Receiving the Gospel Through Much Affliction

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament account of the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus—the Church—as it was written and recorded in the book of Acts by the physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the seventeenth chapter of this New Testament book. “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: and Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go” (Acts 17:1-9).

 

            “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who conming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. And them immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still. And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed” (Acts 17:10-15).

 

            “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stocks, encountered him, and some said, What will this babbler say? Other some, he seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill and said” (Acts 17:16-22).

 

            “Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:23-31).

 

            “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areapagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them” (Acts 17:32-34).

 

             When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find it coming directly on the heels of the apostle Paul and Silas having been beaten and imprisoned in the city of Philippi. If you turn and direct your attention to the previous chapter of this New Testament book you will find the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy journeying unto the Macedonian city of Philippi where they taught and preached the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus. It would be there in this chief colonial city of Philippi a young damsel who was possessed with a spirit of divination proceeded to follow the apostle Paul and his companions continually declaring unto others they were the servants of the most high God and came to declare the gospel of the Lord Jesus. This would continue until eventually the apostle Paul being grieved in his spirit would turn to this young damsel and in the name of Jesus of Nazareth speak to the spirit of divination that possessed her and commanded it in the name of Jesus to come out. Immediately the unclean spirit departed from this young damsel thus creating a stir among her masters. Upon realizing and understanding that their hope for financial gain and profit was gone they proceeded to seize and lay hold of Paul and Silas and bring them before the magistrates and chief rulers of the city. It would be there before the chief rulers these masters would proceed to accuse Paul and Silas according to the gospel they preached during those times. Moreover they would also accuse the apostle Paul and Silas of preaching another king other than Caesar by the name of Jesus and teaching doctrines that weren’t lawful for them as Romans. As a direct result of the words which were spoken concerning Paul and Silas the magistrates and those present rent their garments. Not only this but the whole multitude rushed upon Paul and Silas and after they were beaten with many stripes were cast into prison. The jailor of the prison was given specific instruction to guard them with all surety to which he responded by placing them in the inner prison and fastening their feet in stocks.

 

            In all reality it is quite remarkable how the sixteenth chapter of this New Testament book of Acts concludes for whereas the apostle Paul and Silas were beaten with many stripes and cast into a Philippian prison in the midst of the city they would be released according to the word of the magistrates. The account goes on to reveal how the apostle Paul and Silas—although they were silenced and restricted from preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus being secured in prison—would sing praises before and unto the living God at the midnight hour. Luke writes and records how about the midnight hour Paul and Silas would sing praises before and unto the Lord their God and how the other prisoners heard their songs. In all reality I find it incredibly powerful the other prisoners heard the songs Paul and Silas sang before the Lord their God for I would dare say the songs themselves were indeed a manner of preaching the gospel unto those who were in prison. The text seems to indicate that it was dark there in the prison and that some of the prisoners might even have been trying to sleep due to the hour of night that was upon them. Instead of sleeping, however, the apostle Paul and Silas determined and purposed to sing praises before and unto the Lord their God in that prison. Scripture is entirely unclear regarding the songs they sang, however, I can’t help but think about the songs they sang being about the death, the burial, the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus. I would dare say the songs they sang might have even been regarding the life of Christ and maybe even some of the same songs David himself both composed and sang. Perhaps some of the songs they sang were the same songs which were sung during Solomon’s day at the dedication of the Temple and/or even during the days of Hezekiah when a Passover unlike anything that had been celebrated until that done was celebrated.

 

            Scripture is entirely and altogether unclear as to the songs which Paul and Silas sang at the midnight hour there in the Philippian prison cell, however, I would dare say the songs they sang were a form and manner of preaching the gospel. For the other prisoners to hear them I would venture to say they sang loud enough that they would be able to hear their words and how even though they were secured in prison and their feet fastened in the stocks their voices, their hearts, their spirits and their souls were entirely and altogether free. If there is one thing that is found within this passage of Scripture it’s that freedom is first and foremost a matter of the heart and spirit before it is ever a matter of one’s physical body. We would like to think that freedom is a matter of our being free from oppression, free from slavery, free from those things which would seek to destroy us. The truth of the matter is that true freedom comes first and foremost within our hearts, our spirits and even our minds. Would it shock and surprise you to think about and consider how it is possible to be imprisoned in any prison in the world and yet be completely and entirely free. Oh although your wrists might be bound in shackles and although your feet might be secured in shackles you yourself can be entirely free? What’s more is that it is possible for the freedom you experience within the innermost part of your being far supersedes any freedom you might have or might not have in the physical and natural realm. Oh there is something incredibly powerful about Paul and Silas singing praises before and unto the living God there in the prison despite the fact their feet were fastened in stocks and they were themselves bound in prison. There is something to be said about these men who had been beaten with many stripes and imprisoned and yet were able at the midnight hour to sing praises before and unto the living God. Pause for a moment and consider how incredibly powerful this truly is when you read of Paul and Silas singing praises before and unto the living God even though they were in prison and their feet secured in fetters.

 

            Luke writes and records how at the midnight hour—as Paul and Silas were singing praises unto the Lord their God and as the other prisoners were listening to their words—a great earthquake would strike the ground and would shake the prison where they were all bound. As a direct result of the earthquake each man’s prison door was opened and each man’s chains, shackles and fetters were loosed. Stop for a moment and consider how absolutely incredible this is for as a direct result of the praises of Paul and Silas being sung in the midnight hour—not only did the prison itself shake according to the impact of the earthquake but every prison door was open and every shackle and fetter was loosed. How absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider how the praise of two men who were in prison would not only result in the earth beneath the prison shaking but also the prison doors of every prisoner being opened and every man’s shackles being loosed from them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it brings us face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the power of our praise—even in the midst of our suffering, even in the midst of our trials and even in the midst of our troubles. If there is one thing this New Testament book of Acts demonstrates and reveals it’s the tremendous power that is present within our prayers and our praise. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of what is present before us in this passage of Scripture for what we find within the book of Acts is a powerful manifestation of power that is released in the earth according to and in response to our prayers and our praise. Stop and consider how it was as a result of the prayers of the apostles and the brethren the house where they were gathered was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. Consider how the prayers of the saints and brethren would cause an angel of God to come down from heaven, awaken Peter from his slumber in prison, loose him from his chains and shackles, open the prison door where he was being held, lead him forth from the prison, cause the gate of the city to open of its own accord and Peter to be delivered from prison. Think about how the praise of Paul and Silas would cause the earth beneath the prison to shake, every man’s prison doors being opened and every man’s shackles and fetters being loosed from them.

 

            Before I delve into that which is presented before us in the seventeenth chapter I find it absolutely necessary to draw and call our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the opening of prison doors and the loosing of chains and shackles in the lives of all those who were in prison in Philippi. Scripture is not clear how many prisoners were actually present there in the prison, however, one thing we do know for sure is that each man’s prison door was opened and every man’s shackles and fetters were loosed from their physical body. It is important for us to realize and recognize this for it would have been one thing if the earth beneath the prison shook and only the prison door where Paul and Silas were being held was opened. It would have been one thing if the chains, shackles and fetters with which Paul and Silas were bound were all of a sudden loosed and yet those of the other prisoners weren’t. I am incredibly captivated with the words and language that is found in this passage of Scripture for although the apostle Paul and Silas were restricted from preaching the gospel due to being cast into prison their voices, their hearts and their spirits were still free to sing praises before the living God. What’s more is I would dare say they accomplished more through their praise in the midst of the prison than they perhaps would have being free in the midst of the city of Philippi. It would be as a direct result of their praises the earth would shake, the prison doors of every prisoner would be opened, every man’s shackle would be loosed, and ultimately the jailor and his entire household would believe on the name of the Lord Jesus and be baptized.

 

            As you come to the seventeenth chapter of this New Testament book you will find the apostle Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke departing from Philippi and passing through Amphipolis and Apollonia. Upon passing through these two cities they would come to the city of Thessalonica which is in what is now known as the modern day country of Greece. It is actually important for us to recognize and understand what is taking place here for there is more happening than just the apostle Paul and his companions journeying through the cities of Macedonia and Greece. What we find in these chapters is so much more than simply the apostle Paul, Silas and their companions teaching and preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus. What we find within these passages of Scripture would indeed be the beginning of the establishment of churches which were present there in the midst of Macedonia and Greece. In the sixteenth chapter of this New Testament book we read of Paul, Silas, and Timothy journeying through the region of Galatia and coming unto the city of Philippi. Now in the opening verses of the seventeenth chapter we find the apostle Paul, Silas, Timothy and perhaps even Luke coming unto the city of Thessalonica. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to consider it is when you consider that in addition to churches being established in each of these cities and regions there would also be epistles written unto the congregations and fellowship of believers. What would begin with the apostle Paul, Silas, Timothy and others journeying into Galatia, Philippi and now Thessalonica would indeed be the beginning of what we know as the New Testament—not only in the scriptural account of what is found in the book of Luke but also what we know as the epistles of Galatians, Philippians and First and Second Thessalonians. What’s more is that in the eighteenth chapter of this same book you will find the apostle Paul coming unto the city of Corinth which would result in two individuals epistles being written unto this church—First and Second Corinthians.

 

            Coming to the seventeenth chapter of this New Testament book of Acts you will find Paul, Silas and Timothy coming unto another Macedonian city by the name of Thessalonica. It would be there in this city where a synagogue of the Jews was present. It’s actually something to consider just how far reaching the influence of the Jews truly was during those days for it almost appears and seems that everywhere the apostle Paul and those traveling with him went there was a synagogue of the Jews. With this being said, however, it’s important for us to realize that with there being a synagogue of the Jews there was the risk and possibility of there being unbelieving Jews present among them who would be provoked upon hearing the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus. If you turn and direct your attention back to the thirteenth and fourteenth chapter of this New Testament book you will find the first journey of the apostle Paul which he set out on together with Barnabas and John Mark. In each and every city and place Paul and his companions journeyed to they would preach the gospel and word of the Lord Jesus unto the Jews first. Scripture makes it very clear that wherever the apostle Paul and his companions journeyed they would preach the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus unto the Jews which were present in those cities. What, however, we find in these two chapters is how unbelieving Jews would not only oppose the apostle Paul and Silas but how they would also blaspheme themselves and speak against the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus. Moreover the unbelieving Jews being moved with envy would also stir up the people round about them in the midst of the cities whereunto Paul and his companions came thus seeking to disrupt the preaching of the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus.

 

            In the opening verses of the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the apostle Paul and his companions passing through certain cities in Macedonia before coming unto the city of Thessalonica. It would be there in the city of Thessalonica where there would be a synagogue of the Jews, and as was the custom and manner of the apostle Paul he would go in unto the Jews and for three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures. What’s more is the apostle Paul didn’t merely reason with them from the scriptures on three consecutive sabbath days but he would also open and allege that Christ must needs have suffered and risen again from the dead. Moreover the apostle Paul would also open and allege that this Jesus was indeed the Christ and the Son of the living God. Pause and consider the tremendous power of what the apostle Paul taught and preached there in the synagogue of the Jews for what he was declaring was that this man Jesus of Nazareth who walked in the form of human flesh among men was not only the Christ but was also the Son of the living God. Not only this but the apostle Paul reasoned from the Scriptures how it was necessary that this Jesus suffer and die before being raised from death to life again. Scripture is entirely unclear whether or not certain of the Jews which were present in the city of Jerusalem at a time when Jesus of Nazareth was present in the flesh and/or were even in the city at the time of the feast of unleavened bread when Jesus would be betrayed, would stand trial before Pontius Pilate, would ultimately be sentenced to death and would be crucified upon a cruel Roman tree. We have absolutely no knowledge of whether or not any of the Jews wheresoever the apostle Paul went were either in the city of Jerusalem at the time Jesus was condemned to die and was ultimately crucified upon the Roman tree known as the cross. Regardless of whether or not any of them were present at that time the apostle Paul would preach the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus unto the Jews first and foremost.

 

            It is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand the apostle Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy and those who were with him first preaching the gospel unto the Jews for it would be their opposition to the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus that would lead to an effectual and fervent door of ministry being opened unto the Gentiles. In the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of this New Testament book we find unbelieving Jews who were moved with envy opposing the apostle Paul and the gospel he preached unto and among them. What’s more is these unbelieving Jews being moved with envy would do more than simply oppose the gospel of the Lord Jesus and blaspheme themselves for they would also stir up contention, strife, chaos, division and discord among those who would hear the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus. You cannot read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts—specifically chapters thirteen and fourteen—and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous opposition which the Jews exercised and exhibited toward the apostle Paul and his companions. It is unmistakable and undeniable when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that the unbelieving Jews would raise themselves up against the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus and would be instruments of discord, division, strife and contention among those who would not only hear the word which the apostle Paul would preach but would also believe that word and on the Lord Jesus.

 

            When you come to the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the apostle Paul together with Silas and Timothy coming unto the city of Thessalonica. It would be there in the city of Thessalonica the apostle Paul reason from the scriptures for three sabbath days in the synagogue of the Jews. For three sabbath days the apostle Paul would both open and allege that this Jesus of Nazareth must needs have suffered in the flesh, died and be raised from death to life again on the third day. Not only this but the apostle Paul would also contend and proclaim this Jesus of Nazareth to be the Christ and the Son of the living God. It’s actually something worth noting what Luke wrote in this passage of Scripture—specifically when he wrote “and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.” If you turn and direct your attention back to the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find and discover Jesus and His disciples having come unto Caesarea Philippi. It would be there in Caesarea Philippi Jesus would ask His disciples who men said that He the Son of man was. The disciples would respond to His question by declaring how some said that He was Elijah, some that He was Jeremiah, some that He was John the Baptist, and others who would say that He was a prophet. Upon hearing the responses of His disciples Jesus would proceed to ask them more pointedly and personally whom they themselves said that He the Son of man was. In response to this question Simon called Peter would speak up and confess that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. In response to this Jesus would pronounce Simon as being blessed for flesh and blood had not revealed this unto him but His Father who was in heaven. Moreover the Lord would also declare unto Simon that he was Peter and upon this rock He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it.

 

            Stop and think about the words which Jesus spoke unto Simon called Peter and the other disciples on this particular occasion there in Caesarea Philippi. Jesus would indeed declare unto Simon that upon this rock He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it and yet we must needs recognize and understand what that rock was which he spoke of. We know that “Peter” itself means “rock,” however, with that being said we must needs recognize that Jesus wasn’t referring to Peter himself. We know that the church was established upon the apostles and the teaching and doctrine of the apostles, however, at the very heart and foundation of the church is something much greater and much larger than individual men. At the very heart of the church of the Lord Jesus is the confession and profession that Jesus is the Christ and that He is the Son of the living God. What’s more is that when writing unto the saints which were at Rome the apostle Paul would emphatically declare that if we confessed with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believed in our heart that God raised Him from the dead we will be saved. It is this confession of Jesus as the Christ, of Jesus as the Son of the living God and of Jesus as Lord that the church would be built and established. Even more than this is the belief within our heart that Jesus died upon the cross, was buried in the heart of the earth, and rose from death to life again on the third day. It is absolutely imperative we recognize and pay close attention to this for at the very heart of the doctrine and preaching of the apostles and the early church was the confession that Jesus is both the Christ and the Son of the living God. Not only this but there is also the belief that He was raised from death to life on the third day according to the divine will of the eternal Father.

 

            In the seventeenth chapter we find the church which would be established at Thessalonica being built upon this confession and profession of faith—namely, that Jesus was indeed the Christ and that He was raised from death to life on the third day. When the apostle Paul preached in the synagogue of the Jews there in the city of Thessalonica he was in fact using the foundation which was set forth there in Caesarea Philippi years earlier when Simon called Peter professed and confessed that Jesus was the Christ and the Son of the living God. If there is one thing we must needs recognize it’s that no church—regardless of what name it carries or what denomination it holds to—can be built and established without and apart from the confession and profession that Jesus is the Christ. With this being said I would dare argue and contend that if the church you are presently a part of does not profess and/or confess that Jesus is the Christ then you might very well need to remove and distance yourself from that church. I am absolutely and completely convinced that you cannot truly call yourself the church—and not only the church but the church of Jesus—if you cannot and do not profess Jesus as being the Christ. Even more than this is the awesome and powerful declaration that you cannot truly call yourself the church of Jesus or even a disciple and follower of His if you cannot and do not confess Him as Christ and Lord. It was the apostle Paul who emphatically declared and proclaimed that if we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe with our heart that He was raised from death to life again then we will be saved. Oh I am absolutely convinced that we cannot truly call ourselves a Christian nor can we even call ourselves the church of Jesus if we do not confess and profess Jesus as the Christ, as Lord and as the Son of the living God.

 

            I feel it is absolutely necessary to pause for a moment at this juncture and call your attention to just how vital and necessary this truly is when considering what it means to be a Christian and what it means to be the church. It was there in Caesarea Philippi Simon called Peter would confess and profess that Jesus was the Christ and the Son of the living God. It would be here in Thessalonica the apostle Paul would open and allege that Jesus not only suffered and was raised from death to life again but was indeed the Christ. It was when writing unto the saints which were at Rome the apostle Paul emphatically declared that if we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in our hearts that God hath raised Him from the dead that we are saved. At the very heart of Christendom is the confession that Jesus is the Christ, that Jesus is indeed Lord, and that Jesus is the Son of the living God. I would dare say that you cannot truly call yourself a Christian and follower of Jesus if you cannot confess and profess these statements with your mouth. What’s more is that this confession might even at times place us at odds with those around us for you will recall that it was Jesus Himself who said that whosoever confesses Him before men the same would He confess before His Father who was in heaven. Conversely, however, Jesus would also say that whosoever did and would not confess Him before men the same would Jesus not confess before His Father who was in heaven. Oh dear ready we must needs recognize and understand the tremendous power and responsibility that surrounds such a confession and profession of Jesus as being the Christ, of Jesus as being Lord, and of Jesus as being the Son of the living God.

 

            The more I think about and consider this particular truth the more I come face to face with the fact that no church should be established without and apart from the confession and profession that Jesus is the Christ, that Jesus is the Lord and that Jesus is the Son of the living God. What makes this even more intriguing is when you consider the religion of Islam and how at the very heart of their religion and belief is the confession that “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger.” If you read and study the religion of Islam you will find that at the very heart of it is a confession and profession concerning Allah being God and that Mohammed is his messenger. This confession and profession concerning Allah and Mohammed is at the very heart of the religion and faith of Islam and it is actually necessary we recognize and pay attention to this. I am absolutely convinced that at the very heart of Christianity and at the very heart of any church that would profess itself to be Christian in affiliation must be the confession and profession that Jesus is indeed the Christ and Lord. Moreover there must needs be the confession and profession that Jesus is indeed the Son of the living God. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and overlook this particular truth when thinking about our own faith and our own walk with the Lord for we must needs hold to within our heart and confess with our mouths that Jesus is the Christ, that Jesus is Lord, and that Jesus is the Son of the living God. Not only this but we must also hold to and confess that Jesus suffered in the flesh, that He was indeed crucified and that He was raised from death to life again on the third day. It is absolutely necessary we recognize and pay close attention to this for it is at the very heart of our belief in Jesus—and not only our belief in the Lord Jesus but also in what we might very well profess to be our walk and relationship with Him.

 

            I read the words which are found in the seventeenth chapter of the book of Acts and I am absolutely gripped and captivated with the fact that at the very heart of the doctrine which the apostle Paul taught and preached unto the Jews in their own synagogue was the confession, the profession and the declaration that Jesus was and is the Christ. It was Jesus Himself who declared that it was upon this rock—the confession and profession that He is the Christ and the Son of the living God—His church would be built. What’s more is Jesus didn’t merely say that it would be upon this rock He would build His church and stop there. Jesus would go on to declare that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this for there is something incredibly powerful about this statement of the Lord Jesus. It was Jesus who declared that He would build His church upon the confession and profession that He was the Christ and the Son of the living God and it was Jesus who declared that the gates of hell would not prevail against that confession and profession. We must needs recognize and understand this for there is something truly powerful about this confession and profession that Jesus is the Christ and that Jesus is the Son of the living God. Oh there is not only a foundation that is found in that confession and profession but there is also security and safety in that profession. It wasn’t merely that Jesus declared that He would build His church upon the confession and profession that He was the Christ and the Son of the living God but also that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. It is this concept of the gates of hell being unable to prevail against it we must needs pay close attention to for what we find in the New Testament book of Acts is the gates of hell raising itself up against the confession and profession that Jesus is the Christ, that Jesus is Lord and that Jesus is the Son of the living God.

 

            The further I delve into the New Testament book of Acts the more I am brought face to face with the tremendous attempt of the gates of hell attempting to raise itself up against the church—and not only against the church but also against the profession and confession that Jesus is the Christ, that Jesus is Lord and that Jesus is the Son of the living God. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it helps us to understand precisely what is before us in this New Testament book of Acts. You cannot read this book without and apart from coming face to face with the gates of hell attempting to raise itself up against the apostles, against the Christians, and against the early church which was being established in the midst of the earth. The more you read the words found within this book the more you will be brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the confession and profession that Jesus is the Christ, the confession and profession that Jesus is Lord and that Jesus is the Son of the living God. The gospel which the apostle Paul, the gospel which the original apostles of Jesus preached, and the gospel which the disciples and followers of Jesus preached was indeed a gospel that was centered upon the understanding and declaration that Jesus was and is indeed both Christ and Lord. Not only this but Jesus was and is the Son of the living God who suffered in the flesh and who was crucified before being raised from death to life again on the third day. It was this which the apostle Paul emphatically preached and taught unto and among the Jews for three sabbath days in the synagogue there in Thessalonica. For three sabbath days the apostle Paul taught, preached and reasoned with them that Jesus was the Christ and that He was indeed crucified and raised from death to life again on the third day.

 

            If you begin reading with and from the fourth verse of this chapter you will find that some of the Jews did in fact believe the word which the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy preached and consorted with Paul and Silas. Moreover of the devout Greek a great multitude and of the chief woman not a few there were those who believed the word which the apostle Paul preached among them and would align themselves with them. When, however, you come to the fifth verse of this chapter you will find how those Jews which believed not were moved with envy and took unto them certain fellows of the baser sort and gathered a company and set all the city on an uproar. Please do not miss and lose sight of what is taking place here in the midst of the city of Thessalonica for what we find here in this Macedonian city is the same thing we previously witnessed on the first apostolic and missionary journey which the apostle Paul and Barnabas had undertaken after being separated by the Holy Ghost at Antioch. As you read chapters thirteen and fourteen of this New Testament book you will find and encounter unbelieving Jews who were moved with envy and who would in their envy and hardness of heart create strife, contention, chaos, confusion and division round about the apostle Paul and those who were with him. It would be this strife and confusion the gates of hell would attempt to use to silence the preaching and teaching of the apostle Paul. Scripture makes it very clear that the Jews were moved with envy when they saw the great numbers of men and women who would gather themselves unto the apostle Paul and those with him to hear and listen to the gospel and word which he would preach. It’s important to recognize and understand that the gates of hell would indeed lift and raise itself up against the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus—particularly and especially among the Gentiles for all of hell itself would seek to silence the gospel and prevent the Gentiles from believing on the name of the Lord Jesus.

 

            What we find here in this New Testament book of Acts is incredibly powerful when you take the time to truly consider it for that which is before us unbelieving Jews who would themselves oppose and resist the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus. It would be in their unbelief and their envy they would resort to creating conflict, confusion and chaos in the midst of the city in an attempt to silence the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus. Luke makes it very clear that those Jews which believed not would do anything and everything they could to silence the voice of the apostle Paul and keep the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus from being preached. In this passage of Scripture we find those Jews which were unbelieving took unto themselves certain lewd men of the baser sort and gathered a company that they might set all the city on an uproar. Not only this but they would also assault the house of Jason and seek to bring the apostle Paul and his companions unto the people. The apostle Paul and Silas were not found after assaulting the house of Jason so they brought Jason before the people and declared unto them that those who turned the world upside down had come unto Thessalonica as well. Moreover those who had brought Jason before the people also proceeded to declare that Jason received these men who turned the world upside down—men who did contrary to the decrees of Caesar saying that there is another king, one Jesus. Please don’t miss what is being said here for the unbelieving Jews would not merely stir the city and set it on an uproar but would also target and go after the name of the Lord Jesus. It would be there before the people the unbelieving Jews would cry out against the confession, the profession and declaration that Jesus was the Christ, that Jesus was Lord, that Jesus was the Son of the living God and that Jesus was indeed King.

 

            As you continue reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find that after the events which took place there in the city of Thessalonica the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea. Upon coming to Berea Paul and Silas would enter into their synagogue and would teach and preach the same doctrine which they had previously taught in Thessalonica. That which Luke writes concerning those in Berea, however, is slightly different from what we find in Thessalonica for Luke records how those in Berea were more noble than those in Thessalonica in that they received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the scriptures daily to see whether or not those things which the apostle Paul and Silas preached were true. The direct result of the preaching and teaching of the apostle Paul and Silas there in Berea was many of them believing and also of the honourable women which were Greeks as well as men a great number. Although the apostle Paul and Silas were sent forth from Thessalonica after the whole city was set on an uproar as a result of the unbelieving Jews who stirred up the whole city they would come unto Berea where they would further preach and teach the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus. What makes this all the more astonishing and intriguing when you consider it is when you discover that in all those places wheresoever the apostle Paul and his companions went and into whatsoever place they journeyed there would be those who would believe. There would be those who would hear the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus and would believe and it would be these individuals who would make up the churches which were established in these places. What’s truly interesting when you consider it is that after the apostle Paul and Silas would depart each city there would potentially not only be a synagogue of the Jews but there would also be a church of Christians that would be established in the midst of the city.

 

            I am convinced that in order to truly understand that which took place in the city of Thessalonica it is important for us to read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto these dear saints in the epistle(s) he sent unto them. If you turn and direct your attention to the first chapter of the first epistle written unto the Thessalonians you will find the apostle Paul giving thanks to God always for those in Thessalonica making mention of them in his prayers remembering without ceasing their work of faith, their labour of love and their patience of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of God the Father. The more you move throughout the first chapter of the first epistle which was written unto the Thessalonians the more you will find the apostle Paul declaring unto them how their gospel came not unto them in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance. The apostle Paul would then go on to speak of the great affliction, the great trials, the great troubles, and the great opposition that centered upon their hearing and receiving the word of the Lord Jesus. What’s important for us to recognize when reading this passage is that although the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus would come in power, in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance it would also come with much affliction. It is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand this particular truth for there would be those who would think the gospel of the Lord Jesus comes only in power and in the Holy Ghost and not in any affliction. There would be those who would think and believe the gospel of the Lord Jesus must needs be preached absent affliction, absent opposition, absent suffering, absent trials and absent troubles. The truth of the matter, however, is there is something about receiving and hearing the gospel in affliction and through affliction that causes the power of the living God and the joy and fellowship of the Holy Ghost to be manifested in the midst of those cities, towns, villages, neighborhoods and houses in which we are gathered together.

 

            I feel a tremendous need right now to call and draw your attention to the words which are presented in the opening chapter of the first epistle written unto the Thessalonian saints as well as the words which are found in the fourteenth chapter of this New Testament book of Acts. You will recall in the fourteenth chapter of this New Testament book how the apostle Paul declared that we must through much affliction enter into the kingdom of heaven. Now here in the first chapter of the first epistle which was written unto the Thessalonian saints we find the apostle Paul describing how they became followers of them and of the Lord having received the word in much affliction. What’s more is that it was Jesus Himself who declared that in this world we would have many afflictions but to not fear because He has overcome the world. Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for not only are there many afflictions in the world and not only must we through many afflictions enter into the kingdom of heaven but it is also possible for the word and gospel to be received in much affliction, in much opposition, through many trials, through many troubles, and even through must suffering and opposition. Furthermore I would dare say there is something incredibly unique and powerful about receiving the gospel of the Lord Jesus in much affliction rather than in peace, in quietness, and in rest. The more I think about it the more I find myself consider the fact that hearing and receiving the gospel of the Lord Jesus in much affliction not only readies and prepares you for what being a disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ truly means but if you can become a follower of the Lord Jesus even in the midst of and through affliction and suffering it might very well be said you will be one who is not only unoffended when suffering comes but also one who is not surprised when suffering comes.

 

Consider if you will the words which are found in the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew as well as the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the same book. Consider if you will the words which are found in the opening verses of the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John as well as the words which are found in the fourth and fifth chapters of the first epistle written by the apostle Peter unto the saints which were scattered throughout the known world during the time of the apostles and the early church:

 

Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown. In his heart. This is he which received seed by the wayside. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:18-23).

 

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:4-14).

 

These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go my way to him that sent me” (John 16:1-5).

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).

 

Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:5-11).

 

As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the opening chapters of this first epistle written unto the Thessalonian saints. It is in the first chapter of this epistle the apostle Paul spoke unto them of the gospel he preached being received by them in much affliction—this despite the fact that it was accompanied by power, by the Holy Ghost and by joy in the Holy Ghost. In the second chapter of this same epistle you will find the apostle Paul speaking unto them and calling to their remembrance the suffering and affliction they had experience in Philippi prior to coming unto them in Thessalonica. In all reality it’s quite interesting how in Philippi Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned and came unto Thessalonica to face affliction and opposition among them at the hand of the unbelieving Jews who were present among them. The second chapter of this epistle describes how their entrance and coming in unto them was not in vain for after they were shamefully entreated in Philippi they were bold in their God to speak unto them the gospel of God with much contention. Moreover if you continue reading the words found in the second chapter of this first epistle written unto the saints which were at Thessalonica you will find the apostle Paul writing unto them how they became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea were in Christ Jesus. Not only this but they also suffered like things of their own countrymen even as those in Judaea have of the Jews who both killed the Lord Jesus, killed the prophets, and persecuted the saints and brethren of the living God. The apostle would go on to write unto the Thessalonians concerning the Jews how they sought to forbid them from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved that they might full up their sins always thus bringing the wrath of God upon them.

There is not a doubt in my mind the words which are found in the second chapter of this epistle for as you continue reading you will find the apostle Paul going on to write unto them how they were taken from them for a short time in presence though not in heart, The apostle Paul endeavored all the more exceedingly and abundantly to see them face to face and would have come unto them but were hindered by Satan. In the third chapter of this first epistle we find the apostle Paul going on to write how they sent Timothy their brother and minister of God and fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ to establish them, to comfort them concerning their faith that no man should be moved by the afflictions they faced in this life. Oh dear reader it is absolutely necessary we pay attention to the words which are found in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts as well as the words which are recorded in the first three chapters of the first epistle written unto the saints which were at Thessalonica. The apostle Paul made it very clear they suffered and were shamefully entreated at Philippi which only furthered their cause and caused them to wax all the more bolder in their preaching of the gospel. When Paul, Silas and Timothy came unto Thessalonica they came after Paul and Silas had been beaten with many stripes and imprisoned in the chief city of Philippi. Now upon coming unto Thessalonica and teaching in their synagogues they would experience great affliction at the hands of the unbelieving Jews who in their envy would stir up the whole city against the apostle Paul and those companions who were present with him. It would be when writing unto these saints which were at Thessalonica the apostle Paul would not only speak unto them concerning their gospel coming through much afflictions but also how as the saints of God they were appointed unto afflictions in this life.

 

What you find in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is not only the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy experiencing affliction, suffering and opposition in the chief city of Philippi where Paul and Silas were beaten with many stripes and imprisoned but you will also find them coming unto Thessalonica to find affliction and opposition there. I feel compelled to stop and draw your attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the apostolic journeys of the apostle Paul and how in virtually every city he traveled and journeyed to it would appear that afflictions not only abounded therein but almost seemed to be waiting for him there. AFFLICTIONS ABOUNDING AND APPOINTED! APPOINTED AND ABOUNDING AFFLICTIONS! If there is one thing we must needs recognize concerning the ministry of the apostle Paul and those who journeyed with him it is that none of them signed up for a life of leisure or comfort. The more you read the New Testament book of Acts together with the epistles the apostle Paul wrote the more you will find that not only did afflictions seem to abound wherever he went but those afflictions seemed to be appointed unto him. We have a great need of recognizing and understanding this as it calls and draws our attention to the truth that life with and life following Jesus the Christ may not be and in many cases will not be without and apart from afflictions. We in this nation have experienced a certain freedom and liberty when it comes to our religious belief and practices and haven’t truly experienced affliction, suffering and opposition as a direct result. Oh there have been small glimpses of it here and there and there would be men and women during the pandemic who would say that church buildings being shut down were a manner of persecution. The truth of the matter, however, is that we in this nation have not truly seen persecution, affliction, suffering, trials and troubles on the scale and magnitude as the apostles and the early church did.

As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to bring our attention to the truth that we must through much afflictions enter into the kingdom of heaven. Moreover we must needs recognize that we have not been called to be people who seek to live lives absent suffering, affliction, opposition, trials and troubles. There would be those who would think and believe they can walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ absent suffering, affliction and opposition and the like and yet the truth of the matter is that we were never appointed to a life of rest—at least not in the external sense of peace, rest, quietness and what we would think or expect. We must remember how David wrote in the famous and beloved twenty-third psalm how the Lord who was his shepherd prepared a table before him in the presence of his enemies. We must needs recognize and understand that we ought not to be surprised by the fiery trials we face in this life as though some strange thing is happening to us. The apostle Peter made it very clear that we ought not to be surprised by suffering, afflictions, persecutions and opposition for we know that our faith can and will be tested and tried. In fact, I would dare say that we in this nation have a great need to prepare and ready ourselves for any and all manner of affliction, suffering and opposition we might experience in this life. There is not a doubt in my mind that we have yet to see any manner of persecution, suffering, affliction and opposition on the scale and magnitude of the apostles and the early church when whole cities rise up against the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus. It is my prayer that we be men and women of courage, strength, boldness, faith, trust and confidence in the day when such realities emerge among us within our generation and we are forced to live our lives on the fringe of afflictions, sufferings, persecutions and opposition. Oh that we would be a people who would ready and prepare ourselves for such realities being manifested within our hearts and lives and that we would be those who would recognize that we must through much trials and afflictions enter into the kingdom of heaven.

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