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THE NIGHT THE DISCIPLES WERE FINALLY CONVERTED

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, March 30, 2008

“Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45).


The Disciples were gathered together with the doors of the house locked. They were afraid of the Pharisees and chief priests who had been responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion three days earlier. It was Easter Sunday night. The chief priests and elders had learned that Jesus’ body was gone. They had accused the Disciples of stealing it (Matthew 28:11-13). They would now be searching for the Disciples. For this reason, the Disciples hid in this room, with the doors locked (John 20:19). This was the day Christ rose from the dead – the most glorious, wonderful day in all human history! But what were the Disciples doing? They were hiding in a locked room! Judas, who betrayed Christ, had committed suicide. Thomas was not there. The other ten Disciples were cringing in fear in a room on Easter Sunday evening.

Suddenly “Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you” (Luke 24:36). They were terrified. They thought it was a spirit.

“And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures”
       (Luke 24:38-45).

At that moment Christ “opened” their “understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45). The Greek word translated “opened” is “dianoigo.” It means “to open thoroughly” (Strong). “Dianoigo” is the same Greek word used in Acts 16:14 to describe the conversion of Lydia,

“whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul” (Acts 16:14).

God opened Lydia’s heart to receive the Gospel, just as He opened the hearts of the Disciples.

“Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45).

I am convinced that this is the moment when those ten Disciples were converted. You see, up to this point there was a “vail upon their heart” (II Corinthians 3:15).

“But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ” (II Corinthians 3:14).

Whenever anyone turns to Christ, the vail is taken away, their blinded mind is opened, and the person comes to Christ in real conversion. Matthew Henry said that when Christ “opened their understanding,” He gave “insight…into the word of God, which they had heard and read, by which faith in the resurrection of Christ is wrought in them, and all difficulties are cleared” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, note on Luke 24:45).

Now turn to John 20:22. This is the same appearance of the resurrected Christ to the Disciples on Easter Sunday evening. It refers to exactly the same incident that is spoken of in our text,

“Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45).

But here, in John 20:22, we are told how He opened their understanding. Please stand and read John 20:22 aloud.

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22).

You may be seated.

Now I want you to listen to two comments on that verse. The first is from The Applied New Testament Commentary (Kingsway Publications, 1996, p. 448),

It was then that they were born again of the Spirit…This is when they received true and full faith. This is when they received spiritual life.

The second comment is from Dr. J. Vernon McGee, the world-famous Bible teacher. Dr. McGee said,

I personally believe that at the moment our Lord breathed on them, and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” these men were regenerated [born again]. Before this time they had not been indwelt by the Spirit of God…Jesus Christ breathed into these men eternal life by giving them the Spirit of God (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume IV, p. 498).

That is my position. I believe what Dr. McGee said, that at this moment these men were born again, regenerated, converted, and received eternal life. I cannot read Luke 24:45 and John 20:22 without coming to the conclusion that they were unconverted men until that moment on the first Easter Sunday night, when Christ

“opened…their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45),

when Christ

“breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22).

This shows us a great many things that are important to us today:

1.  First, it shows that you can attempt to follow Christ without being born again. You can come to church. You can read the Bible. You can memorize Scripture. You can pray. You can do all of that, as the Disciples did, and still not be born again.

2.  Second, it shows that you can have your prayers answered, as the Disciples did, and still not be born again.

3.  Third, it shows that you can make a decision to follow Christ, as the Disciples did, and still not be born again.

4.  Fourth, it shows that you can hear the Gospel over and over, as the Disciples did, and still not be born again.

5.  Fifth, it shows that you can be “walking with the Lord,” as the Disciples literally did, and still not be born again.

6.  Sixth, it shows that you can know the words of the Bible, be familiar with the Bible, as the Disciples were, and still not be born again.

7.  Seventh, it shows that you can do outwardly powerful works for God, as the Disciples did, and still not be born again.


My friend, what you need today is a real new birth and a real conversion. And that generally follows the pattern of what happened to the Disciples:

1.  First, you come to church and hear the Word of God preached, as the Disciples came and heard Christ preach.

2.  Second, you learn the basic facts of the Gospel, as the Disciples did.

3.  Third, you are quite confident that you can follow Christ, as the Disciples were.

4.  Fourth, your self-confidence is shaken, and you begin to see your sinfulness, as the Disciples did.

5.  Fifth, you try one way and another to overcome your own sinfulness, as the Disciples did.

6.  Sixth, you finally become convinced that you are totally depraved, a lost sinner without hope or natural ability, as the Disciples did. Locked in that room for fear of the authorities, they felt utterly hopeless and helpless.

7.  Seventh, at last your understanding is opened, and the Holy Spirit unites you with Christ, you rest in Christ, are cleansed by His Blood, and are born again, as the Disciples were when they were finally born again.


In general, that is what happened to the Disciples. And that is what must happen to you. May it happen soon. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


A ruler once came to Jesus by night

To ask Him the way of salvation and light;

The Master made answer in words true and plain,

“Ye must be born again.”

“Ye must be born again, Ye must be born again,

I verily, verily, say unto thee,

Ye must be born again.”


Ye children of men, attend to the Word,

So solemnly uttered by Jesus the Lord;

And let not this message to you be in vain,

“Ye must be born again.”

“Ye must be born again, Ye must be born again,

I verily, verily, say unto thee,

Ye must be born again.”

   (“Ye Must Be Born Again” by William T. Sleeper, 1819-1904).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 24:36:45.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Ye Must Be Born Again” (by William T. Sleeper, 1819-1904).