Today we read two very stirring chapters about the total commitment of the Apostle Paul to preach – to witness to as many as possible about the eternal life giving message of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the only message that matters – from the point of view of our eternal expectations.
These chapters give some indication of the dangers that surrounded the Apostle. At Corinth “the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent …” [Acts 18 v.9]. In his 2nd letter to the Corinthians Paul commented on “the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks …” [1 v.8-11] Let us imagine we were living then, how Paul’s words and experiences would both challenge and inspire us! But shouldn’t they also do that today?
Returning to Acts we notice how Paul “when they (the Jews) opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles. [v.6} Do our hearts accept his meaning – “I am innocent”?
He means he has fulfilled his responsibility before God to witness to his own countrymen!
These words have a lesson for us: first to witness to those among whom we live – and then – after we have done that and become “innocent” – having a clear conscience of having carried out our responsibility in the service of God, we should seek to make opportunities to go further afield seeking places where people are more prepared to listen – as Paul did. And there are certainly countries today where people are more prepared to listen.
If it is physically impossible for us to do this then the next best thing is to support those who can and so be “innocent” in the sight of God and our Saviour. And we must also “help … by prayer.” D.Caudery