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October 17, 2018, 8:24 AM

A Spreading Flame

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“The word of the Lord spread through the whole region” (Acts 13:49).

The spread of the gospel is a spreading flame, for God’s Word is a fire, a fire that consumes sin and refines people. That fire has spread around the world. In its light decisions must be made. Reverently, then, let us hear what today’s passage, Acts 13:42-52, has to say.

1. The spreading flame attracted crowds. According to Acts 13:44, “On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.” The attraction was the gospel, not the preachers: the divine Word, not its human speakers. When speakers are the attraction, people come as spectators to be entertained. But when the message is the attraction, people come as participants and get involved. No wonder the disciples message attracted! It was a message of “light” (v. 47), “salvation” (v. 47), “eternal life (v. 48), and all by “the grace of God” (v. 43). The crowds had known enough of darkness, bondage, and death. They were weary of frustrated efforts to save themselves. To hear of deliverance as the gift of God was new, exciting, and hope-inspiring. Human need is unchanged. Sin and guilt still bring slavery and death. Salvation by self-effort is still a futile struggle. There is no word like God’s Word to spark hope in tired, hungry hearts.

2. The spreading flame created conflicts. Acts 13:45 declares, “When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy.” They “incited” leading citizens against Paul and Barnabas, stirring up persecution and expelling them from the region (v. 50). Paul interpreted their rejection as a disastrous self-judgment, saying, “You do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life” (v. 46). By their actions they voted against their own eternal interests. Fearful of losing people to the new movement, they became abusive and slanderous. The gospel creates conflict. Satan’s kingdom is threatened; human vested interests are threatened; exclusivism is threatened. Consequently, opposition to the Word of God can always be generated, especially among “leading men” and “woman of high standing” (v. 50). We must not expect complete acceptance, on the one hand, or be discouraged from our engagement in evangelism on the other hand. When one door closes, another will open. Thrust from the synagogue, they turned to the Gentiles (v. 46). God’s work goes on!

3. The spreading flame produced converts. Some opposed the word of the Lord, but others “honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed” (v. 48). The joy of the believers was as great as the rage of unbelievers. “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (v. 52). To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be filled with joy, even in circumstances of conflict, for “the fruit of the Spirit is . . . joy” (Gal. 5:22). Those who “bring salvation” (v. 47) bring joy, for salvation is a well from which thirsty souls drink with joy (Isaiah 12:3).

Therefore, two fillings are recorded here. The critics were “filled with jealousy” and the converts were “filled with joy.” What are you filled with today? The Word of God which we share may provoke clashes, but it will also produce converts. For the sake of the converts we must risk the conflicts.

Let’s pray: Loving Father, fill me with your Holy Spirit and set me on fire for Your Kingdom! Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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