In last week’s article, I discussed four key truths of the Gospel, and how they were prophesied about in Isaiah and the Psalms. We learned that we need to affirm that Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead on the third day. I also asserted that it is necessary to believe that the apostles saw the risen Lord, and testified that they saw Him after His death.
Some of these claims are more difficult for the world to accept than others. I think that many recognize that Jesus died and was buried. The more challenging difficulties arise when you, or I, teach that Jesus was resurrected. Christians say that He was the Son of God, committed no sin, died, and was raised from the dead. This last claim is absurd and idiotic to many in the world. With that being the case, should we just shut up and never speak of the gospel to anyone? If we look in the New Testament we find a clear answer to that question.
Paul Preached the Good News to Many People
In Paul’s letter to the Romans we find a direct answer to whether we should share the gospel, or not. Near the beginning he writes, “For I am not ashamed of the Good News of Christ, because it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first, and also for the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). By studying the Book of Acts, we find confirmation that he, indeed, was not ashamed. He was no hypocrite.
He went on many missionary journeys and preached the Good News to a wide variety of people. After he saw the Lord on the road to Damascus he was immersed by Ananias (Acts 9:1-6, 17-18). He then spent several days with the disciples in the city, and “Immediately in the synagogues he proclaimed the Christ, that he is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). As the days continue, he “…increased more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived at Damascus, proving that this is the Christ” (Acts 9:22).
Jews were not the only ones who heard the word of the Good News at the mouth of the apostle Paul. During his first missionary journey, he and Barnabas came to Antioch in Pisidia. From the text, we learn that he spoke to not only Jews, but Gentiles as well (Acts 13:26). Near the end of the sermon he explicitly mentions Jesus’ death and resurrection, “When they had fulfilled all things that were written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and he was seen for many days by those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses to the people. 32 We bring you good news of the promise made to the fathers, 33 that God has fulfilled this to us, their children, in that he raised up Jesus…” (Acts 13:29-33a). In this instance, both verses 30 and 33 refer to Jesus’ resurrection.
Later the apostle journeyed to even more nations. He may have still taught in the synagogues, but many who heard him were not of the children of Israel. For example, in Athens he conversed with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (Acts 17:18). At one point he stood in the middle of the Areopagus, or Mars Hill, and preached to them. Like he did in other places, he spoke of the resurrection, “The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked. But now he commands that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he has ordained; of which he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).
Paul’s boldness was remarkable. He preached the Good News of Christ to Jews and Gentiles alike, regardless of their economic or social standing. He taught the poor and rich, men and women, Jew and Gentile. He declared the resurrection of Jesus Christ to kings, and others in authority. All of which was without shame or embarrassment. As he preached before King Agrippa and the governor, Porcius Festus, he said, “Having therefore obtained the help that is from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would happen, 23 how the Christ must suffer, and how, by the resurrection of the dead, he would be first to proclaim light both to these people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:22-23).
Paul Was Willing to Suffer for Preaching the Truth
Of course, Paul’s preaching was not met with complete acceptance. That was true then, just as it is now. If we turn back to the passages that we just looked at, we will find many instances where the apostle, and others, suffered for the cause of Christ. While he was in Damascus, he proved to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ, but after many days they had heard enough. The Book of Acts tells us, “When many days were fulfilled, the Jews conspired together to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They watched the gates both day and night that they might kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall, lowering him in a basket” (Acts 9:23-25). In the midst of threats against his life, Paul,who was then known as Saul, was able to escape from the city without harm. This is but one example, of many, where God provided a means of escape for his chosen apostle.
While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Pisidia they were able to preach and teach the gospel. After the Jews were filled with jealousy by the great crowds, and blasphemed, they “…stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, and stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and threw them out of their borders” (Acts 13:50). Even though some of the Jews persecuted them, much good was still done. As one verse says, “The Lord’s word was spread abroad throughout all the region” (Acts 13:49). Furthermore, after being thrown out of area, Paul and Barnabas came to Iconium and the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:51-52). Even when people reject the Word of God, much good can still come out of it.
When you suffer for preaching Christ, I want to encourage you by noticing how this second body of believers were encouraged by Paul and Barnabas after they endured persecution. People today may cast you, or I, away from them because they hate our message, but God, in His wisdom, can use such behavior to bring us to those who desire to hear the Word of God.
Outside of threats of death and persecution, Paul also had to deal with insults from his audiences. Before preaching in Athens, “…Some said, ‘What does this babbler want to say?…’ ” (Acts 17:18). Apparently, some people did not think very highly of Paul’s intelligence or speaking ability. This is further seen when we consider the response to his sermon, “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; but others said, ‘We want to hear you again concerning this’ ” (Acts 17:32). For some, such a statement was worthy of mocking and no further consideration. Don’t be surprised when you are insulted for Christ, and treated with contempt. Be happy about this. You are in good company.
As was shared in the last section of our study, Paul also preached to King Agrippa and the governor Festus. They did not mock him. The king was actually sympathetic to the apostle. At the end of the chapter it reads, “Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar’ ” (Acts 26:32). Even Paul recognized that he believed the prophets (Acts 26:27). In contrast to that, the text tells us of Festus’ negative response, “As he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are crazy! Your great learning is driving you insane!’ ” (Acts 26:24).
Today, we who are faithful are treated in a similar way. True Christians are considered backward and crazy to believe in a God that none of us see. Others may mock us, and view us as deserving of being the butt of jokes. For some, the message of the cross and the resurrection just makes them angry. They may want to physically harm us for making such claims. Despite these responses, Jesus taught us that we must not be ashamed of the Good News.
Jesus Taught Us to Not Be Ashamed
In at least two gospel accounts the Lord warns us of the consequences of being ashamed of Him. At the end of a chapter in Mark, He tells us, “For whoever will be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man also will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). Luke contains an almost identical statement, “For whoever will be ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory, and the glory of the Father, and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26).
In both cases these words are spoken in the context of the Gospel. A few verses earlier the Christ is recorded as “saying, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up’ ” (Luke 9:22). Notice that Jesus’ words refer to His suffering, death, and resurrection. The last of which may result in us being mocked, insulted, and treated as stupid if we teach it to others. Nonetheless, when we consider speaking the Good News of Christ, we have to decide whom we want to please.
Are you interested in receiving the respect and admiration of the world, and being a part of their fold? Or do you want to come after Christ, take up your cross, and follow Him? Hopefully your answers to these questions are “No,” and “Yes,” respectively.
In Luke, after Jesus speaks of Him being raised up, the passage goes on to read, “He said to all, ‘If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits his own self?’ ” (Luke 9:23-25).
When we follow the Lord, we will deny ourselves and take up our crosses. Such actions will be difficult and extremely unpleasant for us, but in doing them, we will save our lives through Christ. Like the resurrection, these truths will appear to be ridiculous to the world. I mean, who wants to deny themselves? Who takes up a cross, knowing that it was an instrument of execution? Even so, we must not be ashamed of Jesus’ teachings, or the Gospel as a whole. People may indeed think that we are idiots, but we need to stand firm with the Lord and proclaim His death, burial, and resurrection anyway. Most may not be interested in what we say, but a few will want to hear us further on such matters. Fewer still will see their need for the Gospel of Christ, and obey it.
May we be grateful for such a wonderful outcome, and not be ashamed of sharing the Good News with others. We know that Paul was unashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for he knew there was power in it. By the Word of God, we can know the same, and teach it to the world today. As we follow the example of the apostle Paul, we will not be ashamed. Instead, we will deny ourselves, and follow a risen Lord.
I know that much more could be said about this need of being unashamed. Are there any other thoughts you would like to add? Please share them in the comments below so we can all learn together. Thank you!
Images UsedJesus Carrying His Cross by CamiloMartins from Pixabay.
Statue of St. Paul Holding a Sword by iessephoto from Pixabay.