As I read this morning through Acts 28, verse 24 again caught my eye: “Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe.”
The Greek word (apisteo) in this last clause is best rendered "would not believe" instead of ‘disbelieved’ (as some Bibles translate it). The context implies the people had full opportunity to accept the message, but willfully rejected it.
Here is the passage in context. Paul is in Rome, under guard, and has called for the leaders of the local Jewish community to hear his message:
When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.
Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. ‘ (Acts 28:23-27)
In the several decades I’ve shared with others the good news about forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ alone, many responded that they could not believe it. And each time they said it, I wondered if what they really meant was, they ‘would not’ believe it.
God moved Isaiah to warn those in his day of the consequences of willfully rejecting truth: Their hearts would become hard, their ears dulled, and their eyes blinded. Seven hundred years later, God moved Paul to repeat the same warning to those who also would not believe.
Whether in Isaiah’s day, or Paul’s – or ours, God’s warning remains the same. The more often we say we “will not believe”, the harder it becomes for us to ever say, “I will believe.”
Please. Choose wisely.