God. It was a perfect teaching moment for Jesus. They knew He had to be hungry so they urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” (NKJV) This is not just instructional it is sobering. The disciples at this stage in their experience could not relate to what Jesus was saying, but the day came at Pentecost where they could relate. In the mean time they were left with the impression that the desire of Christ and subsequently those that will be baptized into Him will find pleasure in doing God’s will in the same measure that the natural man finds pleasure in eating when he/she is hungry. In other words, they will receive God’s word like a starving man receives a hot meal.

Not By Bread Alone

The natural man desires natural food, but Jesus walks out the desire of the spiritual man in flesh and blood. Satan in the wilderness attempted to appeal to the natural man in getting Jesus to turn the stones into bread. Yet, He was so utterly bent on doing God’s will that He utterly refused to please Himself unless He knew it was part of God’s plan. He is our example. What did He tell Satan? It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4) This is one of our very first lessons predating the sermon on the mount. This is what distinguishes Christ and they that are in Him from the rest of the world. They live by every word that is proceeding (verb is present middle) from the mouth of God. It is their food. Satan tried to get Jesus to turn from this rule on more than one occasion.

Pity Thyself

When Jesus spoke of going to the cross Peter stepped in under the influence of Satan. He spoke words to Jesus that were designed to snare Him and keep Him from doing God’s will. We read in Young’s Literal Translation, And having taken him aside, Peter began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Be kind to thyself, sir; this shall not be to thee.’ (Matthew 16:22 YLT) Literally he told Jesus to, “pity Himself.” Jesus reacted in the strongest of terms calling out the influence that was behind the words. He added this comment, for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. The KJV translators have opted to translate phoneo as savourest or ‘to savour’,** but the word literally means to be mindful. In other words, Peter you are not being mindful of the things that be of God, but the things that be of men. Why? You are still being influenced by Satan and the natural man. But the day will come when you will receive the word with pleasure and you will obey it. Until this change comes it will be impossible to be anything other than a natural man.  
The Key to Revival

In modern times it’s almost impossible to speak of hearing the word of God in the New Testament sense without being viewed as a flake or suspect by certain people. They very thing Jesus did and set forth the possibility of the Disciples doing is disregarded in many cases. God wants us to know His will and to obey His will. Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highest captures this great truth when he states, “If you debate for a second when God has spoken, it is all up. Never begin to say – “Well, I wonder if He did speak?” Be reckless immediately, fling it all out on Him. You do not know when His voice will come, but whenever the realization of God comes in the faintest way imaginable, recklessly abandon. It is only by abandon that you recognize Him. You will only realize His voice more clearly by recklessness.” Oswald Chambers


** This entry has been amended to reflect the Greek definition of phoneo as opposed to the English rendering of Savour.   

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