Asking, Seeking, and Knocking
Temple Terrace, Florida
The God of heaven offers bountiful blessings to mankind. The spiritual blessings made available by means of the gospel, and the favors which God grants His children in response to their prayers, are not dispensed unconditionally. While it is true that He makes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matt. 5:45), many divine blessings are granted only to those who comply with stated requirements.
Consider the great and precious promises of the gospel. God does not force salvation where it is not wanted. Eternal life is not promised to men who refuse to believe and obey Christ. The gospel persuades but does not coerce. Principles of truth can be taught to people with willing hearts, but these principles cannot be forced on the unwilling. We cannot fire the gospel into one's soul as a gun might be used to fire bullets into his body and compel him against his will to submit.
Some men and women have no more appreciation for the gospel than a dog would have for something sacred; the truth means about as much to them as pearls would mean to swine. God's holy word cannot be forced on profane persons. Jesus said in Matt. 7:6, "Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you."
In the next several verses of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus showed that God's wonderful spiritual blessings may be enjoyed by people who desire them. There must be a willingness to turn to God and an eagerness for His good gifts. Here is how the Lord expresses it: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Matt. 7:7,8). Note the threefold exhortation: Ask, seek, knock!
There are several Greek words translated into English by the verb "ask." Vine says the word used in this passage "more frequently suggests the attitude of a suppliant, the petition of one who is lesser in position than he to whom the petition is made." Hendriksen agrees with this; he says, "The verb is used with respect to a petition which by an inferior is addressed to a superior."
We "ask" because there is want or need. Asking implies humility and recognition of some need. The word under consideration is sometimes translated into English as "desire." For example, it is used in Mk. 11:24 where Jesus said, "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." The asking that results in receiving is an asking that comes from deep desire.
This means to search or look for something. We seek for that which we desire to find. Certain women came to the tomb of Jesus early in the morning on the first day of the week, expecting to complete the process of anointing His body. They entered the tomb but the body was gone. They were much perplexed. Two men appeared in shining garments and said, "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" (Lk. 24:5). It was pointless to search for the living and risen Christ among the dead. This is an example of how the word "seek" is used. For other examples, see Matt. 6:33; Col. 3:1; Rom. 2:7.
This verb, when used literally, means to rap on a door. One knocks on a door when he is seeking admittance or permission to enter. Figuratively, we must "knock" to be admitted into God's favors. It is not necessary that we knock the door down, but the thought is that of expressing the desire for entrance. God opens the door of divine favor when men have enough interest to approach God according to the terms of His will.
When the gospel was preached in Jerusalem in Acts 2, the hearers were pricked in their heart and raised the question, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" They were asking what to do because their interest had been aroused and they were now seeking to know how their sins could be remitted. To use a figure of speech, they were knocking on the door. Peter, who had been given the keys of the kingdom, unlocked the door by telling them to repent and be baptized. Their asking resulted in their receiving; their seeking resulted in their finding; their knocking resulted in the door's being opened. See Acts 2:41.
When the eunuch from Ethiopia was approached by Philip the evangelist in Acts 8, he was asked if he understood what he was reading. The eunuch admitted that he needed help, and he "desired" Philip to come up and sit with him in the chariot. Here was a man anxious to learn the truth. He was asking, searching, and knocking at the door. Philip preached unto him Jesus. The eunuch believed and was baptized.
The jailor at Philippi asked Paul and Silas, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:31). He was seeking the way into God's favor. To use a figure of speech, he was knocking at the door of the kingdom. He was told to believe on the Lord, the word was spoken to him, and he and his household were baptized.
If one asks and does not receive, it is because he is not asking in accordance with God's will. If one seeks and does not find, he may be seeking the wrong thing, or searching in the wrong place. If one knocks but the door is not opened, it may be that he is knocking on the wrong door, or he may be seeking admittance on his own terms instead of God's terms.
It is understood that one must ask, seek, and knock in the right way, in the right attitude, and in accordance with God's will. This is true of the sinner who seeks to enter God's kingdom, and it is true of the Christian who seeks God's blessings through the avenue of prayer.
Truth Magazine XXII: 2, pp. 42-43