But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. ~ Acts 13:50
Paul and Barnabas continue on their journey and the Holy Spirit leads them to Antioch. Here, Paul is invited to speak in the synagogue on the Sabbath, a common event (inviting a guest rabbi to speak) in those days. Paul beautifully presents the Gospel, and the response was so great that he was invited to speak the following week. This time, almost the entire town showed up, both Jews and Gentiles. Upon seeing the positive response from the crowd, the Jewish leaders became jealous and reprimanded Paul for his message. Sound familiar? Paul boldly tells them “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 13:46-47). Upon hearing this, the Gentiles were filled with joy and “all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” (13:48b).
Throughout the book of Acts, we see this pattern: As the Gospel spreads through Jewish and Gentile populations, persecution almost always follows. You see, the Gospel rightfully shifts the focus of the believer from the supposed greatness of human leaders to the power and might of Almighty God. In this passage, the Jewish leaders succumb to the siren call of their egos to the point of stirring up persecution against the very men they had invited to speak! As a result, many come to faith as the apostles are expelled from the region.
Even today we see this phenomenon. Believers who speak God’s Truth in America are often called unthinking, narrow-minded, old fashioned, and many other derogatory names – by believers and non-believers alike. In many parts of the world, Christians bold enough to share the Gospel are persecuted to the point of death. We humans want to be in charge, we want power and position; we want to be subordinate to nobody. When our testimony yields such persecution we should take heart and rejoice, just as the apostles did. For such persecution means our witness is having impact on our world. And with that, we should be encouraged and press on towards the goal of sharing the Gospel with all who so desperately need to hear it.
Ponder this: Have I ever been persecuted for sharing the Gospel? What is my response?
My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, strengthen me to share your Word with this dying world. Help me to rejoice and take encouragement when persecution comes my way. May I always serve You first. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.