God does not force salvation where it is not wanted. Eternal life is not promised to men who reject the gospel. The gospel persuades but does not coerce. Principles of truth can be taught to people with willing hearts, but these principles cannot be forced on the unwilling. We cannot fire the gospel into one’s soul as a gun might be used to fire bullets into his body and compel him against his will to submit. It would be like trying to legislate morality on an immoral world. Yes, God punishes those who won’t obey him even as mankind punishes those who break their laws. However, God never forces anyone to obey him or to comply with his law.
Some men and women have no more appreciation for the gospel than a dog would have for something sacred; the truth means about as much to them as pearls would mean to swine. God’s holy word cannot be forced on profane persons. Jesus said in Matt. 7:6, “Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”
In the next several verses of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus showed that God’s wonderful spiritual blessings may be enjoyed by people who desire them. There must be a willingness to turn to God and an eagerness for His good gifts. Here is how the Lord expresses it: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks find; and to him that knocks it shall be opened” (Matt. 7:7,8). Note the threefold exhortation: Ask, seek, knock!
We “ask” because there is want or need. Asking implies humility and recognition of some need. Asking or desiring aid is used in Mk. 11:24 where Jesus said, “What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them.” The asking that results in receiving is an asking that comes from deep desire from the heart.
Seeking means to search or look for something. We seek for that which we desire to find. Certain women came to the tomb of Jesus early in the morning on the first day of the week, expecting to complete the process of anointing His body. They entered the tomb but the body was gone. They were much perplexed. Two men appeared in shining garments and said, “Why seek you the living among the dead?” (Lk. 24:5). It was pointless to search for the living and risen Christ among the dead.
Knocking is a verb, when used literally, means to rap on a door. One knocks on a door when he is seeking admittance or permission to enter. Figuratively, we must “knock” to be admitted into God’s favors. It is not necessary that we knock the door down, but the thought is that of expressing the desire for entrance. God opens the door of divine favor when men have enough interest to approach God according to the terms of His will.
When the gospel was preached in Jerusalem in Acts 2, the hearers were pricked in their heart and raised the question, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” They were asking what to do because their interest had been aroused and they were now seeking to know how their sins could be remitted. Peter, who had been given the keys of the kingdom, unlocked the door by telling them to repent and be baptized. Their asking resulted in their receiving; their seeking resulted in their finding; their knocking resulted in the door’s being opened. (Acts 2:41).
When the eunuch from Ethiopia was approached by Philip the evangelist in Acts 8, he was asked if he understood what he was reading. The eunuch admitted that he needed help, and he “desired” Philip to come up and sit with him in the chariot. Here was a man anxious to learn the truth. He was asking, searching, and knocking at the door. Philip preached unto him Jesus. The eunuch believed and was baptized.
The jailer at Philippi asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:31). He was seeking the way into God’s favor. To use a figure of speech, he was knocking at the door of the kingdom. He was told to believe on the Lord, the word was spoken to him, and he and his household were baptized.
If one asks and does not receive, it is because he is not asking in accordance with God’s will. If one seeks and does not find, he may be seeking the wrong thing, or searching in the wrong place. If one knocks but the door is not opened, it may be that he is knocking on the wrong door, or he may be seeking admittance on his own terms instead of God’s terms.
It is understood that one must ask, seek, and knock in the right way, in the right attitude, and in accordance with God’s will. This is true of the sinner who seeks to enter God’s kingdom, and it is true of the Christian who seeks God’s blessings through the avenue of prayer.
As an old preacher once told me, “The Word of God will make you either mad, sad, or glad”. When Saul of Tarsus heard Stephen preaching, he and those with him became mad (Acts 7:54). When the rich ruler heard Jesus teachings, he became sad (Lk 18:18-27). When the eunuch heard the word, he obeyed, and went his way exceeding glad (Acts 8:35-39). The duty of any preacher is to warn of the wrath to come (2 Cor 5:11). Failure to warn will place their blood upon our head. Yet, if we warn them, we are free from their blood, and their iniquity is upon their own head. Ezek 33:7-9 As Paul said, may all who bear the Sword of the Spirit also say, “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:26,27).