One way to look at Acts 14 is to just quote what Paul told his follower Timothy towards the end of Paul’s life: “All that will live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (II Timothy 3:12) Our weekly live class was on Acts chapter 14 [You can hear the live class audio here] and this was the chapter where Paul and Barnabas suffered their first and some of their worst persecution.
In our class we again noted and discussed the different ways Paul witnessed to the Jews and then to the Greeks. His whole approach and conversation with the Greeks was completely different from the way he spoke to the Jews. For one, when speaking to the Greeks, he didn’t start out by blasting them that they were all worshiping devils and that they were going to hell. He was a good deal wiser and more loving, doing all he could to win them to the Lord and to share the Gospel with them in such a way that they could relate to it from their background and nationality.
Paul really loved people and was earnest in his desire to bring men to Christ, not to tell them how bad they were and how righteous he and his fellows were. And that’s a good lesson for all Christians today when we’re faced with those from another race, religion, ethnicity or nation.
In fact, if you want to read a sweet, loving, heartfelt speech given to present to the complete heathen an introduction to who the “Father of Spirits” (Hebrews 12:9) is, the “Father of lights” (Hebrews 12:9) , you can read this passage here in Acts 14.Paul told them,
“We are merely human beings the same as you and we’re telling you the good news so you’ll turn from these worthless things [worshiping idols] to the living God, Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. In past generations He allowed all the nations to go their own ways, but He has not abandoned His witness: He continues to do good, to give you rain from heaven, to give you fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14: 15-17)
But also this chapter was one of the worst and most direct examples of extreme persecution that Paul every experienced. Did he cut and run? Did he apologize and shilly-shally? Did he become an apostate and go back to Jerusalem to rejoin his Pharisee friends? You know he didn’t. He was literally left for dead on the side of the road in Acts 14. But he got up, went back into the same city his persecutors had come from and again preached the gospel. How could he?! Was he crazy? You or I would never do anything like that, would we? Christians are not like that now, are they?
God can surprise you. There are Bible prophecies saying that the people of the Last Days “shall be strong and do exploits“. (Daniel 11:32) “And they that understand among the people shall instruct many.” (Daniel 11:33) “And they that be wise shall turn many to righteousness”, (Daniel 12:3) all spoken of concerning the times yet to come.
“Oh that couldn’t be me! I’m not like that. Those days were different! People are not like that now!”
Well, the Bible says, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) I personally believe that someone, maybe it won’t be you, maybe it won’t be me, but someone is going to do “greater works” (John 14:12); Jesus said so.
The church of the future to come is not going to be full of cowards, quitters and defeated souls. Someones are going to stand up in the days to come as some of the strongest Christians to have ever lived, as a witness to the nations and peoples of the Last Days, just as Paul did here in Acts 14 at the beginning of Christian times and the Early Church 2000 years ago.
We also talked about the two manifestations of the Devil, the serpent and the dragon. Most of the time, sadly, the serpent can get many people with his words. That’s all that’s needed for some people who can be led away from God and the truth through the words of the serpent. But if, at length, that doesn’t work, then along comes the dragon with violent, physical persecution and attacks like Paul suffered in Acts 14
And we talked about how this pattern of witnessing, winning souls, and ordaining elders or pastors in small fledgling churches was the model on which future missionaries patterned their work for the next hundreds of years, including St. Patrick when he evangelized the Irish, Columba when he evangelized the Scots and Boniface when the gospel was preached to the nation we now call Germany, around 700 AD.
So I hope if you get a chance, you can listen to the 30+ minute audio of our class on Acts 14. In some ways, it’s all there. True disciples of Jesus were going into all the world to win souls. They received persecution for their efforts. But through them Christianity was born in the hearts of those they witnessed to. And it took root and grew in the centuries to come to be some of the best bodies of believers there has ever been. A sample to us all, God help us.