Here in Acts Saint Luke records for us some of the work and struggles of the pastoral ministry. In our Reading, the apostle Saint Paul was journeying through Turkey with Saint Barnabas.
Our account starts in Lystra. Opposition broke out from some Jews who had resisted the Gospel in other cities Paul visited. They followed him to Lystra and stirred up a crowd to stone Paul and drag him out of the city.
This is very stiff opposition, obviously. Paul could have easily died from that treatment. We are not sure if this was a matter of miraculous protection from God. One way or another, God was not finished with Paul yet.
Pastors may face stiff opposition. Stoning is not popular in America, but there are many other ways that people may threaten. Often these are from those who ought to be friendly to the ministry. The Jews, who had the Old Testament Scriptures, should have listened to Paulís preaching and thus remained in the true Church. Instead, they chose to make themselves enemies.
May God show His protecting providence over His ministers, and upon all His flock.
Next Paul and Barnabas had a time of joy and grace. They retraced their steps over congregations they had previously served, surely enjoying the sight of those who had listened and believed.
When they returned to Antioch in Syria, they recounted all that God had done with them. He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. The Gospel of grace had gone out and found some who believed. The apostles, even such great men as Paul and Barnabas, recognized that this was not chiefly their work, but Godís. Any success they enjoyed was His doing.
May we see this as well. Success comes when He wills it. All the work we do will accomplish nothing until He allows. Praise be to God that He continues to make His Church grow, in His time and according to His will.
Lastly, Paul and Barnabas met opposition again. This was from some among the Christians who were teaching false doctrine. They said that all believers must submit to the Law of Moses in order to be saved, including circumcision. The apostles opposed this teaching and engaged in debate. They did not seem to make any headway, at least not in our reading. They went up to Jerusalem so that the whole Church could meet together and discuss the issue and come to agreement. At the end of our reading, the false teaching continued.
The false teachers were believers, but they were also members of the Pharisee party. This may confuse us. The Scriptures often referred to Pharisees as examples of self-righteousness and enemies of Christ. But that was not a necessary characteristic of being a Pharisee. Here the strong adherence of the Pharisees to certain teachings of Scriptures was leading them and others astray, because they did not realize that those commands of Scripture had been fulfilled and made obsolete by Christ.
This is the way of the ministry. One minute there is success and rejoicing. The next there is opposition and persecution. If it was this way with the apostles, indeed, with our Lord Jesus, then surely we should expect no better treatment.
These words also apply to you lay people. Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. If you experience trouble and opposition, do not think that this is unusual. It is necessary.
But think of all that God has done. He has opened up a door of faith to you. You who were lost and destined for hell, He has rescued through the preaching of the Gospel of Christ.
Also He has removed from you the burden of the Law. It is no longer a heavy weight that you must lift in order to be saved. Instead, all is fulfilled in Christ for your salvation. Now the Law is a delight to the inner man that God has created in you. To serve your neighbor is joy for you.
All this is from God, who will be with you and work with you all your days. In every good deed, He is the One who brings success. He is the chief Worker in all you do.
Therefore all praise goes to Him, through our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we have believed. Amen.
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