The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31
I listened to a sermon by Alistair Begg last week that included this verse. I found it interesting in that it describes God’s call as a command. I find this particularly interesting because we tend to think of God as inviting rather than commanding. I suppose we could say that God does both, but we don’t often talk in terms of God commanding us.
Certainly, very few of us share the gospel in these terms. When was the last time you told unbelievers this – that God commands all people everywhere to repent? It could be that few of us have EVER used language like that. Yet, Paul did in front of a bunch of philosophers at the Areopagus in Athens. This is a large, open-air area of rocks that was used for murder trials and such big events. It wasn’t a fabricated arena but rather a big open place. From the sounds of it, it was no small matter to meet here.
From the record in Acts, Paul worked hard to earn his day here. He “reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.” He soon caught the attention of the hot-shot thinkers of the day “because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.” So, they invited him to speak before them at this open-air, special place.
It’s very difficult for most of us to comprehend what this would have been like because very few of us ever do anything like what Paul has done. When have you ever gone into an unfamiliar church to reason with the people there? Trust me, there are no shortage of churches that could use some reasoning with regards to the gospel. There are also plenty of places in the marketplace to share the gospel with those who might pass by. I only know a few people who have done anything like that.
Still, let’s say you COULD imagine yourself doing this. What would you say? Think about this.
One might look to the bible for guidance. Before you do that, it’s fair to remind you that all the examples we have ended up in violence. That’s right, all of them. Violence as in the death of the speaker. That’s right. Some of these found themselves collecting a big pile of rocks. Others found themselves on a cross like Jesus. Some were even sawn in two. Seriously. These are the examples we are given in scripture.
This verse comes to mind.
Matthew 11:12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.
I never did understand this verse. Jesus said this to the crowd after John the Baptist sent messengers questioning whether Jesus was the real deal or not. I looked it up to learn that it basically says that the kingdom faced severe hostility. Evil was forcefully fighting against Jesus. Certainly, it doesn’t mean that evil wins. It means that evil was fighting desperately. The same is true today.
We instinctively know this, don’t we? That’s why it is extremely rare for someone to share the gospel with phrases like, “the times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” We all know what will happen then, don’t we? Certainly, most will shun us. Heck, even most believers will shun us. “Why must you speak like that? Can’t you just tell everybody about the kindness of Jesus?” And the others will say, “Judge not!”
We also know that if we should push our speech like this, we, too, will find violence. Normal, peaceful people can turn quite ugly when confronted with the gospel. We’ve all witnessed big arguments over the gospel. It is predictable. The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force. It’s happening even today.
So….will this be another bible lesson that goes in one ear and out the other? I’m speaking to myself. What you do is your business. The question to me is whether or not I start changing my message to reflect that of the apostles. Or, do I continue with the soft-sell of the world?
Father, shake me up.
Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers