“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. 44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him. 46 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. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you[f] a light for the Gentiles, that you[g] may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’[h]” 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. 49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 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. 51 So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 13.42-52
It’s ironic that Paul and Barnabas would face both success and failure in preaching the Gospel. The Gentiles were responding joyfully, but many of the Jew’s rejected the message and “expelled them from their region.” And yet, the word of God spread and even in the midst of persecution the “disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
This brings to mind the parable of the sower and the four different types of soils who received the seeds in Matthew 13.1-9, 18-23. This is one of the few parables in which Jesus explains exactly what he means. And in doing so, he depicts four different types of responses to hearing the Gospel message.
Often when the message of Christ is preached, as in this case, it was initially heard and received. Some maintain this belief and others reject God’s word for themselves. Even those who have heard the message time and time again, with dozens of opportunities to believe, chose not to do so. The Jews who invited Paul to preach seemed receptive at the first but ended up rejecting the message. Although the Gentiles received the word, the Jews did not and yet the disciples were still filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
So often in ministry we find success mixed with failure as we preach and proclaim the word of the Lord. This happens not only in direct evangelism but also as we programmatically communicate the Gospel. If we are being obedient to the call of Christ, we will be filled with the Holy Spirit and joy during this work. Regardless of the outcome of our success or failure, we have the peace of Christ that we are being guided in the world of God. Jesus tells us that in this world we will have troubles, John 16.33, “but take heart, I have overcome the world.”
“O Lord God, thank you for loving me. Thank you for allowing me to be your hands and feet to help spread your message to the world. Thank you for the power of the Cross that raised Jesus from the dead. Help all who hear the word believe it. Move your Holy Spirit in powerful ways that we might see many coming to faith. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen