Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:

       “‘Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.’”

      As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. 43 When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.

      On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.

    Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us:

     “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

      The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. – Acts 13:38-52

      It is important for everyone to ask themselves one simple question that has been asked a lot during this discussion. How have you impacted someone’s life for Jesus?

     This is focal question surrounding being a Living Gospel. How do our lives show the worth of God? How can I share the worth of God with others? How can I be a part of changing someone’s life for eternity?

      Every May seems to be the season of graduations! It is a season for looking forward to the next step in life’s winding journey. It is a time of celebrating what has been while looking forward to what comes next. What comes next is what the past has been preparing us for. 

      We must look at what we have done in the past as something that has prepared us for moving forward. The key is moving forward. The past, and longing for the good old days, is not something to romanticize and in doing so become stagnant. Where we have been is meant to set the stage for us in order that we do not miss the opportunities before us. We have been and are being prepared to look for new and old opportunities to share the Gospel and bolster the faith of those who believe.

      The Apostle Paul did this in multiple cities and made an impact in each one. Wait, did someone say it was always a good impact? Pardon me if I have implied that sharing Jesus was always going to move people to salvation. Please also forgive me if it was ever implied that being the Living Gospel, sharing who Jesus is and what He has done, will at the very least be appreciated even if it is not received.

      Paul repeatedly shared the Gospel because it provided people eternal life, not because it provided himself with riches or status. Paul did not move on from one area of persecution or city to evade persecution, he did a bad job if that was his intent, because he repeatedly found more ways to be opposed and attacked in every area of ministry (See 2 Corinthians 11).

      In Acts chapter 13 Paul went out from a city called Antioch where followers of Jesus were first called Christians, as an insult. They shared the Gospel in a place called Salamis, no it is not called salami though I would like a ham, peperoni, and hard salami sandwich now, thanks for that. Throughout this first journey they shared the Gospel. At one point they were invited to meet with a proconsul, the governor of the province, to share what they were teaching, the Gospel.

     The tension was evident because even though they were invited they were opposed by some there. And, these circumstances are where I like Paul a lot. He spoke truth. He told the truth about Jesus and called out the wickedness of the man opposing them.

     “…Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, ‘You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? …’” – Acts 13:9b-10

Yes, as believers, we will be opposed. Followers of Jesus will also consistently be the one opposing others.

     We need to pause here. Really, pause for a moment. Realize this before we continue our study of this text and the rest of this topic. Paul opposed someone.

      Paul was so adamantly opposed to someone that he not only called him a child of the devil, something Jesus did to the Pharisees in John 8:44, he also blinded the man. This man was very close to a powerful and influential man, a governor of a province, and was blind by the power of the Holy Spirit after telling him he was a son of the devil.

     As we continue to go through Paul’s life of sharing the Gospel, others examples of sharing the Gospel in scripture, and as we continue our journey of sharing the Gospel with those in our lives we must remember that we are opposing people.

      Paul eventually has to also endure people opposing him violently, very violently, but what you must not forget is that when you share the Gospel you will inherently oppose people and their lifestyles.

      What they “know,” what they want, and how they define themselves is often in great contrast to the message of the Lord and therefore the Gospel that comes from him. Simply put, we inherently are opposing people when we present the Gospel.

      This may be a reason why we are so hesitant to share the Gospel. We know that in telling about Jesus, sharing who God is, and presenting the Gospel our message is in direct opposition to the worldview around us. We may also be hesitant to come across as a soap box preacher with signs on both sides yelling hell is coming repent.

      We may not go as far as Paul did by blinding someone. We may not even go as far as calling someone a child of the devil, although it can seem appropriate at times, but we can still stand for the truth.

      To oppose means to: “Combat, Resist, Withstand, [it] means to set oneself against someone or something. oppose can apply to any conflict, from mere objection to bitter hostility or warfare.”[1] It insinuates conflict.

      But, because Paul was willing to oppose someone through his teaching and to be opposed by someone whom the proconsul trusted, the proconsul believed. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord. – Acts 13:12

     There is no getting around the fact that God has come to transform our way of life, thought, and the systems in which we function. The grace is free, sharing the grace of God with others often costs us more than we expect. There is a verse from a letter that Paul later writes to the Colossians that you will probably hear me reference to often.

      Paul knew he was not adding anything to the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But, he also knew that picking up his cross daily and suffering for Jesus was the only way others were going to hear the Gospel.

     Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness – Colossians 1:24

Find and or make avenues, wherever you are, to share who God is and what He has done.

     As we see Paul and company do so often in the book of Acts they moved on from this area to share the Gospel to a new region. The apostle Paul and his compatriots may have had this advantage to many of us. They moved on from each place they were in to share the Gospel more. But, what we do have in common with them is that no matter the venue, the reception, or the people we can make sure to have an opportunity to share Jesus.

     Paul had went to a place and was again offered an opportunity to speak. He did not have to speak about Jesus, but he did. He did more than just start with Jesus though. Paul, spoke about how God had brought about the plan of Jesus throughout history. Paul spoke about Jesus with depth and with statements that were in many ways divisive. He was showing that Jesus was the plan of God all along even if the current beliefs of the people were different.

     He concludes his remarks to this group that believe in God and are trying to worship Him with these two statements:

     “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. – Acts 13:38-39

      He premises the statement with friendship. But, he adds his own preface to a quote from Habakkuk: Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe even if someone told you. – Acts 13:41  

     This was a major moment. Paul had just tossed their belief system into chaos. What they had hoped for as a people for centuries had come to pass. The Messiah had come and freed them from bondage. But, the bondage was to that of sin and their own failures. This was game changing in a great way, but also a very difficult way!

     Even with this great challenge to their beliefs the people there, the Jewish people, were so excited about it they asked Paul and company to come back the following week and speak again. The Jewish people there were already quite forward thinking, this group had already welcomed devout converts into their community. But, what Paul was bringing to the people there was further into grace and welcoming than even they were accustomed to.

Grace is exciting, but it will also stretch you.

      When I say they were excited I mean they were telling everyone about this message. Jesus was killed for them and raised again. A man was literally dead and came back to life on His own! And, better yet, He promised to give everyone the same opportunity. This was so big that the crowd that had first heard it were so convincing that nearly the whole city came out the next week to hear about it.

The Bible actually says:

     On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. – Acts 13:44

      Big news, lots of people, and the glory of God was being shared. Let’s pause here. All it took was as few people being willing to stand up, speak out, and tell others about the Gospel. A few people being the living Gospel can cause an entire city to hear about Jesus, to hear about the messiah, and to cause an energy never seen before about the God of the universe.

      And, this is where we wish the story ended, right? But, unfortunately this was not the end of what happened that day, those who had first the heard of this hope did not want to share it anymore.

     The new crowds made the people that first heard and were excited about Jesus to be: filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him.

And, unfortunately I can relate with both groups, can you?

      Kate, my amazing wife, shares with me some of the things she likes. Things like bands, The Rocket Summer, that I get a little enthusiastic about. What inevitably happens is, well, that it kinda turns her off from being as excited about them. This lessened my excitement, because the person who initially introduced me to the band, didn’t seem all that excited about me being as excited about the band.

      A much worse scenario is when I first came to Jesus. I was really excited about Jesus and I told a lot of people about Jesus! But, when it came down to them eventually coming to church with me, I felt uncomfortable. They did not fit into my church or Jesus culture and I felt ashamed because I brought them. And, so my excitement for people hearing about Jesus turned to reluctance to bring them to my church family because of appearance, and my potential ostracization because of those I would associate with and bring to church.   

      I did not transition well once they were interested in Jesus, nor did I help my friends feel comfortable as they figured out about Jesus. I showed little patience, unlike those who were patient with me, with their lack of understanding of church culture, language, and inappropriate humor.  

     We’ve all been excited about something until it benefited others too, or at least in our eyes it benefited them to much and or to much to our detriment.

      We all can feel this way. We hear that Jesus loves us and forgives us of our sin, no matter how big, no matter how small, no matter the situation, and no matter the people we have hurt Jesus forgives us. We have been told that Jesus heals us from all of our worries, hurts, and pains. That no matter our situation good or bad today there is something so much better in eternity!

     But, we often do not wish to forgive others for what they have done to us. It is easier to feel that people have done too much wrong, that there is no hope. We can fall into the trap that other’s circumstances are so much better than ours so how can or why should we forgive them. Why do others need the hope of eternity when their today is so much better than ours? We cannot be selfish with the greatness of God!

There are a litany of reasons why we don’t share Jesus with others, and one reason why we must share Him with everyone at all cost to ourselves. He did.

     We cannot get to the point where we forget that God is more than enough to share. Others are meant to be given the hope of Jesus just as much as we are. Others are meant to be given the chance to know Jesus at any cost to us.

     We know that Jesus loves us and forgives us of our sin, no matter how big, no matter how small, no matter the situation and people we have hurt Jesus forgives us. We must then do the same and share the news with others.

     We have been told that Jesus heals us from all of our worries, hurts, and pains. That no matter our situation good or bad today there is something so much better in eternity! These truths are what this second group, the whole city that came to hear Paul, clung to and they shared it with everyone that would hear about it.

     When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. – Acts 13:48-49

     Unfortunately, this wasn’t the end of the story either. The people who were angry about others receiving grace like they were offered didn’t stop with being angry. They started an attack on them, and started to not just oppose what they said, they also opposed them.

     In verse 50 we see that they actually, “They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.” It was not simply good enough to drive them out of the city, Paul and company were attacked so much that they had to leave the entire area itself.

   Paul went out to another city and spoke about Jesus and the city became divided. This doesn’t sound like something we want right. We don’t pursue a divide, but the fact is that Jesus divides people. Paul went from city to city and shared who Jesus is and what He has done for them.

     Who Jesus is and what He calls people to do challenges people. Living for God and not yourself is not always accepted. Telling others that their lives are not their own, but God’s is a lot. Then telling them, like I am telling you, that your life is not your own it is meant to be spent , no matter the cost, and yes sometimes abused so that others can know God is a lot more.

     Being the living Gospel, living for God means living in a way that contradicts what you have been taught to live like your whole life is difficult.

What is your price limit for being the Living Gospel?

     This is more than simply, “living for God”, by being good. No, that is not the greatest premise in living for God. At least, that is not the premise defined in 2 Corinthians 5 where we learned that He died and rose again so that we could live for Him through the ministry of reconciliation that He has entrusted to us.

     Here is the kicker, the final straw, the end all that we should note about this part of Paul’s journey, and Paul’s journey as a whole.

     Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.

     They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. – Acts 14:19-23

     Paul and company may have been forced out of the region. They may have had their opportunities to share the Gospel in certain areas taken by force. But, others unwillingness and attacks never stopped them from continuing to share the Gospel.

     Paul was committed to sharing the Gospel even with people that sought to kill him. Paul was willing to risk everything to share what Jesus has done.

     He knew that even those who are opposed to Jesus, even people willing to kill people who believe in Jesus, are able to be forgiven. Paul should know. Paul was one of them.

      So, here’s the question, what are you willing to give up for someone who you don’t think deserves Jesus to have Jesus?

[1] Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).