As Paul and Barnabas continue their missionary journey the familiar pattern continues, too, with some minor (or major!) variations: preaching in a Jewish synagogue – many become believers – opposition is stirred up – more preaching with a focus on Gentiles – signs and wonders – persecution – apostles leave. In the next region even more exciting things happen.
In Acts 14: 8-18 we have an example of how Paul and Barnabas reached out to Gentiles with no background in the Jewish faith whatsoever: a man is healed and Paul refers to God’s common grace. The Holy Spirit will help us when we share with people of a very different background. Increasingly in this country we meet people who are Bible illiterate and don’t know even the most basic of Bible stories. What a privilege to be the first to introduce them to Jesus (not Father Christmas!), His life, death and resurrection!!!
There might be some ‘persecution’ like ridicule and maybe even rejection, but nothing on the scale Paul experienced! Sometimes here in the West we forget what Paul reminded the churches of when they went back to disciple the new believers: “...we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14: 22). In many countries all around the world, Christians are persecuted severely for following Jesus. Let us not forget to keep praying for them, too, and support them in whatever way we can.
There is a successful conclusion to the first missionary journey as the apostles arrive back at their sending church, reporting on all the amazing things God has done. Shortly after that opposition is rising up again, this time from within, in the form of false teaching (Acts 15). Paul moves quickly and firmly to preserve the true Gospel: we are saved by faith alone –not by anything we can do. A hot debate ensues at the Council of Jerusalem, but they all agree that turning to God should not be made difficult.
The Gospel is quite simple really, so let’s keep spreading the Good News wherever we go. You might have heard this quote: “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” A Bible teacher quipped: “It is necessary! Use words!” We need to explain the Good News of the Kingdom because it’s unlike anything the world has ever heard – John 3:16!
Lord God, help us to share the Good News wherever we go. Fill us with your Holy Spirit, with courage, love and boldness to tell others how to enter the Kingdom of God. Help us to make disciples who make disciples, who in turn make disciples, in Jesus’ powerful Name, Amen!