Why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions? (Song 1:7)
Question.—What is the purpose of hearing?
Answer.—Scripture holds out a connection between hearing and obeying, Deut. 5:1. The purpose of hearing is not to increase our vain imaginations, Acts 17:21; but, rather, it is a sign of submission in order to prepare for belief and action, 2 Sam. 22:45. By hearing the truth, we submit ourselves for unfeigned obedience (i.e., conformity) to that truth, Deut. 12:28. Thus, God is said to hear our prayers when he acts on those petitions, 1 Kings 9:3. Conversely, when we refuse to hear his law, he refuses to hear our prayers, Prov. 28:9.
It is a sign of spiritual blindness, vanity of the mind, to submit to every kind of vain teaching, Eph. 4:17, 18. This is one reason why men remain children in their understanding and achieve no stability in their Christian walk, Eph. 4:14; contrary to the command of the apostle, 1 Cor. 14:20. Furthermore, we fall under the same condemnation as those teaching error if we remain silent in the face of their public teaching, Lev. 5:1. Likewise, if we commend such to others we partake of the evil, 2 John 10, 11.
Because the purpose of hearing is to move us to belief and action, there are three caveats given us: 1.) We must take heed that we hear, Jer. 2:4. Neglect to hear what we ought is a sign of contempt, 2 Kings 17:14. This, in turn, is the major reason our prayers are not heard, Zech. 7:13. 2.) We must take heed how we hear, Luke 8:18. Hearing is not to satisfy our idle curiosity (as those on Mars Hill), for all unsound hearing increases ungodliness and destroys true knowledge, 2 Tim. 2:16, 17. 3.) We must take heed what we hear, Mark 4:24. We should study to make sure it is in accordance with Scripture, Acts 17:11.
Question.—If hearing is so dangerous to mistake, must I hear?
Answer.—Yes. Rom. 10:17. All who are taught of God are taught by God, John 6:45; but, they are taught by the hearing of the gospel in faith, 1 Pet. 1:23-25.
All men are not called nor are they qualified to teach, 1 Cor. 12:29. Yet, we know that many desire to teach (if only themselves) with dire consequences, 1 Tim. 1:7. For this reason, the apostle enjoins that most continue to occupy the seat of the hearer, Jas. 3:1. This requires a relinquishing of pride, Jer. 13:15.
All true teaching is a work, or ministration of the Spirit of God, Gal. 3:2, 5. Thus, when God teaches men through the medium of a man called, he instills not merely knowledge but also understanding, Jer. 3:15. Without the ministration of the Spirit, men lack understanding though they may be filled with knowledge, 1 Cor. 2:6, 12, 13.
Question.—How can we avoid the sins inherent in the three caveats listed?
Answer.—First, we need to make it a point to hear the truth when and where we can, Prov. 4:5, 7; Phil. 3:8. Failure to do so indicates a foolish disposition wedded to a hard heart, Prov. 1:7; 5:12, 13. It is a God provoking sin, Rom. 1:28.
Second, we must take great care that we hear with faith, Heb. 4:2. To that end, we must pray that God give us ears to hear, Deut. 29:4; lest we are like those who perish not perceiving the truth, Matt. 13:9, 13, 14. We are not called to hear for our own idle curiosity but that we might glorify God, Ps. 4:2. This requires us to receive what we hear as a ministration of the Spirit, 1 Thess. 2:13.
Third, we need to be careful that we do not submit to false teaching, 1 Tim. 4:7. By this, we demonstrate that we are numbered amongst Christ’s sheep, John 10:5. It is never safe to countenance false teachers or false teaching, 1 Cor. 15:33. Those who countenance the teaching of fools become fools themselves, Prov. 14:7; 16:22. It is one thing to err not knowing the truth, but another thing to allow ourselves to entertain error once we know the truth, Heb. 10:26.