by Roger McCay
26 April 2020
Sermon Passage: Acts 13:14-52
Link to Audio Version
The Word of the Lord, the gospel of Jesus Christ, is divisive, exclusive, and yet inclusive. The enemies of Christ hate it, and they seek to muzzle those who would proclaim the true Gospel in word or deed. Nonetheless, they act in vain – the Word of God is unstoppable, and it will always be victorious.
Yet, the enemy has long been mounting a battle against God and his people. You don’t have to read the news or social media for very long to recognize that the denial of Christ by so many and the increasing opposition to Christianity is prevalent in our society. The examples of this are endless. We could talk about instances of attacks against …
– faithful bakers
– Air Force Cadets, Chaplains (and other examples of service members being muzzled and even disciplined for their Christian beliefs)
– the attack against students beliefs in college classrooms
– the resistance of Christian organizations on campuses
– the removal of prayer from schools
– the removal of the Ten Commandments and crosses from public venues
– the very odd hatred of Chick-fil-a
– the anti-Christian organizations that seek any opportunity to attack and undermine
– the vile comments against Christians that are posted on just about any article on the news that refers to Christians and their beliefs
– and on and on.
I wonder, even, if some of the specific targeting against churches meeting together during this coronavirus thing have anti-Christian motivations. It sure is suspicious when a governor singles out churches, specifically, in an order not to meet.
Anyway, the pushback against Christ and his Kingdom has been happening so long and is so regular that we aren’t even surprised when we see or experience it.
While the attacks of the evil one against the Lord, his Word, and his people may have many of us scrambling to set up a defensive perimeter and hold our ground, more than defense is expected of the Lord’s disciples. We are called to boldly testify to the truth of the Word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ, regardless of whomever it might be, individuals, organizations … governments … anyone that would dare stand against it.
In our passage today, after the beautiful sermon Paul preached the prior Sabbath (in vv. 16-41), there were a number of Jews and Jewish converts (God-fearers) that believed. During the week, Paul and Barnabas spent some time discipling them, and the word got out among the people of the city of the wonderful message of these missionaries—the gospel.
So, hearing about the amazing message (as Luke tells us in v. 44), the following Sabbath “almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord” at the synagogue. Sounds great, right! Well, this outpouring of interest in the good news of Jesus Christ drew a very negative reaction from the Jews who did not believe the message.
Look at v. 45.
45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him.
It is interesting that the passage tells us that the motivation of the Jews was jealousy (something we looked at a few weeks ago in Romans 11:11). To compound things, the message was about this Jesus whom their leaders had had crucified in Jerusalem. Further, their leaders, in Jerusalem, had forbidden the followers of Jesus to preach in his name. Yet, here they were boldly doing just that in their synagogue. What is even worse is that all sorts of people believed the message! Oh yeah, they were jealous.
What an example of the divisiveness of the Word of God! Many of those who do not believe respond violently against its message. Why is this? Well, the gospel message makes an absolute truth claim that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. It acknowledges that Jesus is Lord and King, ruling over all things right now. It denies any salvific value in following the law or being a good person. In fact, it says that all people are sinners deserving damnation for their sins. It also insists that only through submission and faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior might one be saved from judgment and eternal separation from God.
Further (something that probably really chafed the Jews concerning the Gentiles), the gospel says there is no need to convert to Judaism. There is only one path to God—straight through Jesus. No other way than Jesus is valid – any other belief is a lie. The gospel draws the line in the sand dividing the redeemed in Christ from the damned separated from Christ.