Chris W. Dial on Acts 16-18
In the Acts narrative, often no matter what good the apostles did, something bad follows them. But the bad serves to show the Holy Spirit’s actions through them. In Acts 16, they baptize Lydia and her household. Then they drive out a diving spirit from a slave girl. Because her owners lost money because of it, they have Paul and Silas taken before the magistrates of the city. The magistrate had them beaten and put in jail. While they are singing hymns to God, and earthquake occurs and releases them from their stocks, and their jail doors are opened up. Then before he can accomplish it, Paul and Silas prevent the jailer from committing suicide. Instead, they teach the jailor and his household, and they are all baptized.
When you teach something that is "radical,” or "revolutionary,” you have to know not just from Acts but other historic evidence that somewhere down the line, trouble is waiting for you. But not just trouble, ridicule, beating, even death is waiting for you too. When Paul first taught in Thessalonica, he was able to explain this new revolutionary movement known as Christianity. He did so well, that many people liked it and became followers of Jesus. But he did so great a job that some spiritual leaders got jealous and falsely accused Paul and those with him. When they couldn't find Paul, they grabbed a Christian brother by the name of Jason and some other brothers. The magistrates made them pay bail.
Paul then sailed to Athens. Athens was supposed to be the capital of free thinkers and philosophers. Even at the Areopagus, chief councilors for Athens, he was booed and ridiculed when he said that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Not even the Epicurean, and Stoic philosophers listened to him, they just mocked him. However, the good came in that some wanted to hear more about this Jesus and resurrection he was talking about. In fact, Dionysius an Areopagus member, and a woman named Damaris believed Jesus is the Christ.
In Corinth, he tried again to persuade Jews to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. But again, they wouldn't listen, so Paul shook out his garments, and told them that their blood was on their heads. He was going to go teach the Gentiles.
Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed, and he and his household were baptized. Christ told Paul, in a vision, not to be afraid. When Paul was in Achaia, he was brought before Gaius the Roman proconsul. Gaius had them all thrown out of the tribunal. Paul left a bad situation in good condition once again.
The thought, or belief, that someone could be raised from the ground after dying was hard for the Greeks to believe. But yet, they had altars to every god they could think of. Even one to an unknown god. Which is the altar Paul used to open a discussion with the Greek philosophers, and poets. The Greeks believed in mythical god beings, and mythical creatures. They used Hades as the place where condemned souls go. And the Elysian Fields, where the good go. It was far-fetched to them, as it is to many today, that the son of a god would come down to Earth, live in poverty, teaching people a better way of life, allow himself to be nailed to a cross, be raised from the dead after three days, and ascend out of our site to be with the God community again.
Jews and Greeks alike could not easily comprehend this kind of God who would do all this, but then can you, or anyone living today easily accept this? The outlandish nature of Jesus, different from any god, stooping to live with humanity, humbling himself to death on the cross, being raised from the dead, pouring out the Holy Spirit, are all unique marks of the Son of God who is Christ the Risen Lord.
We poo-poo tales of people coming back to life after they have been declared dead by a doctor. We believe because we have the scripture. We believe, because we have been taught. The early Jews and Greeks were taught, but many did not believe. The changes that Jesus, Paul, and the Apostles taught were too radical for them.
What part of the story is difficult for you to accept? Is there something too radical for you to follow? What changes in your church or community are radical and difficult for you to accept?
When changes come in your church, test those beliefs, test yourselves ( 1 Corinthians 13:5-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21; 1 John4:1). Once we know for sure it is what God wants for us, and wants us to do, then we can accept something radical and revolutionary, and do it to God's glory. And we need to be really ready. Because whatever good we do for the glory of God, something, or someone, will try to turn it into something bad.
Chris W. Dial
Chris W. Dial was born in Miami, Oklahoma but grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the Church of Christ. He graduated in 1981 from Oklahoma Christian University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Bible. He attends Journey Church of Christ and works for the Tulsa County Court Clerk's Office in the Records Department.