Based on 1 Samuel 16:7, I often hear that outward appearance does not matter. However, I do not think that is what the verse says. I think that the verse says that outward appearance does not matter to God because He can see the heart. However, there is a lot said in the Scriptures about outward appearance because that is all that men can see. And men judge character and the heart by what they see. In job interviews, we are told that we can only make one first impression, so we should make sure it is a good one. So we have both Paul and Peter dealing with clothes that we wear, and we have James dealing with the works that men see. However, sometimes God does not see us the way men see us – and for that I am glad.
Once we are saved we are “in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17). The only way the world can know that is by what it sees. But God knows we are saved, because He knows our hearts. That is why there are some people in the Bible that God speaks highly of, that we wouldn’t and maybe even couldn’t allow to be leaders in our churches. King David is a case in point. How could a murderer and an adulterer lead God’s people and be called a man after God’s heart? (Acts 13:22). I know it could be argued that he was a man after God’s heart only before he sinned. David’s desire for God seems to be referred to in 1 Samuel 13 when Saul sinned and was rejected by God, but before David had become the king. However, 1 Kings 15:5 implies that while God did not overlook David’s sin, He did know that David was loyal to the Lord and to the Lord only. There was no idol worship or turning aside to pagan gods during his lifetime. I think that is what God means when He says David was a man after His own heart.
Saving faith requires us to believe in our hearts (Rom. 10:9). The Ethiopian eunuch believed with all his heart (Acts 8:37). Those who read the newer versions will have to trust the King James Version on this one since this statement is not in some versions. I believe it belongs here because earlier in the chapter, Simon the sorcerer believed but he wasn’t saved. He apparently believed in the power of the gospel and in the reality of the miracles, but he didn’t trust in the Lord with all his heart. Because of that, Philip asked the eunuch if he believed with all his heart because that is the only faith that is genuine. We believe with our minds scientifically, not with our hearts, so this has to be a literary device to help us understand that the believing that saves is not just intellectual. It is without reservation, and it is motivational in that the heart figuratively affects everything we love and do.
So outward appearance is important but the heart is more important. I wonder some days what the Lord really sees when he looks at my heart. By nature our hearts are desperately wicked and the Lord knows that (Jer. 17:9-10). But after we are saved we should have hearts that have been touched by the personal love of the Lord. We should be loyal to Him in our worship. He knows that we are, even if others can’t always see it. The “condemning” sin of Scripture is not trusting in the name or the authority of the only begotten Son of God (Jn. 3:18). Outwardly, we may look like we are faithful and devoted but God sees the heart, and He knows whether we are really true. He knows our hearts.
By Bruce Collins
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org