“I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist.” Luke 21:15
Reading this verse, many times the very opposite seems true. Have you ever tried to talk to ungodly men and explain and argue from Scripture concerning a point of doctrine or concerning the walk of a Christian? Have you ever tried to point out an error to such people basing your argument on Scripture and seeking in love to try and win such a one to Christ? I’ve spent hours using the wisdom and power of speech which I believed was Christ’s gift to me. Did they continue to resist …? Not only did they continue to resist, but their hatred mounted and their last state was worse than their first and I left in dismay. What had I done wrong? Where had I failed? Did I misinterpret Scripture? Not enough love on my part? Did Christ make a mistake? These and other thoughts passed in review before my mind’s eye.
It doesn’t hurt so bad if you try to explain, to the man on the street and fail, you can always say, “Well after all he doesn’t belong to a church, knows very little Scripture and maybe doesn’t even know Christ.” But what really hurts is when you talk to a fellow Christian and get nowhere, then you are hurt! Your trusted friend, perhaps the man you work with who goes under the banner of a Christian, someone you respected, these all turn a deaf ear to Scripture and turn on you!
Brother, I tell you, do some deep soul searching, but better still do some deep Bible searching, pray for wisdom and the Lord who upbraideth not will give liberally whatsoever you ask. Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. You will understand, and peace will flood your soul!
The answer came to me one night, as I lay in bed reading “Bondage of the Will” while sad and disillusioned. I stumbled across the answer — no, in God’s providence He directed me.
“But if our mouth is weak at this point, so that our adversaries can resist, His statement that no adversary should be able to resist our mouth is false. However, this inability of our adversaries to resist does not mean that they are forced to abandon their view, or persuaded to acknowledge the truth, or to be silent. Who can force men against their will to believe or confess their error or be silent? What chatters more than an empty head? says Augustine. What is meant by their mouth being stopped, is that they have nothing to say in reply, and though they may say a great deal in reply, yet the judgement of common sense is that they say nothing. This is best demonstrated by examples.
When Christ in Matthew 22 silenced the Sadducees (vv. 23ff) by proving the resurrection of the dead with a Scripture quotation from Moses in Exodus 3 (“I am the God of Abraham,” etc. [Exodus 3;6], He is not the God of the dead but the living”) they were not able to resist or gainsay. But did they therefore give up their view? How often did He confute the Pharisees with the plainest Scriptures and arguments, so that the people could clearly see that they were worsted, and indeed they knew it themselves. None the less they continue to oppose him.
Stephen so spoke, Acts 7 tells us, that, on Luke’s testimony ‘they could not resist the spirit and wisdom with which he spake’ (Acts 6:10). But what did they do? Yield? No! Maddened by-mortification at being worsted, and by their own inability to resist, they shut their ears and eyes and suborned false witnesses against him (6:1lf). See how he confutes his opponents as he stands before the council! Having listed God’s mercies from the beginning of the nation’s life and proved that God never commanded a temple to be built for Him (for that was what he was on trial about, the dispute centered there), at length he grants that there was a temple built under Solomon. Then he takes up that point as follows: ‘But the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands!’ To prove it, he quotes from chapter 66 of the prophet Isaiah. What is the house that ye build unto me? (v. 1). Tell me, now what could they reply against so plain a Scripture? Yet they continued unmoved in attachment to their own view. Where upon he attacks them directly saying, ‘Ye uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy-Ghost! etc. He says that they do resist, though they could not resist.” (1)
I jumped out of bed, ran about oh, twenty feet into the living room — to the bookcase — grabbed a Calvin commentary and looked up Acts 6:10 where we find written. “And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he (Stephen) spake.” But did these church officials continue to resist Stephen? They certainly did — they resisted him to the death. Stephen paid for his defense with his life, for they stoned him to death. Acts 7 vs. 58.
In Acts 7 vs. 54 and vs. 57 we find written the reaction of ungodly men to the truth of the “Word of God. These men mind you, were men of the so-called church. It isn’t much different today. Vs. 54. “When they heard these things, they were cut to
the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.” And vs. 57, “Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears and ran upon him with one accord.” And vs. 58 — “And cast him out of the city and stoned him . . .”
Calvin commenting on these verses says this concerning vs. 54 —
“At the beginning the proceedings had some appearance of justice, but in the end the judges cannot contain their anger. His speech is first broken off by a murmuring and rustling of disagreement. Then they break into a tumult of hostile shouts, so that no voice may penetrate their ears. After that they drag the holy man off to death. Now Luke gives a very fine description of what great power Satan has in driving on the adversaries of the Word. When he says that they were broken apart within he means that they were not simply burning with anger; but were stirred up by frenzy. And that fury breaks out into gnashing of teeth, like a violent fire into flame. All the reprobate, over whom Satan rules, are of necessity affected in this way, when they hear the Word of God. And the nature of the Gospel is to drive to madness hypocrites, who could previously have presented a mild appearance, just like a drunkard who is suddenly roused up when he is trying to get to sleep. Therefore, Simeon, ascribes to Christ as His own, the property ‘to disclose the thoughts of many hearts’ (Luke 2:35). Yet this ought not to be attributed to the doctrine of salvation, for it has been intended rather to serve the purpose of subduing the minds of men, and then changing them to obedience to God. But the truth is that, when men’s minds are in Satan’s grip, if they are being pressed by the Word, impiety is bound to break out. This is, therefore, an accidental evil. Nevertheless, we are warned by these examples that we must not entertain the hope that the Word of God will call everybody back to soundness of mind: and this teaching is very necessary to maintain our perseverance. Those who carry the burden of teaching cannot perform it and carry it thru faithfully, without bringing themselves into a sharp clash with those who despise God. Now since impious men who make light of the majesty of God, are never lacking, it is frequently necessary to have recourse to vehemence like Stephen’s. For we have-no right to close our eyes to it, when God’s honor is being taken away from Him. But what will the outcome of that be? Their impiety will be the more inflamed; and so we shall appear to be pouring oil upon the flames, as the saying goes. But whatever the results may be, yet we must not spare the ungodly but we must powerfully suppress them, even if they are bound to spew out all the furies of hell. And it is certain that those, who wish the ears of the ungodly to be soothed with pleasing things, have not so much an eye for success, as that they are soft because of fear of danger. But as for ourselves, even if the result may not always correspond to our wishes, let us realize that firmness in declaring the teaching of godliness is a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God.” (2)
Notice, in particular, what the ungodly church officers do in the case of Stephen’s trial. Stephen brings them the word of God but they do not refute Stephen’s arguments by Scripture. This is what is meant in the 15th vs. of Luke chapter 21, “… all your adversaries shall not be able to resist.” This council does not refute Stephen’s arguments by Scripture, they cannot and they know it, so what do they do — they resist all the more vehemently, not with the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of Cod, but by physical force. Vs. 57 tells us they stopped their ears, they would hear no more appeals from Stephen, wouldn’t listen to these appeals.
They also cast him out of their midst. Vs. 58. Get rid of him! Not able to resist the force of Scripture, refusing to answer Scripture with Scripture they resort to force and legalism.
But praise be to God, Stephen rested his case in the hands of the Lord. Vs, 59, “. . . Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” God doesn’t need the reprobate Jew to carry on in the work of His Church. He built himself a new church of which he is the head. Praise be to God, He is not dependent on us but we on Him. May His marvelous wisdom be granted to all those that love Him.
- Martin Luther’s “Bondage of The Will.’ Published by Revell Company, West-wood, New Jersey. Translated by J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston, pp. 129-131.
2. Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, Acts of the Apostles, Vol. I. Translated by W. J. G. Me Donald, Eerdmans Publishing House, pp. 216-217.