WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A FISHER OF MEN?
The gospel will lead far more people to condemnation than to salvation.
David counsels that when God speaks once, we should hear him twice. (Psalm 62:11). That does not mean twice literally, but several times. Similarly, Jesus maintains we must forgive our brothers seventy times seven times. (Matthew 18:22). That does not mean four hundred and ninety times, but indefinitely. Therefore, when God speaks, we should review what he says again and again.
Because we have listened to God as we do to men, we have missed a lot of what he has been saying. God does not think like men, and he does not speak like men. His thoughts are not our thoughts; his ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55:8-9). Therefore, when he says something, we must be careful to make sure we understand exactly what he is saying.
Jesus says to his disciples: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19). We have heard about this and talked about it. We have been singing about being fishers of men since we were little children in Sunday school. But should we not pause for a moment and ask what Jesus means by saying he will make us fishers of men? Is it wise to jump to the conclusion that he wants to turn us into exceptional evangelists and mega-pastors using combine-harvesters to bring men into the kingdom of God?
The distinction between a fisher of men and a Saviour of men is important. However, this distinction is not understood by most Christians who presume erroneously that a fisher of men is a saviour of men. We know who fishermen are. They are fishers, not of men, but of fish. But now Jesus talks of fishers, not of fish, but of men. So to start with, we need to determine what it means to fish men. How does a man fish men? What does he do with the men he “catches?”
God as fisherman
Once we look to the bible for answers to these questions, we are in for a rude awakening. In quick order, we discover to our surprise that when God fished men in the scriptures, it was never for salvation: “Behold, I will send for many fishermen,” says the LORD, “and they shall fish them; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them.” (Jeremiah 16:16). Amos echoes this: “Behold, the days shall come upon you when he (God) will take you away with fishhooks, and your posterity with fishhooks.” (Amos 4:2).
The net was a weapon of warfare which gladiators used to hamstring their opponents in combat. Therefore, to be a fisher of men scripturally is to be an instrument of God’s judgment. God says of disobedient Ephraimites: “Wherever they go, I will spread my net on them; I will bring them down like birds of the air; I will chastise them according to what their congregation has heard.” (Hosea 7:12). Solomon echoes him: “Like fish taken in a cruel net, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time.” (Ecclesiastes 9:12).
Once caught, fishes end up in the frying-pan and eventually in someone’s dinner-table. The same applies to men with regard to the gospel. As fishes are taken unexpectedly in a net, so sinners are taken by the gospel. The prophetic design in preaching the gospel is that it will lead far more people to condemnation than to salvation.
Trap of the gospel
Hear and understand: God has designed the gospel in such a way that sons of God will receive it but men will reject it. Jesus tells his disciples: “It has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” (Matthew 13:11). Isaiah says: “The word of the LORD was to them, ‘Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little,’ that they might go and fall backward, and be broken and snared and caught.” (Isaiah 28:13).
The same person who sends us to preach the gospel also tells us beforehand that men will not accept it. God said to Isaiah: “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’” (Isaiah 6:9). This scripture is repeated more times in the bible than any other scripture. John says: “They could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: ‘He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn- and I would heal them.’” (John 12:39-40).
Accordingly Jesus, the word of God, is a double-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12). Simeon, the prophet, prophesied that Jesus would cause people to fall before causing them to rise: “Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’” (Luke 2:34-35).
Couched in this manner, the greatest trap of all will not be the devil: it will be Jesus. Many will stumble because of failure to understand and receive Jesus. Isaiah says: “He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble; they shall fall and be broken, be snared and taken.” (Isaiah 8:14-15).
Christians are mistaken in failing to recognise that it is the false gospel that fills the churches while the true gospel empties the churches. (John 6:60-66). The true gospel is preached as a testimony against men. Thus, Jesus says to his disciples: “Whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment than for that city!” (Mark 6:11).
It is worse to hear the word of Jesus and reject it than not to have heard. Jesus says: “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.” (John 15:22).
Through the gospel of the kingdom of God, all men are fished to condemnation; but sons of God are saved. The word of Jesus that men reject is precisely what will judge them on the last day. Jesus warns: “He who rejects me, and does not receive my words, has that which judges him- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority; but the Father who sent me gave me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.” (John 12:48-49).
It is therefore imperative that Christians should magnify the words of Jesus in our lives. Only Jesus has this testimony from God: “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” (Luke 9:35).