Today I reconnected with some minister friends at a monthly lunch. It was good to see many that I had not seen for a few months. This afternoon, I met with my fitness trainer and had a good workout session. We enjoyed a “spring-like” January day, so I took the dog for a walk. It looks like we are facing a change in weather and significant storm coming our way next week.
BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY… “…they entered the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against the brothers.” Acts 14:1,2 HCSB
How often today we hear in our world today, “live and let live” or “whatever you believe is up to you.” That certainly wasn’t the case in the first century and the reality in many ways it’s not the way it is in our world today.
As we read the Book of Acts, we see the gospel, lead by the apostles, begins to spread and people place their faith in Christ. The apostles are persecuted for preaching the gospel by the religious leaders and even thrown into prison, threatened and beaten. However, they persisted in their obedience to the Lord. We see Saul of Tarsus leads an attack against those who chose to follow Christ and even had some of them thrown into prison.
As the gospel is preached in Iconium, Luke records that a “great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.” In this situation the attack is not against the apostles, or even those who have accepted the message, but an new strategy is employed. The Jews, who were forbidden to have association with gentiles, “stir up and poison” the minds of the gentles against the apostles. In their hatred for the apostles and resistance to the gospel message the Jews do what they would never have done. The one exception we see, is when the Jewish leaders stirred up the people and used the Romans to crucify Jesus.
This tactic may have arisen out of the Jewish leaders fear of losing power and control. They also responded in anger to the preaching that Jesus had risen from dead. Their strategy was to undermine the apostles work directly and indirectly, even to the point of association with gentiles. After all, why would it matter to Jews what gentiles believed?
When I reflect on this, I think about experiences in the church and in politics. It is surprising at times the tactics and the steps people will take to create controversy and opposition. In politics you are fee to hold an opinion or position, unless, for example, you are baker of a small shop among hundreds in the city of Denver, and you refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding ceremony. At times politicians have had “death threats” because of a position on an issue or piece of legislation.
Even in the church, I am continually baffled, when someone leaves a church and then feels the obligation to make phone calls in a campaign to have a negative influence on others. It seems either a carnal show of power and or a way to seek justification of their actions through influencing others.
Once again we see that human nature trumps culture and times. What did the apostles do in the face of opposition? “They stayed there for some time and spoke boldly in reliance on the Lord, who testified to the message of His grace by granting that signs and wonders be performed through them.” (Acts 14:4 HCSB) They did not try to quell opposition through changing their message or stopping their preaching. They just kept on being faithful to the Lord.
Jesus had warned them, that they would suffer persecution. He told them that if the world hated them to remember the it hated Him. (John 15:18) The apostles accepted the response as that which was anticipated and continued their work. As a result we see the Lord confirmed His presence through miracles that took place. The opposition didn’t stop either and they eventually had to flee the city. So, they went to another town and preached there!
Our beliefs, attitudes and actions must be gauged by that which is pleasing to Christ and in obedience to His Word. We should not be surprised when the message of Christ is rejected in our day, just as it was in the apostles’ day. What we do see, is people believed, miracles took place and the church grew. The Church continues to grow to this day and that is something that hasn’t changed with culture and times as well.