#carmelprays – Acts 17:1-15
Opening Song: His Mercy Is More
Read Scripture: Acts 17:1-15
Unlike much of Acts, this passage does not seem particularly ‘exciting’. There aren’t any jaw-dropping shows of the Holy Spirit’s power or quotable proclamations of faith by the disciples. Yet this account of Paul and Silas’ journey throughout the region helpfully demonstrates what ministry looked like for the early church and points us to what it should look like today.
Firstly, it is clear that the gospel is for everyone. Paul’s custom when arriving at a new city was to address the Jews at the synagogue first, showing them that the Scriptures they spent so long studying were in fact pointing to Jesus Christ (v2-3). Significantly, however, the ones who seemed most open to the gospel were Greek (v4). This was the same in Berea, where Jews on the whole were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, but many Greek men and women believed as well (v11-12). The fact that Luke included these details is really significant. For so long, God was seen as a Jewish God, His blessings and covenant promises meant only for the nation of Israel. Yet here we see that not only are Gentiles (that’s most of us here in Singapore!) included in Jesus’ payment for sins, they were even more eager than the Jews to respond to Paul and Silas’ call to repentance and belief.
It is also encouraging to note the conversion of ‘not a few Greek women of high standing’ (v12). Despite women having little to no individual rights during this time, it is clear that the early church recognised their influence on society and was thrilled by the knowledge that these newly-believing Greek women would be spreading the good news of Jesus. For me, the big takeaway from this is that God sees and loves each and every one of us. By sending His son Jesus to suffer, die and resurrect from the dead, He extended His promise of salvation and an eternity in paradise to all of us both collectively and individually. I wonder if we are sometimes too quick to take this offer of salvation for granted, not considering that we are in no way deserving of God’s mercy but that He chose to forgive and have a personal relationship with each of us.
Sadly, not everyone in this passage was hungry for salvation in Christ. Some Jews, blinded by their jealousy and fear, attacked Paul and Silas’ hosts and stirred up the crowds against them (v5-6, 13-14). Some people will always be offended by the gospel, rightly recognising that it is a radical call to repent and live wholly for the Lord, not ourselves. Encountering hardened hearts is part and parcel of sharing the gospel. Yet although Paul and Silas beat a tactful retreat, they did not stop their ministry. Likewise, we are called to keep going despite trouble and hardship. For although Paul was eventually forced to leave Thessalonica and Berea because of the dangers he faced, there were many in these two cities who heard the gospel, were stirred by the Spirit and believed. And in the end, that is what matters – that God is glorified more and more. So let us take the gospel as far and wide as possible, to every person imaginable!
Pray in Response
Gracious Lord God, Sovereign in all creation, You Who created each one of us, desires that we come into a saving knowledge of Jesus as Saviour and Lord. In Christ, when we trust You, we have access into Your presence. Thank You Lord! Use us Lord in every social standing within the community to be a light in the darkness. In You, what hope, what love, what joy we have knowing that we are saved for all eternity. Yet there are many who are wandering in darkness unaware of the immense love that You have for them and the futility of living lives their way. Use us O God to be a catalyst for contagious Christianity, to point each person to Jesus, to spread the very good news of Your love. Grant that we may have Spirit-led boldness to not conform to the ways of this world but as we are being transformed, many will turn with eyes to see, to ask what is the reason for our faith and may we be found courageous to point them to The Way in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!
Response Song: Let Your Kingdom Come
By Emma Chai