A skeptic is a person who doubts, mistrusts, is suspicious or uncertain about subject matter placed before them. They are either not sure or unwilling to believe without conclusive evidence. That is, they are not easily convinced! Regarding … “without conclusive evidence” we need to admit that unless the Holy Spirit works in your heart you will never believe the Gospel. What is spiritual, unseen and mostly not a feeling cannot be comprehended by the natural man. Some would even venture to say that somethings are impossible to believe. Our evidence for this comes from:
1 Cor 2:10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
This will give us some idea of why many do not respond to the Gospel or the Bible when it is expounded. Their immediate skepticism says … “How can God become man?” “How can a virgin fall pregnant without having sex?” “How can a dead man rise again from the dead?” “How can the Bible be God’s Word … after all, does a God really exist?” “How do I know there are not many gods?” “What about evolution?” “How can I believe in what is not seen or felt?” The questions lodged against the Gospel, the Bible and the True God are endless, but this does not mean God, the Bible and the Gospel are not true and real
1Cor 2:14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Perhaps after saying this we can understand:
Ac 14:4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. 5 There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. 6 But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, 7 where they continued to preach the good news.
1) A divided people. The angry Jews managed to divide or slip the city’s Gentile population into two parts:
Ac 14:4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles.
It is for this reason I introduced this Note the way I did. Skeptics are moved more by other skeptics than by the Truth of the Gospel and unless the Spirit works the doubter will always doubt. We ought never to fear when the masses refuse the Gospel. You go and share Jesus with ten people and one or none respond favorably. Preachers proclaim the Gospel faithfully and accurately and few respond. I recall an Evangelist coming to our Church once. His wife would sing and he would preach. He was part of the Billy Graham Organization. People came to hear him and none responded. My feelings over the years about such responses was one of failure, heartache and depression until I realized three things …
(i) Unless the Lord works the heart remains dead.
(ii) The hearers have heard. God can still work in their hearts because the message is there.
(iii) The hearers have heard and on the Day of Judgment they have no excuse. People will always be divided because the Gospel divides!
2) A murderous intent. Opposition could be vicious!
Ac 14:5 There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them.
If mistreatment was all it would be okay … but the word used in the Greek here implies “violence, rape and all kinds of mistreatment.” Now couple the concept of stoning … a legal method of execution in some regions. Maybe it was legal here too because the civic leaders were present and involved. Remember when Stephen was stoned? He was executed … and the Jews behind this act wanted the same for Paul and Barnabas. Here we see they are both called apostles. Luke most likely means Gospel messengers and not to be linked to the eleven (after Judas’ removal) and Paul who was added by Jesus. We live in a world that is opposed to the Gospel. In some countries, the authorities will execute Christian Missionaries whilst others will banished them to prison indefinitely. In the western world and wherever democracy is to be found, the opposition is steadily increasing. The “materialistic and secularism religions” have gained such momentum that in countries where the Reformed and Protestant Churches took their shape, have turned into pagan lands that need to be evangelized. The problem is though, in these places, because of the opposition to the Gospel, laws have been and are being put into place where you may not read the Bible, pray or share the Gospel publically at all. Through prayer we need to find innovative ways of sharing the Gospel with people.
3) A fleeing voice. Does this sound so tragic, almost bordering on defeatism?
Ac 14:6 But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country.
Not at all! The Gospel was planted. Half the Gentiles and some Jews believed. Even though the missionaries fled to save their lives, a Church was established. Remember Paul and Barnabas remained in that city for a long time. During the period of discipling converts a Church would have been planted. This must be the objective when evangelizing an area. Disciple converts with the intent of planting a self-sustaining local Church.
4) A continual Gospel presence. Missionaries and evangelists, like pastors, cannot keep their mouth shut! They have a message of life … eternal life and they need to be heard because it is through hearing the Gospel that the Spirit works brining spiritual birth and saving souls.
Ac 14:7 where they continued to preach the good news.
In the Lycaonian Cities they fled to, they proclaimed the Gospel. Christians need to be firm here. Wherever we are we are God’s spokesmen and spokeswomen. Always remember, we are saved not just for heaven … we are also saved to serve our Lord and King. Speaking about Jesus to others, especially the lost is serving Jesus.
O Lord our God and Father, grant us a spirit of boldness so that when we are opposed because of the Gospel we will continue regardless because we serve the Great King Jesus. Amen.