“Throughout Jesus’ teaching these two words know and do occur constantly, and always in that order. We cannot do until we know, but we can know without doing. The house built on the rock is the house of the man who knows and does. The house built on the sand is the house of the man who knows but does not do.” Francis Schaeffer; No Little People, Crossway Books, p.28
“My brother, sister, friend: read, study, think, and read again. You were made to think. It will do you good to think; to develop your powers by study. God designed that religion should require thought, intense thought, and should thoroughly develop our powers of thought. The Bible itself is written in a style so condensed as to require much intense study. I do not pretend to so explain theology as to dispense with the labor of thinking. I have no ability and no wish to do so.” Charles G. Finney
Hearing, Understanding and Doing
In this chapter, we will consider the relationship between and the importance of hearing (being exposed to truth), understanding (assimilating the meaning of truth to which one is exposed) and doing (acting upon and behaving according to the truth one understands).
On a number of occasions, Scripture reveals that simply having certain abilities is not sufficient for producing “good fruit.” In order to be fruitful, a particular, proper use of one’s abilities is necessary. In addition, Scripture uses references to physical aspects of man to make a spiritual and moral point. For example, Mark 8:18 records that Jesus said, “Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?” This indicates that having been exposed to truth, they did not perceive the meaning and significance of that to which they had been exposed. The prophet Isaiah makes a similar statement when saying, “You have seen many things, but you do not observe them; your ears are open, but none hears” (Isaiah 42:20).
Regardless of what one does with the information with which they are presented, the process of consistently producing good fruit begins with exposure to truth. This takes place on a number of levels. There are certain truths that are “standard equipment” with human beings. In Romans 1, Paul states, “…that which is known about God is evident within (us); for God made it evident to (us).” God placed a measure of truth within us and all around us as all of creation reveals truth about our Creator. In Romans 2, he establishes that we have “…the Law written in (our) hearts.” Unfortunately, Paul also states that we have suppressed this truth and are therefore, without excuse for our immoral behavior and consequent guilt (Ro.1:18-20). He further indicates that even in this state of guilt, the Gentile can instinctively do the things of the Law. Paul clearly asserts that sin is not an issue of being void of truth or lacking the ability to respond to available truth, it is a rejection of truth and a refusal to use one’s abilities properly. However, when a guilty person does something that is consistent with the Law, it does not relinquish his or her previously established guilt.
Beyond an initial level of communication and truth, there are deeper levels of moral truth and information presented in Scripture. Truth about God and His provision for and instruction about deliverance from moral guilt and bondage are expounded upon in the pages of Scripture. Paul continues in Romans 10:13-14 by writing, “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” We see, in this passage, a definite recognition that there is a need to hear truth before one can benefit. There are two important points to acknowledge in this opening section – exposure to truth is a necessary first-step toward producing good fruit (character and valuable contribution to the lives of others, society and the kingdom of God) and exposure to truth does not automatically produce good fruit; one might handle such truth appropriately or inappropriately.
In reference to hearing and being exposed to truth, we turn our attention to the parable of the seed and the soil in Matthew 13:18-23. Each group represented in this parable were exposed to truth, had seed sown upon them. This is a necessary beginning in the overall process of moral transformation. However, the first three groups did not respond appropriately to available truth and, consequently, produced no fruit.
It is important to avoid responding to such revelation as though it is merely another Sunday school lesson that we file away like an old, discarded cell phone in a drawer. We must make personal and contemporary application. For all the exposure to Biblical information church-going people experience, is there evidence that we produce a proper measure of corresponding fruit, do we see personal growth and cultural / national transformation?
In our next post, we will briefly consider the issue of understanding.