2017-12-13 / Religion

Faith to persevere against opposition

Sunday School Lesson
Rev. James Temples

Acts 14

There are those who teach that the life of the person, who follows our Lord Jesus Christ, is a life without problems. This erroneous doctrine has led many people down the road to frustration and discouragement. Our Lord told the Eleven, “In the world ye shall have tribulation but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33b.

The Old Testament prophets wrote of the suffering of the coming Messiah. The psalmists described suffering that would be endured by the promised one. Jesus, himself, declared, “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.” Matthew 10:24. Some of these modern-day spiritual gurus have declared that “If Paul had known what we know, his life would have been much easier.” The great apostle would not have accepted this spiritual lie!

As Paul and Barnabas continued their journey in spreading the gospel, their message, as always, received “mixed reviews.” (Acts 14) Luke recorded, “And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of Jews and also of the Greeks believed.” This successful spreading of the gospel was met with direct opposition, “But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.”

Opposition did not cause these faithful ministers to change their message. “Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” The supernatural signs and wonders that had accompanied their faithful ministry caused division among the hearers, “But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.” This “division of the city” made it necessary for Barnabas and Paul to leave. However, their departure did not stifle their ministry.

The Holy Spirit focused on the ministry in the city of Lystra. As usual, their pattern was to go to the synagogue, and there speak with the Jews. There was a local crippled man who “heard Paul speak.”

Something about this Gentile caught the attention of Paul who, “steadfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.” The response of the crowd was immediate, “And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.” This declaration was part of their pagan folklore.

The language of these people was unknown to Barnabas and Paul. However, as they watched the local proceedings, the public intent was obvious. “Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard thereof, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven and earth, and sea, and all things that are therein: Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”

It is difficult to “reason with a mob.” When single minded, sincere mob leaders are confronted, the opposition, still, faces great difficulties, However, the apostles were successful.

As we see in our day, opposition came from an outside source. “And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people…” Those, who wanted to do sacrifice to the apostles were persuaded by the evil rabble-rousers. The group “having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.” However, their diagnosis was inaccurate.

Luke shows us the next scene “Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him [no doubt, praying], he rose up, and came in to the city.” This result brought about the showing of perseverance that guided these dedicated lives “and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.” This man was human, as were all others. His physical condition was not allowed to dictate his following the divine plan for his life.

These men kept the divine call, as the central focus of their everyday life and ministry.

These two men continued their travels, returning to Antioch, their point of departure. “And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.” This door remains open unto this day!

Return to top