Opposition to the Gospel

In Your Bible: Acts 17: 1-15

Paul and Silas traveled to Thessalonica and Berea (Macedonia) where they shared in Synagogues for several weeks. As they preached about Jesus, but this stirred up anger from those who didn’t understand or believe. However, to those who did (and now do) receive the message, it is salvation and life. Opposition to the gospel continues today.

Thessalonica

The Roman road from the Adriatic Sea to the Middle East was called the Egnatian Way. The main street of Thessalonica was part of that road! If Christianity were firmly founded there, it could spread quickly in the Roman Empire.

Paul and Silas traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia (100 miles of walking) and came to Thessalonica. In the Synagogue Paul preached from the Scriptures. Paul told them bluntly, there were no other options, this Jesus is the Messiah. Many God-fearing Greeks, men and women from the aristocracy, joined them.

But some Jews became furious over the conversions and sought to capture Paul and Silas for insurrection! The said, “These men who have upset the world have come here also” (Acts 17:6b NASB). Wow, what an authentication of effective evangelism!

Berea

But the opposition to Paul and Silas was a real danger. In response to this, the brethren in Thessalonica immediately sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the Synagogue of the Jews to preach Jesus.

Now those who heard Paul and Silas, received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to validate what was preached. Again, many believed with a number of prominent Greeks, as happened in Thessalonica.

 

When the Jews of Thessalonica heard that the word of God had been proclaimed in Berea, they came there to stir up the crowds against the message Paul and Silas preached. The Berean believers immediately escorted Paul to Athens but Silas and Timothy remained in Berea. Opposition to the gospel continues today.

Prayer: Father, thank you for believers who listen to your Spirit and watch over fellow believers and respond to real needs. Selah.

Questions: How do you see opposition displayed in other cities Paul or other disciples preached? Compare opposition to the gospel message in Thessalonica and Berea to opposition to Christianity today.

Nicodemus, You’re Not Listening

So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born again’–out of this world, so to speak (THE MESSAGE John 3:7).

From: THE MESSAGE John 3:1-21
In Your Bible: John 3:1-21

Nicodemus a Pharisee

A Pharisee – Nicodemus

As a child, how many times did you hear, “You are not listening to me!” Maybe not only at home, but also at school. What if this came from someone you didn’t want to disappoint? Too often this comment is probably true. We should listen better.

Nicodemus, a Pharisee met Jesus at night. He said, Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it (THE MESSAGE John 3:2). It was obvious, God was working through Jesus – even the Pharisees had to admit it!

Jesus explained to Nicodemus about being born from above as though he would or should understand. But Nicodemus was thinking in natural terms, “How can a man be born again when he is old?” Jesus of course spoke in spiritual terms today’s believers can now grasp.

Jesus had to get Nicodemus’ attention: You’re not listening, I’ll say it again. If I tell you things that are plain as the hand before your face and you don’t believe me, what use is there in telling you of things you can’t see, the things of God? (THE MESSAGE John 3:12).

Shortly after this encounter, Jesus said a verse we’ve heard often, but it’s a bit different in the Message. This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: So that no one need to be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life (THE MESSAGE John 3:16).

This powerful, plain truth for Nicodemus, a prominent leader, teacher, and Pharisee is the same truth for us today. Nicodemus believed. We should too. With the Word, the Word incarnate, and the Holy Spirit of God, we have no excuse but to believe!

Application: The term “Be born again” or “Born from above” means much more if we sit with Nicodemus and Jesus in this exchange. Everyone who looks to God, trusts and believes in him through Jesus, will gain real life–eternal life. Are you listening?

Prayer: Father, guide me into the truth of your Word. As I read and listen to you, help me learn to abide in you.

Photo of Pharisee – from Jesus His Life and Times, Fleming H. Revell Company, Old Tappan, New Jersey, 1979, The Genesis Project.