Year 2 Day 45
Read - Acts 17v1-9
Message - Scott Woodburn
I've thoroughly enjoyed preaching through Acts and writing these daily devotions. I certainly hope by this stage I've made some things quite clear. The church didn't begin at Pentecost, we shouldn't seek or look for another Pentecost, the church in the days after the Ascension was not a perfect place and the work and the office and the gifting of the Apostles has now ceased. As I reflect on these things I think another difference between then and now becomes clear in today's passage.
Firstly though, there is plenty that is familiar. Paul arrives in Thessalonica and preaches for three Sabbath days from the Scriptures (v1-2). His focus as usual was Christ and Paul did his best to show that Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead (v3a). Paul was confident in the Gospel and made it clear that Jesus was the Christ (v3b). As usual some came to believe (v4) and as usual some out of jealousy formed a mob and sought to cause trouble for the church (v5).
A Christian by the name of Jason and some others were dragged before the city authorities (v6). The charges? The usual story that these Christians had destroyed the peace and had placed Christ as king above Caesar (v8). The city officials were disturbed by this news but after Jason had paid money as security he was allowed to go free (v9). So far, so familiar. In the days after the Ascension the church saw great growth but also great persecution. Yet as I read the opening verse of this chapter I'm struck by how offensive the Gospel was in Thessalonica.
It seems that no one is on the fence. Many believe, many do not. Many rejoice at the Gospel, many despise it. Many proclaim "Jesus is Lord", many shout “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also" (v6). When I consider Northern Ireland I fear the church has lost its wonder at the Gospel and society at large sees the message as irrelevant. I pray that both statistics will change.
Paul once wrote "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1v18) There is nothing tame or mundane about the Gospel. It looks the sinner in the eye and declares "You must be born again!". It once caused cities and synagogues to be stirred and disturbed and troubled. Today? Perhaps the church thinks the Gospel has lost its sparkle and the world merely shrugs with a disinterested yawn.
We cannot go back in time to the years immediately after the Ascension but the Lord has not changed. Let us join in prayer and ask that our generation will live to see the day that we remember the Gospel isn't a dusty relic but instead the Word of life to all who will believe. I've never been to Thessalonica, it's probably very different to the place I call home. Yet may Ballynahinch and Down and beyond be turned upside-down by the Gospel once more.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'"(Romans 1v16-17)
Q55 What is forbidden in the third commandment? The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God maketh himself known.