The passage for today is Acts 14:1-7. To read online please click on the Bible reference.
I am a fan of preaching. I believe it’s a method that has been used of God countless times to bring people to himself. Interestingly, when people talk about how they came to faith, it’s common for them to say; ‘I can’t remember a word that the preacher said’, but there is often an awareness that God is speaking to them. I’ve never heard anyone say; ‘that sermon was so clever and all of his points began with the letter P. I just had to become a Christian’. Salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit. There are different styles of preaching of course but for me, a sermon should have content and the anointing of the Spirit. I’ve heard preachers who have been excellent communicators but at the end I’ve been left wondering what it was all about or some who just tell a succession of stories without any reference to the Scriptures. New Testament preachers had content in what they said. They were in constant danger, so they made every opportunity count.
Iconium was in Galatia so can get some idea of the content of Paul’s sermons from his letter to the Galatian Christians;
“Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.” (Galatians 3:1)
As for the anointing of the Holy Spirit, his work is to speak of Jesus;
‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me.’ (John 15:26)
So when the message has content, it speaks of Jesus and all that he has done, the Holy Spirit is present to anoint the message. As we shall see, Paul’s message clearly had plenty of content and was anointed by the Spirit.
Paul and Barnabas’ preferred method seems to have been to speak first to the Jews and then to the gentiles. What is interesting here, is that the Jews and gentiles received the same message and some of the Jews and gentiles responded to the gospel. I know this has been a theme for a few weeks now but it really was a massive thing. We looked at how the Jews regarded non-Jewish people but the Greeks had a similar view of non-Greeks; they were barbarians. Iconium was a Greek city. The Gospel is radical, it states that all people; regardless of race, social status or gender can receive forgiveness through Christ.
There is strong opposition in the passage but clearly God is at work. There are signs and wonders and many are trusting Christ. It goes to show that we should not give up just because things are difficult, it would be wrong to be led solely by our circumstances. We see something else in verse two;
“But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.”
Christians sometimes say that all sin is the same and I know what they mean. All sin is serious and will ultimately condemn an individual to hell if that person hasn’t come to God in repentance and faith. But it isn’t true to say all sin is the same. Jesus said to Pilate;
“The one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” (John 19:11)
The implication for Pilate was that he was guilty of sin but the greater sin was that of Caiaphas the high priest who had plotted and planned to have Jesus crucified. I make the point because the sin of some of the Jews in Iconium was very serious (not that sin is ever not serious), they poisoned the minds of the gentiles. Jesus said;
“Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”
It seems to me that there are plenty of people around who are in the business of poisoning minds; I would urge them strongly to repent now and receive God’s forgiveness because he can save even the worst kind of person. I know because he saved me.
As you wash the stains of my guilty heart
‘Til I’m clean in every part
I kneel down, I kneel down
Wash away my shame my pain my pride
Every sin that I once denied
I kneel down, I kneel down (I Kneel Down – Graham Kendrick)