FIRST CENTURY CHRISTIANS recognized the incredible, explosive power of the gospel (cf. Rom. 1:16).1
They had seen its effect in their own lives (Acts 4:33), as well as in the lives of their peers.
A MURDERER BECAME A MISSIONARY
BEFORE: “And Saul was there, giving approval to his death…” (Acts 8:1). “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2; cf. 26:9-11; 1 Cor. 5:9; Phil. 3:6; 1 Tim. 1:13).
AFTER: “He arose and was baptized. . .Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, ‘Is this not he who destroyed those who called on the this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priest'” (Acts 9:18b, 20-21)?
DECEIVERS BECAME BELIEVERS
BEFORE: “But there was s certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great…And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time” (Acts 8:9, 11).
AFTER: “Then Simion himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with them…” (Acts 8:13a).
BEFORE: “Many…practiced magic…” (Acts 19:19).
AFTER: “Those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver” (Acts 19:19).
THE SENSUAL BECAME SPIRITUAL
BEFORE: “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 9:b-10).
AFTER: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).
Thoughts and observations:
Let’s be cautious about prejudging the hearts of men. If we’re not careful, we look only at the surface (Jas. 2:2bff; John 4:7ff)–that which is overt. But not everyone sees the gospel in the same way. Yes, some will despise and reject it (2 Cor. 2:16), but others, despite their appearances, will recognize, love and treasure it (Mat. 13:45-46). If a murderer, like Saul of Tarsus, could embrace the saving message of Jesus in the first century, then other sinners will also accept it in the twenty-first century.
Remember that the gospel can change the hearts and lives of men. I sometimes hear a person say, “So-and-so can NEVER change…” Jesus certainly never endorsed that view.
Paul said, “If ANYONE is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away…” (2 Cor. 5:17; cf. Rom. 6:5-6). If charlatans like Simon the sorcerer and the exorcists of Ephesus could be brought to genuine repentance, and if the immoral citizenry of Corinth could become moral, then obviously the gospel can still bring about transformations today. “The word is living and powerful…” (Heb. 4:12; Jer. 23:29).
3. When we fulfill our duty to preach the Word to men, God will take care of the results. “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11).
Like Sarah and Abraham (cf. Gen. 16:1ff), some folks want to help God along and force a harvest. But our job is simply to sow the Seed-Word (Luke 9:11), and let the Almighty mange the soil (1 Cor. 3:6) and produce a crop.
“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike