Saturday, October 01, 2022

2022.10.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 13:49–14:7

Read Acts 13:49–14:7

Questions from the Scripture text: What was spreading where (Acts 13:49)? Who stirred up opposition (Acts 13:50)? Especially among which two groups? What did they raise up against whom? What did they succeed in doing? But what does the apostolic team do (Acts 13:51, cf. Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5)? To where do they come? Despite this persecution, and the loss of their preachers, with what are the disciples filled (Acts 13:52)? And/by with Whom? Where do they go in Acts 14:1? What is the mechanism that produces the result there? What is that result? Who stir up whom in Acts 14:2? And what do they do to their minds? With what word does Acts 14:3 start? What is the first part of the apostolic response? What do they do there for a long time? What was the Lord doing? How did He bear this witness? Into what two groups was the entire city’s population divided (Acts 14:4)? Which party conspired to do what in Acts 14:5? Who learn of it in Acts 14:6? What do they now do? To what two cities in what area? What were they doing there (Acts 14:7)?  

How do Christ’s servants respond to opposition? Acts 13:49–14:7 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eleven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that through whatever opposition they experience on earth, Christ’s servants serve Him in dependence upon Him. 

The persecution they experienced. Spiritual success looks like the Word of the Lord spreading (Acts 13:49), the disciples of the Lord being full of joy and the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52), and great multitudes believing (Acts 14:1). What it doesn’t necessarily look like is the absence of opposition. In the midst of this success, first at Antioch Pisidia, and then at Iconium, they received stiff opposition.

In both cases, gossip was a cornerstone of opposition to the gospel. The Jews in Antioch Pisidia knew whom to target: worshiping and prominent women, and then politicians. These groups presented the advantage of being easily stirred up and wielding a disproportionate influence. The city isn’t wise enough to see through it, and they succeed in raising up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, getting them expelled from the region (Acts 13:50). In Iconium, it’s unbelieving Jews poisoning the minds of the general Gentile population (Acts 14:2), and eventually getting a coalition together with violent and murderous intentions (Acts 14:5).

The ways that they responded. When they could no longer stay in Antioch Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas shake the dust off their feet against them. What is the point of this? God is the intended audience of this act; He will act upon this in the day of judgment (cf. Matthew 10:14–15). But He also acts upon it by blessing their labors even in their absence (Acts 13:52). Christ’s servants must remember that He is their primary audience.

Wherever they go, they stay on missionActs 14:1 notes something that we could easily miss. In our translation, it is found it that little word “so.” They so spoke that a great multitude believed. God’s appointed mechanism for working faith in a great multitude was not just preaching but a particular manner of preaching. We have seen that manner in the great sermon in Acts 13:13–41, and it is summarized in Acts 14:3 as “speaking boldly in the Lord.” Their recent experiences and stiff opposition did not cause them to tone down their ministry but to persist in it. When they end up in Lystra and Derbe they do the same (Acts 14:7).

They know the difference between discouragement and danger. Whereas opposition is a cause for them to reaffirm their commitment in Acts 14:3, actual threat on their life is cause for them to move on to the next ministry in Acts 14:6.

The way that Christ responded. There is much here about how His enemies resisted, and how His servants responded, but the main Character isn’t actually in any of the cities but sitting on the throne of heaven. It is His Word that spreads (Acts 13:49). It is His Spirit Who fills the disciples (Acts 13:52). It is He Himself Who bears the witness in Acts 14:3. It is to the Word of His grace to which He bears that witness. It is He Who grants gifts of signs and wonders done by their hands as that witness. Surely, this not only confirmed their message to their hearers but encouraged them in their preaching that the Lord Himself was with them.

What are some signs of a faithful and fruitful gospel ministry among us? What sorts of opposition might we expect from within the church? From the world? How should we pray and hope that we, and especially Christ’s ordained servants will respond? How should we pray that Christ will respond?

Sample prayer:  Lord, grant to us that many would believe and be full of joy and of Your Spirit. Grant that Your servants would speak in such a way that a multitude would believe. Forgive us for when we are fearful, anxious, discouraged, or intimidated by the gossip and opposition of those who reject the bold preaching of Your Word. Give us wisdom to see the difference between resistance and threat, and keep us faithful until our work in this world is done, we ask, in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or TPH2B “Why Do Heathen Nations Rage?”

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