Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Acts 12:1, “Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church, in order to mistreat them.”

Acts 13:49, “And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region.”

The exciting message of the book of Acts is not just how the gospel spread but that is spread despite intense opposition. This opposition was ongoing and pervasive and was directed towards the church in various ways. But the gospel spread nonetheless. God’s work done God’s way for God’s glory will always be met with opposition, but God is greater and He has His own ways of supporting and encouraging His children. Take courage, believer, “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one,” but “whatever is born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:19, 4).

There are those who seek to DESTROY the church. Saul himself had been amongst them: “For you heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure, and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13). Herod the king was too: “Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church, in order to mistreat them” (Acts 12:1). He had “James the brother of John put to death” (Acts 12:2). He put Peter in prison (Acts 12:4). But Peter was set free from an angel of the Lord (Acts 12:7f). God dealt with Herod (Acts 12:23). And “the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied” (Acts 12:24).

There are those who DESERT the ministry. God called Barnabas and Saul to go forth from Antioch to preach the gospel (Acts 13:1-3). They took along John (Mark) as their helper (Acts 13:5). We are not given the reason why, but later he deserted them (Acts 13:13). The situation so grieved Paul that he refused, on a subsequent journey, to take Mark along (Acts 15:37-38). The desertion of a fellow soldier is a discouraging thing to those who remain to fight the conflict. Every servant of the gospel knows of such instances. But God is able to strengthen and restore His children. Mark was likewise restored and later proved himself useful for service (2 Timothy 4:11).

There are those who work to DISTORT the message. Paul and Barnabas made their way to Paphos (Acts 13:6). They found there a magician, Elymas, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, who sought to hear the word of God (Acts 13:7). While Paul and Barnabas were sharing with the proconsul, Elymas was working to “turn the proconsul away from the faith” (Acts 13:8). Paul understood him to be “full of all deceit and fraud,” working “to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord” (Acts 13:10). For every action there is a reaction. The preaching of the true gospel is met with enemy opposition. The evil one is at work to undermine and distort and keep blinded the eyes of the unbelieving. Many distorted gospels are widely taught and are readily accepted in our day (Cf. Galatians 1:6-8; 2 Corinthians 11:4). God used Paul to blind Elymas (Acts 13:11). “The proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord” (Acts 13:12).

There are those who work to DISTURB the hearers. Paul and Barnabas made their way to Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:13) and preached the gospel on a Sabbath day in a synagogue (Acts 13:14-41). “As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath” (Acts 13:42). “The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God” (Acts 13:44). But the enemy was at work. “The Jews saw the crowds” and “they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 13:45). But Paul and Barnabas turned to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46). The Gentiles heard the message of salvation and rejoiced and “as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:47-48). But the disturbing and distorting efforts of the Adversary did not stop. “The Jews aroused the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district” (Acts 13:50). So Paul and Barnabas “shook off their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium” (Acts 13:51). In Iconium “a great multitude believed” (Acts 14:1).

The early church flourished in spite of such things. And the true gospel is met with similar opposing forces today. Any proclamation of the true gospel, be it from a pulpit, a Sunday School class, at a VBS, with a friend or neighbor, or via missionary endeavor, will be met with opposition. Such is the clear teaching of Scripture and the reliable testimony throughout church history. A gospel that does not incite opposition is likely not the true gospel at all. The devil is well-pleased with contrary gospels that diminish Christ and His work and entertain the notion of salvation by human effort. The gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ and His finished work—that’s a different matter. It is this gospel--the glorious gospel and the power of God unto salvation--that the devil hates. It stirs up trouble. It did exactly that throughout Paul’s ministry. He preached the gospel and riots broke out. Persecution intensified. Trouble came. But he fought the good fight of faith and was not deterred. His counsel to his “beloved son,” Timothy serves as a great encouragement to us: “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8).

Don’t be surprised by opposition! It is standard fare for those who endeavor to speak God’s truth (2 Timothy 3:12). Remember that the God who raised Christ from the dead is at work to guide, strengthen and provide for His children in the midst of it (Cf. Ephesians 1:19-21). Paul and Barnabas were fiercely opposed, but “the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region” (Acts 13:49). People heard the message and were saved.

Pastor Jerry

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