Tag Archives: persecution

Encouraged to Witness ~ Acts 18:1-17

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” ~ Acts 18:9-10

Paul departs Athens and makes his way to Corinth. Following his familiar pattern, he preaches Jesus the Messiah in the synagogue. The Jews became abusive, frustrating Paul to the point of saying he would no longer preach to the Jews; from now on he was going to the Gentiles. That clearly was not aligned with God’s plan, for God spoke to Paul in a dream, encouraging Paul to continue speaking and reassuring Paul that no harm would come to him. With God’s reassurance Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, preaching the word of God.

Pilate Pontius and Christ before the Jews

Pilate Pontius and Christ before the Jews (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a parallel to Jesus’ appearance before Pontius Pilate, some angry Jews brought Paul before Gallio the proconsul, accusing Paul of “persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law” (verse 13). Pilate tried to remove himself from Jesus’ situation without success; Gallio told the Jews that this was not a matter of law but of religion and that they should deal with Paul themselves. In response the crowd turned on Sosthenes, the synagogue leader and beat him.

This is an historically important exchange. By refusing to hear the Jews’ charges against Paul, Gallio in essence elevated Christianity to a “recognized religion” status – a status enjoyed by the Jews. With this status the Roman government would take no action on charges emanating from a religious dispute. But also, we once again see God true to His Word: although the Jews rose up against Paul, God protected him and preserved his ministry.

So why did the Jews beat Sosthenes? At every stop on the apostles’ missionary journeys, Scripture records the frustration and anger felt by many Jews concerning their message. Instead of seeing God’s promise fulfilled, they clearly perceived a threatened way of life. Paul’s witness to the Gospel was fed by the Holy Spirit, and with that nourishment, his witness was very effective. Sosthenes, the synagogue leader, responded to the Gospel by coming to faith in Christ. Since the angry Jews couldn’t touch Paul, they beat their leader. Faith in Christ sometimes comes with an earthly price; but that price is negligible in comparison to the eternal glory we will know when our Lord calls us home.

Persecution is evidence of a resonating message. In many parts of the world, Christians are beaten and killed because of their witness to Christ. When we stand firmly on God’s Word and speak His Truth in these United States we may be laughed at, scorned, ridiculed, or shunned. We may have falsehoods told about us, or we might even be dismissed from a Christian church. Such persecution will often come from other Christians, just as Paul experienced with fellow Jews. When we are persecuted for our faith and for our witness, let us be encouraged, knowing that God is working through us.

Ponder this: When have I been persecuted for standing on God’s Word? How did I respond?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for using me to further Your kingdom. Help me to always stand grounded in Your Word, and help me to always speak Your Truth, even in the face of persecution. Let me serve You according to Your good and perfect will. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Unlikely Servant ~ Acts 9:1-31

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord–Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here–has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9:17

Saul was one of the most aggressive in persecuting the Christians of the early church. With the blessings of the Jewish high priests, he was determined to permanently derail the Christians and put an end to the church once and for all. I am once again reminded of the admonishment by one high priest in Chapter 5: “…For if their purpose is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

the Conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus...

the Conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus as painted by Michelangelo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Saul apparently didn’t realize that he was fighting God Himself. This new faith was not of the apostles’ doing; it was God’s plan and it would not be thwarted. God allows Saul no room for doubt. Appearing to him on the road to Damascus, Jesus asked Saul “why do you persecute me?” What a great question. Saul was persecuting the believers – but in God’s eyes this persecution of God’s people amounted to persecution of Jesus Himself. What amazing love God has for us! He took our place on the cross, and now He stands as the One persecuted by Saul! Saul, of course, cannot refuse this message and after his conversion he became one of God’s most powerful witnesses.

God didn’t just end Saul’s persecution; He took this most stringent opponent of His church and changed him into one of His strongest witnesses. What testimony to God’s power and wisdom! There are many instances in Scripture in which God chooses an unlikely person to serve Him in furthering His plan. Moses, Rahab, David, Jonah…and Saul among many others. God shows time and again the superiority of His wisdom and power.

Today, Christians all around the world are still being persecuted – some to their death. Here in the United States, Christians are persecuted for standing firm on God’s Word – not physically perhaps, but certainly verbally and emotionally. We see it in the media and we read it on the Internet. Perhaps if we look at those who persecute us as potential witnesses to the Lord we might be in a better position to witness to them. Perhaps there are some modern-day Sauls out there. I don’t know, but I do know this: No human will derail God’s plan for me and for His church. Believe that. Stand on that promise. Stand firmly on God’s Word. And go and serve the Lord.

Ponder this: How would God use me? Who are the potential unlikely servants in my life? How might I witness to them in spite of their disbelief?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I sometimes wish You would appear to me as You did to Saul. Perhaps You have, but I’m just not tuned in. God, in Jesus’ name, use me as You will to witness to You and reach those who need to hear Your Word. AMEN.

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