How do people respond to the gospel?

I was picking up my son from work and a commentator was speaking on the parable of the sower and the seed on the radio. That parable got us talking about how people respond to the gospel.

The light went on for me as my son said that Jesus didn’t explain their lack of response based on the fact that they weren’t given the faith to believe. Rather, Jesus clearly explained that people’s hearts and mind are at different places when the seed of good news reaches them. Because of where their hearts and lives are at – they will respond differently.

That’s how Jesus answers that question of why some people respond and some don’t. It may because of where their minds are at or what outside influences impact their decision.

This makes a lot of sense as Paul, in describing the gospel, declares that it is “the power of God unto salvation.” The power is in the message. The Holy Spirit convicts men of sin so that the full power of the message can have its effect.

Thus, the sower and the seed is a powerful refutation of the idea that the reason why people respond to the gospel is whether or not God chose them. Jesus made it very clear that God provides the means and the power to salvation, but it is up to the individual to respond.

If it was true that people respond based on God’s prior choice, then Jesus should have just come right out and say it rather than giving a totally different answer that places the burden on individuals rather than God’s Sovereign choice. Why not just tell the disciples that the reason why some respond is that God has chosen them and not others?

As I have studied the Bible, I have learned that it’s best to start with what is clearly said to frame or shape difficult passages rather than the other way around. Otherwise, you end up having to re-interpret what is clearly said to fit the notions of a narrow passage where the interpretation can be very subjective.