Week of Nov. 25: Paul's unrelenting passion to spread the gospel

11/19/2012

Lesson for week of November 25
 Scripture: Acts 28:16, 17, 23-31
   By GLENN HANNIGAN
     The book of Acts records the efforts of early church leaders to spread the gospel from Jerusalem and Judea to Samaria and across the known world. And along with the successes and victories, it also records the many setbacks and rejection of the gospel by Jewish leaders in various cities and nations.
    In today’s lesson in the 28th chapter of Acts, this much is evident: The Apostle Paul is uncompromising and unrelenting in his desire to spread the Good News. And rejection of his message seems to have little or no influence on his efforts.
     This narrative picks up after Paul endures terrible weather on the seas, is shipwrecked, and winds up seeking refuge on Malta. Now, Paul has finally reached Rome and look forward to appealing his case to the Roman emperor. Unlike other imprisonments Paul faced, he was not in a jail or prison but under house arrest. Though he remained under guard, he was allowed to rent his own quarters.  
     Though Paul understood his mission as primarily reaching out to the Gentiles he also remained faithful in his efforts to reach the Jews, despite often facing mistreatment.
   In verse 17, Paul calls together Jewish leaders and makes a personal appeal, “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors . . .”
   Of course, if Paul is going to be effective in sharing Christ with the Jews he will have to convince them by using their scriptures to reveal the nature and identity of Messiah.
     It is obvious that this is no half-hearted effort. Paul’s desire to reach the Jews is as authentic as it is vigorous.
      “He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus,” reveals verse 23.
       And, is the case in most every place where the gospel is shared,
    “Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe,” (verse 24).
      How much has changed in the past 2000 years? Is the response Paul received from the Jewish leaders very different than what an evangelist might experience at any revival?
     And, with that being that case, what lesson can we take from Paul, who though understandably disappointed when all do not accept the gospel, does not allow himself to become discouraged or dissuaded from sharing the Good News.
    But he is clear and honest with his Jewish audience, quoting the words of Isaiah (6:9-10), which prophesied that they would lack understanding and perception because of calloused hearts.
      This message is a precursor of Paul’s revelation in verse 28 that: "God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” 
     What is clear in these passages, and a direct challenge for us to follow, is that regardless of the response he received from his audience, Paul was diligent in sharing the gospel. He did not shrink back or alter his message when it was not positively embraced.
     Today’s lesson ends with the revelation that for two years Paul remained in house arrest “and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!”
 Question for today: How do you react when you share your faith with someone and do not get a positive response? Do you allow a negative reaction to dissuade you from sharing the Good News?
 Glenn Hannigan is the editor of the North Georgia Advocate. You can reach him by email at glenn@ngumc.org.
 
 


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