By being God’s elect people of God’s elect FAITH, Christians invariably engender conflict from unbelievers: one group or another, for one reason or another, but always from somebody, because Gospel teaching always offends someone or some group.
For example, in Pisidian Antioch, for being too popular Acts 13:43-45. In Iconium, for causing division among the populace Acts 14:4-5. In Lystra, for refusing to accept adulation Acts 14:11-18. In Philippi, for being an illegal religion upsetting Roman customs Acts 16:20-21. In Thessalonica, for causing a riot Acts 17:5-9. In Corinth, for being heretics defying Jewish Law Acts 18:12-13—repeated in Ephesus Acts 19:8-10. More ominously in Ephesus, for causing economic turmoil in profitable business enterprises Acts 19:23-27. (And these are just selections from Paul’s missionary trips.)
If 1st century Christianity stirred equal opposition in opponents and joy in believers, why would 21st century Christians expect to be exempt from the same bifurcation? Especially as Christians face the opposition of liberals who want Islam accepted as an equal of Christianity. As the homosexual lobby, with cultural tolerance on its side, demands Bible-Christians accept it as an alternative –lifestyle.
It can never be, in either case. UNLESS, against God’s declared will, we want a church with no sharp distinction between the saved and unsaved. Where equilibrium between each occurs: the saved too strong to adopt the behavior of the unsaved, but too weak in witness to challenge them to repent and be baptized. Unless, against God’s declared command, we want the church of Christ to be what the Jewish synagogue had become in Ephesus. It existed as an isolated monotheistic faith in a heathen culture. Untainted by heathenism, true; but, shamefully, unwounded by efforts to evangelize the heathen. It accommodated, not opposed, its culture.
Closing thought on this point. After his brutal stoning in Lystra—the result being death had God not reversed the results—Paul “got up and went back into the city” Acts 14:20. Then, after further preaching in Derbe, Paul and Barnabas returned through the cities where all manner of hostility had been experienced. As an encouragement to the Christians in each place, he stressed, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” Acts 14:22, I Thessalonians 3:4.
To give the Christians help in remaining faithful through all their sorrows in Christ, they appointed elders—likely Christian men mature in Moses, and understanding the problems that brought Hebrews—to bolster new Christians through the difficulties their new faith imposed.
Shall we in America, Christians, expect to gain with minimum effort, and against push-over opponents, what it cost Jesus his blood to provide, and Christians through the ages theirs to continue? Will not Jesus, who shed his blood to Found his Faith, and many Christians in history, who shed theirs to Defend it, be ashamed of us if we hardly break a sweat to proclaim it?
End, Part VIII