At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue.There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. 4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. 5 There was a plot afoot among both 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 gospel.
This short account of the visit to Iconium distills the essential nature of Paul’s strategy. He first goes to the Jewish synagogue which generally responds badly to the idea of change. Then Paul is well received among the gentiles who like new things and are open to the truth. Finally conflict arises which allows the truth of God’s gospel to be displayed in power. Either God supernaturally delivers our heroes or they perform some jaw-dropping act.
This gives us an idea of what we might do. We can start by talking to religious types like lapsed Catholics, Jewish neighbours, or Muslim colleagues at work. However, some of them will be quite set in their beliefs, kind of like we are. Then we can go to those who are seeking to make sense of life and give them a saviour who cares about them in their distress. We can go to where the people are and talk to them about life.
Ultimately we will cause controversy. The press is often opposed to biblical ideals and academia lifts man up on a pedestal whilst trying to put the dunce cap on Christians. However, some will be challenged. Some will believe. It will be worth it.
I am challenged by the two Jehovah’s Witnesses who came by this morning. They were very pleasant and we talked for a while. They are motivated by a system that I belief is flawed. However, I sit on the truth more often than I should because I am afraid of causing an offence.
may I not seek to protect myself but to speak about you. May I call to mind Paul and his companions as they blazed a trail in a hostile environment.
- Where did Paul go?
- Outline the events that took place there.
- How did Paul’s visits often end?
- How are our conversations with others about God going?
- Where are there people who God would want us to talk to?