Summary: There has never been a time when it was more important than now for Christians to internalize the scriptures and be prepared to live them and speak them.
“And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”
Looking back at chapter 18 for a moment, if you read from verse 19 you will be reminded that Paul has already spent some time in the synagogue at Ephesus and they asked him to stay and tell them more. He was unwilling to at the time, but promised to return if he could.
So, keeping his promise, he has now returned to Ephesus, and apparently almost immediately upon his arrival he runs across these 12 men who are worshippers of God but have not become Christians. MacArthur calls them Old Testament saints. They seem to be in much the same condition Apollos was before he was approached by Aquila and Priscilla, except that perhaps he may have been more knowledgeable of information about Jesus than they. Again, we don’t know and won’t speculate here. It is enough to know that God in His providence brought the right people together at the right time so that these various men could be brought to completion.
Now Paul goes to the synagogue, and this is why I said he apparently found those twelve incomplete disciples very early after his arrival; because the scripture record seems to indicate that when he arrived in any community he went to the local synagogue before even stopping at McDonald’s.
His time in the synagogue appears to have been much more successful than in other cities, since it says he stayed there three months. And this was not three months of glad-handing and patting each other on the back and keeping the conversation shallow for the purpose of keeping the peace.
Luke says he was ‘speaking out boldly…reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God’.
A closer look at these words, ‘reasoning’ and ‘persuading’ indicates that this was not a one way lecture from Paul. He was dialoging with them. It was confrontational. It was at times argumentative.
Here is where I’d like our focus to remain today; on the persuasive power of God’s Word, and the consequences that result from the manner in which it is received.
WE SPEAK OF WHAT WE KNOW
People of God, there has never been a time in the history of the church, and especially, I think, in our nation, when the need has been more urgent than today, for Christians to diligently study and internalize their Bibles.
The day I began this sermon and, in fact, at the point of typing the statement I just made about studying and internalizing the Bible, my wife was reading the latest issue of the Rocky Mountain Baptist news magazine that comes out of the Colorado Baptist General Convention offices in Denver.
She began reading aloud to me, and I knew I had to include this article in my sermon.
“The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that a lower court was correct in overturning a death sentence for a man who raped and murdered a woman because the jury in his trial read excerpts from the Bible during deliberations.
In 1994, a 29 year-old telephone operator named Robert Harlan kidnapped a casino waitress on her way home from work, according to the Denver Post. He shot and permanently paralyzed a woman who tried to save the waitress, and after raping the waitress at gunpoint for two hours, he shot her in the head.
Jurors in Harlan’s 1995 trial sentenced him to death, but defense lawyers discovered they had consulted the Bible, specifically a passage from Leviticus that commands an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, The Post recounted.
After years of appeals, the state Supreme Court ruled 3-2 March 28 that the citation of a Bible passage unduly influenced deliberations.
Governor Bill Owens called the ruling ‘demeaning to people of faith’.
“Even the justices who voted to overturn the penalty agreed that moral values and religious beliefs are important and can be part of the debate among jurors,” Owens said in a statement. “I’m disappointed to see that the Court would supersede the will of the jury and the people of Colorado … on such a technicality.”
Tom Minnery, vice president for government and public policy for Focus on the Family, said it is not wrong to use biblical principles to determine whether the death penalty should be imposed.
“Today’s ruling further confirms that the judicial branch of our government is bereft of any moral foundation,” he said in a statement, according to The Post. “It is a sad day when the Bible is banned from a jury room.”