When God fished men in the scriptures, it was never for salvation.
When God speaks once, David says 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.
When we listen to God as we do to men, we miss a lot of what He is saying. God does not speak like men, and He does not think like men. He says: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways.” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Therefore, when God 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 who will use combine-harvesters to bring thousands into the kingdom of God?
There is a difference between a fisher of men and a Saviour of men. However, this difference is overlooked by most Christians who presume that a fisher of men is automatically a saviour of men.
We know who fishermen are. They are fishers, not of men, but fish. But now Jesus talks of fishers, not of fish, but men. So, to start with, we need to determine what it means to fish men. How can a man be said to fish other men? What does he do with those 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 for condemnation and not salvation.
Solomon says: “Like fish taken in a cruel net, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time.” (Ecclesiastes 9:12). Amos echoes him: “Behold, the days shall come upon you when (God) will take you away with fishhooks, and your posterity with fishhooks.” (Amos 4:2).
As fishermen fish to kill the fish, so do hunters hunt to kill the prey. God says: “Behold, I will send for many fishermen and they shall fish them; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them.” (Jeremiah 16:16).
The net was a weapon of warfare used to hamstring opponents in combat. Therefore, to be a fisher of men scripturally is to be an instrument of God’s judgment.
Once caught, fishes end up in the frying-pan and eventually on someone’s dinner table. The same applies to men concerning the gospel. As fishes are taken unexpectedly in a net, so are sinners taken by the gospel. This means, in this present age, God has designed the gospel by prophecy to lead far more people to condemnation than to salvation.
Hear and understand: the gospel is designed in such a way that a few sons of God will receive it but many men will reject it. Jesus says: “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13).
However, He distinguishes His disciples from others: “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).
Therefore, although God sends us to preach the gospel, he forewarns that men will reject it. He says to Ezekiel: “Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me.” (Ezekiel 2:3). He says 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 rejection of the gospel is confirmed more often in the bible than any other prophecy. 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).
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).
Indeed, the word of God is fashioned as a double-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12). Thus, Simeon also prophesies that Jesus would cause people to fall before causing them to rise. He says to Mary, the mother of Jesus, on Jesus’ Dedication in the Temple: “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against.” (Luke 2:34-35).
Couched in this manner, the greatest trap of all will not be the devil: it will be Jesus. Many will be condemned for rejecting Him. 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).
It is the false gospel that fills the churches while the true gospel empties them. (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).
The word of Jesus that men reject is ultimately what will judge them. 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.” (John 12:48-49).
That is why God sends believers to the world as fishers of men. Those caught in the net of the gospel are for condemnation and not for salvation. God says: “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).