As we come to the next section in the Book of Acts, my thoughts travelled to the Parable of the soils. Let’s reflect upon it briefly:
Mt 13:3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”
A little later, Jesus provides the meaning:
Mt 13:18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
The passage in Acts 11:19-30 contains much of the parable Jesus calls the parable of the sower (Mt 13:18). The parable is rather straight forward but the meaning or interpretation is profound.
(1) There will always be soils (souls) that are unfertile and unproductive. We know this even from our small gardens in our backyards. We can’t understand why some seeds grow in one corner and not the other corner … and when it comes to the Gospel Seed falling into a soul, Jesus says some souls will be like some soils, unfertile and unproductive … meaning that such souls actually reject the Gospel seed and never come to faith and never receive the gift of God, the Holy Spirit and the new birth He brings.
This is a fact of life. Often, Pastors, Evangelists, Missionaries, Sunday School Teachers, Youth Leaders and other Christian Workers feel they have failed after all their hard work, ploughing the fields Jesus said are white unto harvest with little results. Mostly, it is not their fault. Mostly, they have worked hard, long hours of preparation and have served the Lord under difficult conditions and few souls are saved.
Let me say it again … mostly, this is not their fault. The soils (souls) are often so captivated by the sin of the world that they cannot chose what is best for them.
(2) The great news is that there will be souls coming out of that captivity and receive full and free salvation. Jesus said …
Mt 13:23 “But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
Often we miss what this verse is saying … it is not saying the sower of the Gospel will receive “a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” It is saying that the soul, suitably prepared, “who hears the word and understands it” will achieve a harvest according to that soul’s potential! So where ministry can be hard, there shall always be those who believe and use their spiritual blessings and gifting according to their potential.
Please read the following passage to be unpacked over a few days:
Ac 11:19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. 22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. 27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
There is just one matter we have space to deal with today and it is the City of Antioch. History tells us there were 16 to 17 ancient cities called Antioch in Turkey. The two important ones for us are Syrian Antioch and Pisidian Antioch. Both were visited by Christian Missionaries. The one here in Acts 11 is Syrian Antioch. She was the world’s third greatest city after Rome and Alexandria. It was a place of debauchery … immorality shaped in lustful sports and pleasures. It was the center for the worship of Daphne, the “goddess” whose priestesses were prostitutes. The persecution after Stephen’s martyrdom saw many Christians flee here and start evangelizing people.
We have the stage set to work the passage now. Many will not be saved when hearing the Gospel, many will—and from those who do, God will raise people to work His harvest field. Many cities are dens of wickedness. These people need to be reached for Jesus too.
Lord Jesus, You came to save the lost. Many in cities are so depraved. You are able to save their souls. Send workers to the cities to save. Amen.