An Example from Antioch
In my bible study today I was stunned at a section I came across in Acts 13 concerning Paul’s visit to Antioch in Pisidia:
Vs 42: “So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.” (emphasis mine)
Vs. 44: “On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.” (emphasis again mine)
Grabbing my attention, I decided to look at the verse a bit more in context and find out what I could concerning these incredible words. Paul and Barnabas are visiting the synagogue in Antioch where Paul often went to preach the Good News. As he often does, Paul gives a history of what God has done among the Jews in the past, and brings in the final act: Jesus’ death and resurrection. The response from the Jews was mixed. The response from the Gentiles, however, was immediate and imperative: please, come back and teach us these things!! Why? What was it that struck them so?
One of the hardest (my opinion) thing for human beings is change. This was no different for the Jews of that day. It was incredibly difficult for the new Jewish believers to let go of their past tradition: the idea that in order to follow or know God you had to continue in the old ways: become a Jew. This meant circumcision, following the Laws, etc. The idea of dumping all these traditions that had been with them and part of their lives and culture for literally thousands of years, was blasphemy. Even Peter was loathe to follow the command given to him following his dream of the animals in the sheet to “Rise, kill and eat!” replying, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything unclean or common!” (Acts 10: 14-15)
Yet here was Paul, preaching to the people that it is only by faith in Jesus Christ that salvation comes! Not through circumcision, and not through obeying the law! This was exciting news among the Gentiles. They weren’t required to give up their heritage or culture to be saved. I imagine this will be exciting news also among the Maninka people with whom we are working! It is not through following rules that you are saved; rules such as obligatory fasting, obligatory prayer, and all the other rules Muslims follow in order to work their way into the good graces of Allah. No, there is one way to the Father and that is through Jesus Christ. Nor do you cease to be a Maninka if you love Jesus! Oh to have people begging to hear that message!
And in vs 44 Luke tells us that almost the whole city came out to hear the message! People are hungry for answers! They are hungry to hear that their Creator loves them and wants to spend eternity with them. What a great message we carry! May this be so here as well!
Later, back in Jerusalem, a council met to talk about the Gentile issue. There, Paul and Barnabas recounted their experiences. Acts 15:12 says, “Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles.” This, along with Peter’s testimony of his encounter with Cornelius and James’s reminder of the prophets’ words concerning the Gentiles (Amos 9:11,12), was pivotal in reaching the conclusion Paul later wrote about in Galatians: There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28).
We don’t know what God’s plan is for this area. Our prayer since our return has been that God will show us where He is already at work, and let us know what our part is! We’ve already seen evidence of God going before us in wonderful ways. We pray for a day when people are begging to hear about Jesus, and when the whole city comes out to hear the message! What a glorious thing that would be! Pray with us!