Summary: I preach expository messages, and this is from my series on the book of Acts.
“Calling an Audible”
December 2, 2007
Ever been in a church where it was obvious that people had assigned seats? Ever been in a church where they didn’t? That’s a better question, because we all know that we are creatures of habit, and we get ourselves so easily stuck in ruts; it takes actual, honest effort not to get caught up in those ruts. Already, some of us, even in a group of this size, are settling into ruts a little, aren’t we? And in some churches, people come to expect that a certain pew/seat is theirs. As a teenager at Shenandoah Baptist, the right front was the domain of the teenagers; we loved to sit up front and close in the large auditorium. In fact, I personally liked the second row down front—but so did this other family…and it almost got to be a race to get the seats we wanted—and it never got ugly, but it could have, you know? And sometimes it does; we hear stories of visitors being asked to move, in no uncertain terms. God help us…but something like that must have been going on this particular Sabbath morning in the synagogue in Antioch. Note
I. Reception by the People - :44
Remember that last week, Paul and Barnabas were welcomed as visiting teachers in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, where they’d gone following their time on the island of Cyprus. And they had boldly proclaimed Jesus, using a history lesson drawn from God’s dealings with His people Israel to demonstrate that the coming of Jesus was the natural fulfillment of all that the Old Testament law had been pointing to. When they left, folks followed them home, Jew and Gentile alike, some already believing, with others no doubt curious to hear more. So what happened between the time when Paul and Barnabas spoke in the synagogue one Sabbath, and the following Sabbath when nearly the whole city came out? The God-fearing Gentiles got out and invited all of their friends, and the result was an evangelist’s dream: a throng of people turn out to hear Paul and Barnabas.
Luke is speaking a bit “evangelistically”, perhaps; the “whole city” meaning that it sure seemed like everyone in town was there. This would include, of course, many Gentiles, flooding the courts of the synagogue, and this would be an unwelcome sight for many pious Jews. A few Gentiles, who were willing to be “God-fearers”, to worship the God of Israel; well, these could be tolerated and even encouraged. But a mass display of them, people who’d never before shown interest in the things of God, and taking up the choice seats? That’s another story! But such was the interest and curiosity of the crowds at the things they’d heard.
II. Rejection by the Jews - :45
“The Jews” – Obviously, this refers to the Jewish religious leaders, those who were not interested in accepting the truth of the gospel.
Not only were the Jewish leaders miffed because their nice little synagogue had been invaded by all of these strangers, but they were miffed as well because the message being presented by Paul and Barnabas was not to their liking. The idea that this salvation was wide-open to Gentiles as well as to Jews, and on equal footing, was a bridge too far for these Jewish leaders. This was the greater problem, almost heresy to the Jews, to think that this gospel of Jesus that was being proclaimed as the natural fulfillment of the OT Law would be open to Gentiles without them at least having to go first through the door of Jewish faith.
KJV uses the word “blaspheming” to describe what these Jewish leaders were doing, and the word in the Greek is blasphemountes, which signifies that “blaspheme” is an appropriate word to describe their actions. If this is the case, in what sense could “blaspheme” accurately describe what they were doing? It is in this sense: when the gospel is spoken against, Christ is spoken against! And when Christ is spoken against, God is spoken against, for He is God, and when God is spoken against, we are guilty of blasphemy. That’s not to say we call for the execution of people because for naming a teddy bear “Jesus”…
But there is more than simple regard for what they perceived as truth motivating these Jewish leaders; Paul gets right to the heart of things when he identifies jealousy as a motive, jealousy that kicked in when these guys saw that Paul and Barnabas, in a week’s time, could draw a crowd to the synagogue unlike anything they’d been able to in all their years of ministering. Jealousy: a particularly deadly sin, one that we must be on guard against.
Two shopkeepers were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of each other’s business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival. One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, "I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Would you be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you wish to live a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. What is your desire?" The man frowned, thought for a moment, and then said, "Here is my request: Strike me blind in one eye!"