What is the difference between listening and hearing? Everything. I am guessing that you are like me and have found yourself in one sided conversations before. Perhaps you have been speaking to someone as they are reading a new text message they just received. You might call them out on it, and they would respond, “I’m listening,” but you know they are not.
Jesus said in Mark 4:12 that this would be the case for a number of people, “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
If you have ever shared the Gospel with someone, I guarantee you have experienced this reality. You explain to them that we are all sinners, that we need saving from the punishment of God, that Jesus has paid for our punishment on the cross and that in order to receive this gift we must place our faith in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and they respond, “Yep, uh-huh, you bet, sounds good.” They may even say the sinner’s prayer, which is not In the Bible by the way, and then keep on living a life independent of God. They may have been listening, but they were not hearing. So what is going on? God has not cut them to the heart.
The people in Acts 2 were most likely in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ death. They probably had seen Jesus first hand, witnessed and heard about his miracles, listened to his teaching, saw his crucifixion and heard the stories of his resurrection, but not until Peter preached the Gospel to them at Pentecost did they have ears to hear. What was the difference between Jesus’ proclaiming the Gospel and Peter proclaiming the Gospel? Was Peter better at it than Jesus? Absolutely not! The difference was God’s timing.
God has mercy on whom he has mercy, and calls people into his family when he wants. Verse 39 speaks to this reality, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord God calls to himself.” He is not subject to the whims of people. When he wants you, he gets you. Acts 2 is powerful evidence of this fact. The Gospel was shot like an arrow into the hearts of the audience by the power of the Holy Spirit and three thousand people accepted Jesus. Why? Was it chance? Absolutely not. There is no such thing as chance in the Sovereign God’s Universe. It was God.
I believe we have made a grave error in American Christianity and have put ourselves in the place of God. We desire to take credit for our conversion and others conversion, when we should be giving God glory for what happens in a man’s heart. The difference between when people have ears to hear and when they don’t is not up to man, it is up to God. It is Christ who heals the spiritually blind and deaf, not us.
Perhaps I am wrong, but I am convinced that if we had a right Biblical understanding about who gets credit for salvation, we would have a more prayer driven Church, a purer Church, a bolder Church, and a more God glorifying Church. So let us give glory, where glory is due.