Sermon in a nutshell: “I will return to you, if God wills” (Acts 18:12-22)
In American history, we have many good people who have been shot and killed. Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. are examples. They show us that anything worth pursuing can also draw opposition and attacks. When we spread the Good News we also expect opposition and attacks.
Last Sunday, we talked about how Paul sustained his passion and strength, which he did through his colleagues and supporters. He also received confirmation from the Lord. This Sunday, we will see how Paul overcame opposition.
The first thing that we notice from the Bible passage is this: Paul did not violate any civil laws; he was actually a law-abiding Roman citizen. He did not lead any civil disobedience movement. He did not want the civil authorities to have any excuse to put stumbling blocks in his way of evangelism. For Paul, bringing eternal life into the lives of people was more important than the improvement of living conditions of people. That was the reason why Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, could not arrest Paul even when the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal. Gallio replied to the Jews who accused Paul, “If it were a matter of crime or serious villainy, I would be justified in accepting the complaint of you Jews; but since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves; I do not wish to be a judge of these matters.” And he dismissed them from the tribunal.
Paul was not afraid of being arrested and killed. He was ready to die. (He was ready to die for the Lord!) However, it was not the right time and the right reason. His call was to spread the Gospel of the risen Jesus. He wanted to make sure that as many people as possible had eternal life first. When the time was right, Christians would make a positive impact and lead civil resistance according to the word of God. However, it would be a call for others.
Paul would not even violate the religious laws. At Cenchreae, Paul had his hair cut. He kept his vow according to the Jewish laws. Even though Paul did not believe that the laws saved lives, he did not want to give any excuse for the Jewish people to attack him for incidental reasons.
He was focused and strategic. He devoted his time and energy to the most important call: sharing the life of the risen Jesus with as many people as possible. That was why Paul could not stay in one place. He moved around all the time. After staying in Corinth for a while he went to Syria with Priscilla and Aquila. When they reached Ephesus, he left the couple there to do the local church ministry and moved on to Caesarea, then to Jerusalem, and to Antioch. People asked him to stay longer. He declined but he promised to come back, God willing. After spending some time there, he departed and went from place to place through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
Paul’s way of handling opposition is clear. He focused on his mission and call. First, he would not give any reason for others to criticize him for civil or religious violations. Then, he did not become discouraged due to opposition. But when it did occur, he viewed that opposition as just part of his journey. Then lastly, he paid attention to God’s will and not to the praise or criticism of people. In that way, he continued his mission work. If we all can follow these steps, we do not have to worry about obstacles in our mission and ministry. May God be with us all when we share the Good News with our neighbors and friends!
- What is your focus and purpose in your life?
- How would you handle the challenges of life in light of your call?