What an awesome start to Acts 14:
Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. (Acts 14:1, ESV)
I want that to be said about me! Wherever I go, I want to have the truth of the gospel on my lips. I want to speak in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believe in Jesus as their Great Redeemer and Glorious Savior!
Of course, this kind of faithfulness and fruitfulness does not go unnoticed by the general population, and it is often accompanied by opposition:
But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. (Acts 14:2, ESV)
Thankfully, God is often more than willing to reveal Himself as the King Forever through those who will boldly and faithfully proclaim His Name:
So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. (Acts 14:3, ESV)
Sadly, many who are opposed to the reality of God will not be swayed by truth. Instead, the truth only infuriates them more. Opposition quickly turns to persecution:
But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel. (Acts 14:4–7, ESV)
No matter… the gospel is too good of a truth to be kept a secret -even if that means death to the one who is willing to proclaim it.
The persecution continued for the new believers throughout the book of Acts. As they were faithful to proclaim the gospel, those who were opposed to the gospel were faithful to try to shut them up -permanently, if possible.
Acts 17 is a tremendous example of the ludicrous measures those who were opposed would take. Paul was spending time in Thessolonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue.
And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” (Acts 17:2–3, ESV)
Of course, the Jews are not happy with this…
But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. (Acts 17:5, ESV)
Step one in their sinister plan seems to be: get tremendously offended by an opposing idea.
Step two: try to stop the spread of the opposing idea at all costs.
Step three: find some wicked men willing to do your bidding.
Step four: using the wicked men, form a mob.
Step five: using the mob, set the city in uproar.
Step six: with the city in uproar, attack an innocent bystander who is connected to the person you hate.
And as if all of this were not enough, why not go ahead and pretend to care about something you really, in all practical fact, do not care about. Go ahead and virtue signal because it will get more people on your side.
Step seven: pretend to care about the Roman Caesar.
Step eight: demonize anyone whom you have falsely accused of rising against the Roman Caesar.
And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” (Acts 17:6–7, ESV)
And I suppose, just for good measure, Step nine: take their money.
And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. (Acts 17:8–9, ESV)
Despicable. But then again, I guess not much has changed…