Still bruised and sore from being beaten and jailed in Philippi, the Apostle Paul and Silas entered Thessalonica, a city of about 200,000 people. Met with further hostility and violence, they were accused of having turned the world upside down by saying that there was another king- Jesus (Acts 17:6-7). Much can be learned from Paul’s gospel determination 2,000 years later as we move forward with gospel determination as ambassadors for Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians5:20).
As I study the account in Acts, there are four key characteristics for turning the world upside down worthy of consideration in 2014.
1. Courage. As previously stated, Paul and Silas had just been beaten and imprisoned in Philippi. They were kicked out of the city. Yet upon entering Thessalonica, Paul entered the synagogue to engage the Jews, as was his custom (Acts 17:1-2). He was determined to preach the gospel and was not swayed to do otherwise- even during hardship. A couple of questions for us:
- Are we courageous in engaging our culture for the sake of the gospel, or are we scared of it?
- Are we more afraid of what people will say or think than of God and being His servant?
2. Content. Paul reasoned with them from the Scriptures. It was his final authority. A couple of questions:
- Do we know Scripture well enough to articulate the gospel and provide a reason for our hope from it?
- Do we have a regular daily habit of reading the Word?
- Are we growing in our knowledge and understanding of the Word? Are we diligently studying and investing in the tools and resources needed to gain understanding?
3. Converts. God used Paul through the faithful teaching of His Word to draw men and women to salvation. Many will reject the gospel message, but some will be saved!
- Are we living in such a way as to expect people to be saved or are we living with a defeatist attitude, convinced that nobody will believe?
- Knowing that some will be saved through our faithful proclamation of the gospel, are we prepared to ensure they are discipled in their new life as a Christ-follower?
4. Conflict. Paul’s message resulted in conflict. He was driven out of Thessalonica and while preaching in Berea shortly afterward, the Jews from Thessalonica showed up to agitate the crowds against Paul (17:10-13). Teaching the reality and penalty of sin and the exclusivity of the gospel thru salvation in Jesus Christ alone will result in conflict. We see this in our world today.
- While we shouldn’t go looking for persecution and conflict, are we expecting it (for the right reasons)? How are we preparing for it, in a society increasingly hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ?
- When conflict occurs, how do we respond? Our response will affect our testimony greatly.
As individual believers and communities of faith in our local churches, may it be said of us that we are turning the world upside down by declaring that there is another King, Jesus Christ in 2014!
MacArthur, J. (1996). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 13-28. Moody Press. Chicago.