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“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!" Mark 7:16

By Nelson Thomas Mumbai

      According to the gospel writers, the Lord Jesus, at least on six occasions, used this form of speech, “he who has ears let him hear”. Cf. Matt 11:15; 13:9, 43 etc. Later, the Lord used this similar proverbial expression even in His glorified state, while giving the messages to the seven local churches in Asia Minor through Apostle John from the island of Patmos in all of those letters. Rev 2: 7, 11, 17, etc.

      What does this recurring phrase signify? A careful study of the context in which the Lord uttered these words reveals many truths relevant for even today. Here are five things that are noteworthy:

1. The Indispensability of Christ’s Message.
The Lord Jesus is revealing something very important, and this is evident even during a casual reading of similar passages in the gospels. He is declaring certain spiritual truths that are fundamental and revolutionary, which no one should miss. Let me just summarize the major themes of these passages for your quick consideration:
a. The person and the work of Christ. Matthew 11:15
b. Revelation of spiritual secrets. Mark 4:23
c. Scripture and its usefulness. Matt 13: 9; Mark 4:9; Luke 8:8.
d. The corrupt heart of man. Mark 7:16
e. True discipleship. Luke 14:35
f. Counterfeit believers and their future. Matt 13:43

      Any believer who loves the scripture can easily notice how fundamental and vital are all these topics. We also need to seriously consider the Lord’s messages to the local assemblies in the book of Revelation. The Lord’s assessment of those congregations helps us to understand how a local church ought to be.
      Thus, we can notice that whenever Christ uses the phrase, ‘he who has ears let him hear’, He is referring to something so serious, deep, and solemn, that a casual approach to this is harmful. No wonder the Lord calls upon people to take extra effort to hear and grasp these crucial truths He reveals.

2. The Significance of Listening Right.
       The Lord Jesus certainly does not mean to say that they had no ears, but what He meant is that not all are paying sincere attention. Even though these are realities affecting the present as well as the future of one’s life, the average listener is careless then and now. Mark 8:18. Man wants to hear fascinating things that can actually satisfy the fallen nature of man. Acts 17: 20, 21; 2 Timothy 4:3.
       Remember, if those who heard from the lips of the Saviour Himself were so insensitive and indifferent, what more can we expect from the common man today! Such is the general condition of human beings; we immediately slumber listening to God’s word, but earnestly watching an entertainment program!
       It is true there are plenty of preaching programs going on through various media today, but how much seriously we give heed to these. It is not enough to preach and organize preaching sessions. We need to digest the spiritual truths and live by them.
       By saying, ‘he who has an ear let him hear’ Christ wants the half-hearted, reluctant audience to be serious about what they are privileged to. A casual, sluggish attitude to the scripture does not help. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Rom 10:17. So, right hearing of God’s word and right faith in God go hand in hand. Elsewhere, the Lord reminded the hearers of the need to be careful of what they hear and how they hear it. Mark 4:24; Luke 8:18. He also mentioned the consequences of taking God’s word lightly. Mark 4: 24, 25 cf. Act 17:11; Heb 2:1

3. Freedom of the Listener.
      Even though the message is important and the listener must pay serious attention, the Lord Jesus does not compel anyone to listen. The hearer has every freedom to respond to the gospel of Christ, and move ahead in whatever way they choose. Though God our creator very much expects the faithful devotion and obedience of His people, He always appreciates their freedom to choose the best for themselves.
       In fact, the Lord Jesus repeatedly called up on His followers to consider the cost of following Him and even allowed them to return if they wish. Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; 14:27. True faith and love for God should come voluntarily from the depth of our heart. At the same time, this free will of man also makes him responsible for His choices whether words or deeds. Matt. 16:27; Rom. 2:6; Reve. 20:13 etc.
       Now someone may ask, if the Bible appreciates man’s freedom to choose, why should you preach the gospel? That’s a reasonable question indeed.
      Do not forget that it is the response of God’s loving and gracious heart that the unworthy and condemned sinner is approached with the offering of forgiveness and transformation. God in His kindness overlooked the ignorance of man and made available a way of salvation through the atoning sacrifice of His Son, Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 17: 30 – 32. The propagation of this good news is based on love and compassion, not with even an iota of compulsion or force. In fact, a believer enjoys much more freedom than anyone esle!

4. The Importance of Individual Response
      Another idea behind the usage (“he who has ears let him hear”) is that Christ is expecting a personal response. Notice that though the preaching is done publicly, for it is for all, Christ is calling upon individuals. Each one has to respond to Him, fully understanding God’s indictments as well as His demands. As long as the listener refuses to take a personal commitment to the truth he hears, God cannot help him.
      Salvation from sins and the subsequent spiritual blessings are not bestowed upon us collectively, but one by one, as we confess our sins and yield to the Lordship of Christ. By the faith of parents, children cannot be saved; they need to take their own decisions individually. Jer 30: 30, 31. Of course, we have been added to the church, the body of Christ, subsequent to our new birth; yet the Lord anticipates our personal obedience to His word.
       Throughout the scripture we see that it was an individual’s commitment to God’s word that transformed them as well as the community. Godly men though alone, once they were enlightened upon the truth, they surrendered themselves to it bearing shame and loss. Still the Lord needs men and women who will come out and stand alone for God’s word without considering the consequences.

5. The Accountability of the Listener.
       Finally, this form of speech, ‘he who has ears let him hear’ brings before us the accountability of the hearers. Similar words were used by the Lord when He spoke through prophet Ezekiel. “But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD. 'He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house.” Ezek 3:27. Here the emphasis is on their accountability. Exercising their free will, they can respond the way they choose. But these words indicate a judgment for the rebellious that deliberately rejects God’s word.
       Scripture makes it very clear that when one repeatedly rejects God’s message of love, they become hardened in their hearts and find it difficult to change at a later time. No wonder in the last chapter of Revelation we read, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” Reve. 22:11. Refusal to yield to the gospel of Christ seals the future of an individual. They can continue with the path of their choice.

       What a blessed privilege it is that we are able to hear God’s word that enlightens, inspires and warns us. God never forces His word on us. We have the freedom to reject or receive it. However, never forget the value of God’s word that is settled in heaven forever. The repercussions of today’s rebellious refusal will be evident only at a later time. “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says”.




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