Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Truth is rarely popular - Acts 13-14

Early on in the Paul’s ministry he found out that it was not a popularity contest. In fact, he found out that people would hate what he had to say so much so that he would have to endure much rejection, persecution, and ultimately death. In Acts 13 Paul and Barnabas were set apart and sent off to minister the gospel. They embarked on what we now call Paul’s first missionary journey. In Pisidian Antioch they experienced persecution because of the message they were speaking. They were expelled from the region. How did they respond to this treatment? They shook the dust off their feet and moved on to Iconium. However, in Iconium they also faced much opposition to their message of Jesus Christ and fled because there was a plot to stone them. So they proceeded to the region of Lystra and Derbe preaching the gospel to the surrounding country. In Lystra it got really crazy as they were first called gods and then stoned after the religious leaders from Iconium and Antioch stirred up dissention.

What a challenging beginning to a ministry. Did all this rejection keep them from preaching the gospel? Did Paul water down the message so that he wouldn’t “offend” anyone? Did he try to alter what he was saying so that it would be more palatable? The answer to these questions is an emphatic NO. He “spoke boldly for the Lord who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders”. Maybe if we would boldly proclaim the whole gospel we would also see this confirmation of God’s grace through signs and wonders.

I think it is interesting to note that it was the religious leaders in these cities that were involved in the persecution of Paul for his teaching. It was the established religious community that stirred up persecution in Pisidian Antioch. The leaders were involved in the plot to stone them in Iconium. And finally, in Lystra they did convince the crowd to stone Paul. Like Paul, we are not called to make peace with the religious community and its leaders. Rather, we are called to boldly proclaim the whole truth; the entire gospel.

10 comments:

Peter Kirk said...

Indeed. But Paul did alter his presentation, although not his content, for his audiences. In Antioch he did not accuse his audience of killing Jesus, as Peter did repeatedly in Jerusalem, but he did base his sermon on the Hebrew Scriptures, which he didn't when preaching to Gentiles in Athens. He became "all things to all people", not to compromise, but to be as effective as he could with his audience.

Brian said...

I've heard so much lately about the importance of "boldly speaking the truth" and that the "world is going to hate us." Check out "Do some Christians want to be hated" at www.smartchristian.com

Eric Jones said...

Brian,
I think that Dan Kimball had some valid points in his article "Do some Christians want to be hated". I completely agree with him when he suggests that we need to present truth with tact.

However, are you suggesting that some of my recent posts, including this one, fall into the category of "wanting to be hated"? If so, I fail to see the conflict as I have been simply writing on how the apostles presented truth boldly even in the face of persecution? In fact, I think I made the point in this post that it was the religious leaders that were instigating the persecution and hate. Dan made a similar point in his post.

Being bold is not the same as being rude and insensitive. Like Paul, I strive to be relevant and always look for the most effective way to get the point across. But, also like Paul, may I never do so at the expense of presenting the whole truth.

This post is a commentary on Acts 13-14. Would you please provide your view of Paul and his methods in these particular passages?

Eric Jones said...

Brian,
Dan summed it up nicely at the end of his post:
"I also know very well that love is telling truth, and I am not talking about holding back any truth of the gospel or lightening truth or hiding it or not talking about sin and repentance or the blood and sacrifice of Jesus. I am talking more about how we live out the truth, how we share the truth, how we care about others and are involved in their lives who may not know truth. "

I appreciate and agree completely with this statement. It is about both speaking truth and living it out.

Anita Hensley said...

perhpas we need an article on "Why some Christians have such a desperate need for the world to love them?"
We, as Christians, are to not be offensive or hateful. Nothing us should intend to be. We are to embody love.
BUT the Gospel continues to be and will be offensive and hated. If it is easily swallowed and not in contrast to your worldview (repentance) you probably didn't just consume the Gospel, but some other nice placebo.

Brian said...

Eric, I just thought the the Dan Kimball post would be good to read in conjunction with what you posted. It probably could have gone more appropriately with one of your previous posts. But it just so happened to be posted at the same time as yours at smartchristian.com and it seemed to have a different take/approach than the types of things you have been posting. I have heard alot lately about the importance of "boldly speaking the truth." And it hasn't always been that sensitive (I wasn't referring to your posts). So I'm glad you and Anita acknowledge the importance of this. I wasn't suggesting that "you wanted to be hated" either. But this would have been good to look at in conjunction with "Why do so many Christians want to be loved by the world." Anita referred to this and it was one of your posts from a couple months ago.

On a side note- (FYI-I have been baptized by water twice). But isn't it "Jesus + Something" to expect that all Christians should want to be baptized by water and that it is necessary? I don't see how you can come to a definitive answer on this from the bible.

Eric Jones said...

Brian,

Regarding baptism... Is it mandatory for salvation? I think the theif on the cross shows us that it is not. Is it something that reflects our faith and is fruit of genuine salvation? This is really the question.

Why would a true Christian not respond like the Ethiopian Eunich and immediately want to be baptized? A true follower of Christ will get baptized because Christ commanded it. Read the great commission. Jesus himself was also baptized. Paul was immediately baptized upon conversion. All new Christins in the early church appear to have been immediately baptized.

When Peter was asked at Pentecost "what must we do" he said repent and be baptized. The early Christians were immediately baptized. It is no accident that all early Apostles placed a HUGE emphasis on baptism - it matters!

I don't think baptism is a component of justification. But, I do believe it is fruit of our justification. It is our first act of faith in Christ. It is our identification with the cross. If someone doesn't want to be baptized they either are ignorant of the commands of Jesus and the importnace of this act or they have not truly surrendered to Christ.

Just read Acts and I believe you will come to see baptism in a new light. I think the Apostles who knew Jesus first-hand had a better understanding of baptism than we do today. I choose to take heed of their practices and the commands of Jesus. To a pure heart, a circumcised heart, to a true follower of Christ baptism is definately not "Jesus + Something".

Brian said...

Eric, I've read Acts plenty of times. I still think there are alot of different views regarding baptism and how this is to be carried out in the church today. Denominations differ in their views on this. It's similar to the different beliefs about taking communion. I understand you feel strongly about your view. But I believe this is one of those "disputable" things.

Eric Jones said...

Brian,

I understand that the details of baptism (dunking, pouring, etc.) are debated in the evangelical church and I don't care to get into that debate. Those details of exactly how to baptize are "disputable".

However, I am more interested in how the early church (and church fathers) viewed, practiced, and valued baptism than how churches do it today. I am personally being challenged by what I am reading and feel that much has been glossed over in the modern church when it comes to baptism. I also think it would be a dangerous view to believe that baptism itself is optional - seeing that Jesus commanded it. Again, baptism is not necesary for justification. But, as a commandment of Jesus, it very well could (should) be one of our first acts of faith and initial steps in our sanctification process.

Remember, these are just my personal views as I am convicted by my time in the Bible and in studying church history.

Brian said...

Like you, I would encourage people to be baptized. It can be an important step in committing your life to Christ. But I also do not think a person is any less of Christian if they don't have it done- as long as they have been "born of the spirit."