Summary: The early Church had a bad reputation which helped it grow and we should cultivate such a bad repputation in our time.
The Blessing of a Bad Reputation Acts 28:22
INTRO.:Paul is in Rome facing trial for preaching Christ. While waiting for his hearing before Caesar, he is permitted to have guests and to communicate with others. He calls the leaders of the local synagogue to explain his side of the issues before the court. READ VV. 17-22
The Church had a bad reputation among the Jews: “people everywhere are talking against this sect.”
God can use even such evil practices as slander and persecution to make His Church grow.
Let’s look at the criticism of the early Church to see the blessings in a bad reputation. They are accused of:
I. Persuading men to worship God in ways contrary to the Law. Acts 18:13
A. What, exactly, did they mean?
1. They referred to Jewish tradition.
2. Washing of hands, Sabbath observance, observance of fasts and feasts, etc.
3. They had myriads of written and unwritten traditions used to keep people in line.
B. Jesus had little use for such traditions:
1. His was a “new” religion. Matt 9:16, 17
2. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ Mk. 7:7
3. Jews followed traditions handed down from their fathers like blind men following blind guides.
C. The Church called men to make a personal decision to commit their lives to Christ..
1. John’s challenge, also. Matt. 3:9
2. They told people it was not enough to follow rituals because fathers and grandfathers had.
3. If we blindly follow others, they may well lead us into error.
II. Being a “sect.” Acts 24:5, 14
A. Again, just what is the accusation?
1. He belongs to a “sect.” he is a “heretic” in the Greek. Someone who separates himself from others by holding a minority opinion.
2. He has not committed sedition, profaned the temple.
3. He continues to believe the Law and Prophets.
4. He hopes in God and a resurrection.
5. He is brought to trial because of his trust in Christ, contrary to the opinion of the Jewish leaders.
6. His crime: holding a minority opinion about Jesus.
B. To the world, Christians are still “heretics” in the minority.
1. We believe God’s word and test “science” by it.
2. We put others ahead of self.
3. We believe man is created in God’s image, not just another animal.
4. We believe lives are changed through spiritual influence, not just psychology.
III. Putting Christ first: Acts 16:21 “advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice."
A. What were they doing which was “unlawful.”
1. Of course, the real reason for their arrest was financial. Their charges were fraudulent.
2. But Rome did demand Caesar worship and Christians put Christ ahead of state or emperor.
3. Thus, Christianity was too exclusive.
B. Christians are sometimes accused of being too narrow today, too.
1. Rome didn’t mind worship of Jesus as long as the state deities weren’t neglected.
2. Today, men tolerate Christians willingly if we don’t oppose sin and self-worship.
3. Christianity is exclusive as truth excludes error and light excludes darkness.
IV. Changing the world: Acts 17:6 “caused trouble all over the world.” this charge was made in Thessalonica.
A. It’s a testimony to the impact of their witness:
1. They were not using military or political force. Only the Gospel.
2. Christians in Thessalonica were simply not content to “live and let live.” I Thess. 1:6-8
3. When the Gospel is preached, men are disturbed, for better or for worse.
B. We should have this kind of impact today:
1. Most Churches can be criticized for inactivity.
2. We should not seek to please people. Our concern should not be that we are criticized, but what for.
3. No one accuses the modern Church of turning the world upside down
4. We are too complacent about millions without food, shelter, and the Gospel.
CONC.: Dale Carnegie has written that criticism is just a compliment in disguise. He means we are criticized by those who feel inferior to us in their accomplishments and criticism means we are noticed. We can see the blessing in having the kind of reputation the early church had.
Critics said they worshiped contrary to the Law. What they really meant was they called men to a personal commitment to Christ.
Critics accused them of heresy because they held a minority opinion, but their opinion was right.
Critics accused them of disloyalty because they put Christ before Caesar.
Critics accused them of sedition because they sought to change the world through the preaching of the Gospel.
In all these things, their critics paid them great compliments. May we develop a similar bad reputation.