It’s Acts 22:22-29 today and the notes this week have been prepared by Beth.
I teach teenagers and so I spend most of my day explaining what I want the pupils to do, only to be asked five or six more times what they are supposed to be doing – not because they don’t understand but because they don’t listen. This is a familiar feeling for Christians. We are often left feeling like our words fall on deaf ears and Paul experiences this too.
Yesterday we looked at how effectively Paul shared his testimony with the mob and manages to silence them with his words but today we’re reading about how, despite Paul’s great words, the crowd shout, ‘Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to be live!’ (22:22) Despite Paul meeting them where they’re at, being calm and unafraid and sharing his simple and honest testimony, he doesn’t manage to change their opinion. Sometimes we can follow the Holy Spirit’s calling, pray about what to say and then say it and still be ineffective. Sometimes our words fall on deaf ears. It is painfully frustrating and demoralising but true.
Several years ago, Mel Gibson directed a film called ‘The Passion’, detailing Christ’s death. It had its faults but it was an amazing opportunity. It was shown in cinemas around the country and millions of people went to watch it. At the time I was working with someone who I’d had several opportunities to share the gospel with and who seemed open to hearing about it. I was praying for her regularly and so when the film was released (she was a huge film-buff), I asked her if she wanted to go to watch it in the cinema with me. Her response will forever stay with me, ‘Nah. The thing is, I know if I watched it I’d become a Christian and I don’t want to be. I like my life the way it is.’ It hit me like a bullet. She was able to openly say that she would become a Christian (and so obviously believed it) but was happy to leave her life the way it was.
This frustration can’t lead us to stop speaking and sharing the gospel. We must keep praying and ‘making the most of every opportunity’. (Ephesians 5:16)
What’s impressive about Paul here is that, despite speaking in Aramaic and meeting the crowd where they’re at, he won’t compromise on sharing what God has told him to do: preach to the gentiles. It would be easy for him to simply talk to them about Judaism and God but he didn’t. It’s so important that, when trying to make the gospel accessible, we don’t compromise its message.
The crowd silently listen to him for some time – long enough to hear his testimony – but, on his mention of preaching to the gentiles, they become so angered, they begin to tear off their clothes. The crowd are angered at the sight of him. Their actions of tearing off their clothes are probably either a sign of what they want to do to him or reminiscent of those who stoned Stephen, who threw off their clothes. Either way, Paul’s life is in very real danger. Sometimes elements of the bible’s message are unpopular and anger people but we can’t compromise.
‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ (Romans 12:2)
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:13-18)