By Marcus Vondracek
In 2 Timothy 3:1-4, Paul writes, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” If we were to take the first and last items listed, we would have “lovers of themselves rather than lovers of God.” What a fitting description of the world we live in today. There are multitudes of people who do not care about the God of heaven, who loved them enough to send his only Son to die for their sins. Instead, there are individuals who are only concerned with themselves and how they can enrich themselves with the pleasures of this world.
Paul further states in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, hav- ing itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” We see around us, even in the religious community, the precise thing of which Paul wrote. Many are no longer concerned with the teachings of the gospel, let alone, obeying these teachings. We now have preachers and teachers doing exactly what Paul said they would — telling the unwilling hearers only what they want and desire to hear.
The account of the conversion of the Ephesians in Acts 19 is a breath of fresh air when we look at the condition of those in the world around us. These men had a characteristic that is worthy of notice. They were willing!
The Ephesian men had willing hearts. These men, like all men created by God, had free will to make their own choices. The first description presented to us is that they were disciples. They had made the choice to follow the teachings of John the Baptist, which included the kingdom of heaven, baptism of repentance, and belief in the Son of God (Matt. 3:1-3; Acts 19:4). They were men who were searching out the truth. The Scriptures give us plenty of examples of those who had willing hearts. When Moses was gathering the materials to build the tabernacle, he was instructed by God to take from the people who were of a willing heart and a willing spirit (Exod. 35:5, 21-22, 29). King David, when teaching his son Solomon how to serve God, said, “Serve him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind” (1 Chron. 28:9). King David and the people rejoiced greatly “because they offered willingly to the Lord” when they gathered materials to build the temple (1 Chron. 29:9). Amasiah “willingly offered himself to the Lord” when King Jehoshaphat numbered the mighty men of valor (2 Chron. 17:16).
Paul stressed the character of willingness in his letter to the Corinthians when discussing the subject of giving to the Lord. “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not” (2 Cor. 8:12). Our willingness and purpose are far more important to God than the amount. The Macedonian brethren “first gave themselves to the Lord” (2 Cor. 8:5). A willing heart is needed if one is to serve God. This is demonstrated by the Ephesian disciples, something not seen among many today.
Willing to Listen
The Ephesian disciples were willing to listen. The religious world today is in such confusion and chaos. Everyone states that he is right and that his church will get the sinner to heaven. This confusion has turned many an ear from listening to the good news of Jesus. Jesus told the unbelieving Jews, “Why do you not understand my speech? Because you are not able to listen to my speech” (John 8:43). People are confused, frustrated, stubborn, and do not understand the word of God. Why? Because they are unwilling to listen! The Ephesian disciples were truly willing to listen. Paul came to them preaching about things of which they had no knowledge, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:2), yet they were willing to listen.
Willing to Accept the Gospel
The Ephesian disciples were willing to accept the gospel. In the parable of the sower, Jesus taught that the good ground or the good hearts of men would, after hearing the word, accept it (Mark 4:20). Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, thanked God “because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13). The Ephesian disciples had been baptized into John’s baptism, thus Paul “explained the way of God more accurately,” teaching them that they needed to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. They were willing to accept this teaching of Paul, even though it was foreign and new to them. Sad to say, too many people today are more like the Jewish disciples, who were not willing to accept the teachings of Jesus and “went back and walked with him no more” (John 6:66).
Willing to Obey
The Ephesian disciples demonstrated their willingness to accept Paul’s teachings in the fact that they were will- ing to obey. Jesus further stated that the good heart that accepted the word would “bear fruit” and be active in the work of the Lord (Mark 4:20). Paul went on to say that the word of God was “effectively working” in the lives of the Thessalonian brethren (1 Thess. 2:13). What do we see in our Ephesian disciples? “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5). They did not complain, gripe, fuss, get mad, laugh, or reject. They simply did what they realized they needed to do, and they obeyed.
What a refreshing and encouraging example that we can read of in God’s word — the willing Ephesians of Acts 19.