By Cecil Willis
There are something like 3.5 billion people upon the earth at this time. These are but fete when’ compared to the many billions more who slumber in the grave. Every rational creature that has lived can, and some day will, be placed in one of two classifications. We are either converted or unconverted. One is either saved or unsaved. The tragedy of all tragedies is to die unconverted. By studying cases of conversion and nonconversion we may enable ourselves to view our own condition more objectively, and thus guarantee that ours will be a case of conversion.
But this week we want to speak of AUnconverted People.@ All of these individuals are in the same class. They are all lost. But the question rises as to why they are in this class. In the Bible we read about individuals and groups of individuals who were not converted, and the reason for their nonconversion is apparent. In many instances the reason for their failure to become Christians is the same as that of people today. In the past centuries there have been no drastic changes in the nature of people. It takes the same Gospel to save people today that it took in the first century, and many, today reject this Gospel for the same reasons first century individuals did.
A Rich Ruler
In Matt. 19 we read about a certain rich ruler that came to Jesus. He had been attracted by the message that Christ spoke. AAnd behold, one came to him and said, Teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why askest thou me concerning that which is good? One there is who is good; but if thou wouldest enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? And Jesus said, Thou shah not kill, Thou shah not commit adultery, Thou shah not steal, Thou shah not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother; and, Thou shah love thy neighbor as thyself. The young man with unto him, All these things have I observed:. what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wouldest be perfect, go sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shah have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sorrowful; for he was one that had great possessions@ (Matt. 19:16-22).
Here was a young man who devoutly had followed the Old Testament law, but wanted to live by the higher law of Christ. He was one that did not know what it would involve, or what it would necessitate. He had never thought that it would demand that he forfeit his riches to be a disciple of Christ. There is a class of people just like this rich young ruler. They would like to follow Christ, but they love the riches of the world too much. Some people acquire their money through wrong means, so they are not willing to give up their practice. The trouble with this class of people is that they have not really purposed to do the will of God. This man would like to be Christ’s disciple if he would dictate to Christ what would be expected of Him.
Once, while in a meeting in Texas, a man wanted to know the position of the members of one congregation of the body of Christ toward lodges. He said, AI am a member of the other congregation here in town, and they are opposed to members of the Lord’s church being members of lodges that are religious in their nature.@ He wanted to leave that congregation. The members of the second congregation told him that they were also opposed to Christians being a part of such organizations. The man replied, AWell, I certainly hate to give up the church, but I am not going to quit my lodge.@ The trouble with this man was the same trouble the rich young ruler had. He wanted to be Christ’s follower but he wanted to tell Christ what He could demand, and what He could not demand. But Jesus’ attitude is, AI will be lord of all, or not lord at all.@
For one to ever please the Lord Jesus Christ, his attitude must be that I will forsake, and forfeit all for my Lord. We must say, AWhere he leads I’ll follow, follow all the way.@ Our heart must cry out, ASpeak Lord, they servant heareth@ (1 Sam. 3:9); and I will obey. If we fail to do this, in the day of judgment we will go away sorrowfully into everlasting punishment.
Fulfilling Isaiah’s Prophecy
Then there is another class of people who are unconverted. They are people who close their ears and their hearts. They do not want to learn what God demands of them. There was such a class in New Testament times. Of this class Jesus said, AAnd unto them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall in no wise understand; And seeing ye shall see, and shall in no wise perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, And their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed: Lest haply they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should turn again, and I should heal them@ (Matt. 13:14, 15). Are there not people today of whom these words may very aptly be spoken?
Many have been the people who have closed their ears to other words from the Lord because they see where they are being led. Perhaps one is a member of a denominational organization, an organization of which one can read nothing in the Bible. When he begins to see enough of Bible truth to learn that to follow Christ he is going to have to leave this human organization and be added to the one body, he turns away. Many people attend a few services of the Lord’s church enthusiastically, but they soon learn they must either obey the Gospel or continue to have their conscience pricked by the powerful Gospel of Christ. Hence they come no more. One who had been recently baptized told me that the unconverted man, upon learning what the Bible teaches, soon reaches the place where he has to obey the Gospel or quit coming. Those who will attend no longer have closed their ears. They are exactly like these people of whom Jesus spoke in Matt. 13.
Christianity is founded and advanced by teaching. Jesus said: AGo ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them…@ (Matt. 28:19). Those who close their ears so tightly that the treasures of truth cannot penetrate to their heart have closed the door to the only opportunity they will ever have to be saved. But millions have done just this.
In the parable of the sower Jesus depicted another class of unsaved people, and tells us why they are unsaved. Jesus told of a sower that went forth to sow, and as he went forth, some of his seed fell by they wayside, and the birds devoured them. To whom doest this refer? Jesus tells us, ANow the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. And those by the way side are they that have heard; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved@ (Lk. 8:11, 12). The precious word of God was so carelessly handled by the recipient of it that the devil snatched it away lest he should believe. In Matt. 13 Jesus tells us that these people understood not the word. But there are many people who do understand the Gospel, but. they handle it carelessly, rather than burying it deeply in their heart. The seed that fell by the way side should have been properly buried in fertile soil, but it was not. Hence it brought forth no fruit. Much preaching of God’s word falls by the way side. Careless hearers let the word be snatched from them to their damnation.
There are many careless hearers who know exactly what God demands of them, but they continue to treat God’s truth lightly. They enjoy living in sin too much. So they let the precious word of God lie outside their heart; Waiting to be carefully buried in a good and honest heart, until Satan snatches it away from them. Thus carelessly they go on their way to hell.
Finally, the Jews as a nation represent another class of unsaved people. What was wrong with the Jews? Why did they reject Christ? John said, AHe (Christ) came unto his own, and they (Jews) that were his own received him not@ (Jn. 1:11). Again in speaking of the Jews, John said, AAnd ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he sent, him ye believe not@-‘ (Jn. 5:38). The Jews rejected and crucified the only Savior they will ever@’have. What caused these people to remain unconverted? How could they overlook the miraculous demonstrations of His divine power? The reason is a simple one. Jesus was not what the Jews expected Him to be. They have preconceived notions as to what the Messiah would be like. But Jesus came just as God had said He would. And since He was not what the Jews thought He would be, they simply could not change their notion, so they rejected Christ.
The Jews expected Jesus to be a ruling monarch, and to lead them to victories over their national enemies, but He came meek and lowly, a crucified redeemer. Since Jesus did not measure up to their standards, they paid no attention to His commands. One of the big reasons for so many different denominations existing today is because people go to the Bible to try to Aprove@ what they already believe, rather than going to it to try to learn what it teaches. If my mind is already made up as I turn to the Bible for proof, I can never arrive at truth. The Jews could not, and neither can I.
People confidently affirm, AI know I am saved for I feel that I am,@ rather than rationally studying what Christ and the apostles say one must do to be saved. One chooses a church, and then tries to prove it is the New Testament church, rather than first consulting the New Testament for a picture of the Lord’s church. One decides what he thinks one must do in order to be saved, rather than earnestly seeking God’s truth on the subject from the pages of His word.
Why are so many unconverted? We have noticed four reasons in this article. (1) They have tried to dictate to Christ rather than obey Christ; (2) They have closed their hearts; (3) They have handled the Bible carelessly; (4) They have preconceived notions.
But how may one be converted? We have already studied several cases of conversion. In every Bible instance, they heard the word of God, they believed in Christ, they repented of their sins, and were baptized (immersed) in water for the remission of their sins. This is the only way to be transferred from the class of the unconverted to the saved group.
Truth Magazine XXI:1, pp. 3-5
January 6, 1977