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Leave Because They Will Not Listen

Acts 22:17-21
'When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking to me. "Quick!" he said. "Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me." "Lord," I replied, "these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him." Then the Lord said to me, "Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles."' (NIVUK)

After Paul met the Lord Jesus on the Damascus road (Acts 9:3-5), he was led, blinded, into the city where Ananias was Christ's agent of healing and prophetic messenger of Paul's future ministry (Acts 9:11-18). After that, he spent a brief time in Jerusalem, but the Greek speaking Jews did not want to have anything to do with him. They tried to kill him (Acts 9:26-30). So the Lord intervened.

When Paul was praying in the Temple, the Lord Jesus spoke to him, telling him to leave the city immediately. But Paul, fresh with the joy of his salvation wanted the religious people to understand his radical change of lifestyle as validating the gospel of Jesus. He was a peacemaker now, having previously been full of hatred. He hoped that his candid testimony, and genuine passion for Jesus, would bring his former friends back on-side with him.

But they did not want to listen. Paul may have 'changed sides' but they had not and would not. More than that, they hated Paul for allying himself with the despised followers of the Way. So they were after his blood. But the Lord had other plans: to send him far away from Israel to what is now Cyprus, Turkey, Greece and Italy. He was sent away ('apostle' means 'sent one') with the gospel, which Gentiles would believe even if Jews refused to listen. It was both a sovereign act of safeguarding Paul's life and the Lord's way of building His church.

It would be nice to think that after you came to Christ, all your former friends will be as excited about Jesus as you. Often they will be confused, distressed and sometimes actively hostile. They may think that in turning to Christ you are rejecting your culture or family. Some may even think you are such a disgrace to the family that it would be better if you were not there. If the Lord tells you to stay and love them, then do that (Acts 18:9-11). But He may tell you to leave, both for your safety and so that you can be a gospel bearer wherever you go (Acts 11:19-21). It is His voice which matters. Listen and obey, not fearing your opponents but eagerly trusting the Lord.

Lord God. Thank You for directing Your people, keeping them safe and making them productive. Forgive me for either thinking that I can save those who refuse to be saved, or running away at the suggestion of hostility. Please keep me trusting You so that I am willing to be obedient even though I may not understand all that is going on. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams