Jesus is for everyone. No one is exempt from salvation, which makes outright denial so baffling to me.
When Paul presents Jesus to the people of Antioch in the text, he addresses them as “Men of Israel, and you who fear God,” essentially lumping Jews and non-Jews in the same category. Being a Christian is not an exclusive club: it’s a wide open door, a party that everyone is invited to.
A lot of people believe that the concept of a “Christian God” came out of western culture, but it started in a similar geographic location as the Muslim faith 800 years prior, if you’re not counting the monotheistic Jewish precedent, which extends much further back in time in the same region.
Of course, even with this backdrop, many still deny Him for a handful of reasons. Several reactions are presented in Acts 13, which are not unlike how people respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ today. Here are five reactions people might have to the gospel.
1) They aren’t even paying attention.
I’m aware that hundreds of people will look right past this blog today because they’re too busy looking for something else. The Jews did exactly the same thing 2000 years ago, and Jesus was walking right in their midst. Now Paul is talking straight to their face — Paul being a first-hand witness to the incredible transformative power of God — and they are still oblivious. It’s likely people have heard about Jesus, but they overlook Him because something else catches their eye.
2) They don’t believe it.
Christians and otherwise alike wish God would speak to them audibly so they’d know what to do. While the Word and the Spirit should be sufficient, we would love to have a little more. But for many, no evidence is ever enough.
Verse 41 of this chapter refers to Habakkuk 1:5, which is actually written in the context of a prophecy that Babylon would overrun Jerusalem (which was fulfilled), but core message remains: even if someone straight up told you, you wouldn’t believe it.
Paul says, “Beware therefore,” that we shouldn’t fall into the same category of the career skeptic, who will heap philosophies and histories but never engage in the living God.
3) They respond with hate.
While many respect Christianity as a valid religion or belief system (albeit “not for them” — see the intro), many others are maligned against the faith, perceiving the Bible as a book of myths or any supposition of an authoritative deity as mere delusion. Additionally, some American churches represent the most divisive bodies of people on earth today, who claim exclusivity and self-righteousness and refuse those who do not adhere to particular traditions or mindsets.
This isn’t surprising either: Jesus once said that He came to bring a sword, indicating figurative division between those who accept and reject the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible is controversial on its own, and, to many who develop an ideology contrary to the Bible’s tenets find it offensive. The Jews, in this case, with the backdrop of their own standards of righteousness before God, weren’t very happy either and looked to stir it up, despite the attractive nature of grace to the crowds.
4) They believe humans are gods.
Well, not literally — but we worship them, don’t we?
In the atheist circles, we have Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, George Carlin, and Douglas Adams, who are each venerated for their own very outspoken ideologies. In Christian circles, it isn’t much different, really: Joel Osteen, Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, and Billy Graham are all considered important (without respect to the validity of their assertions). Bottom line: regardless of where you stand, we like our important people.
We like to quote the guys with the big pants when we’re stuck in a corner, and we quote them as if they can magically come to our defense when things get out of hand. The Jews did this when the gospel really took off in Antioch: they employed the services of the important people in the area to spread some rumors and get Paul and his Jesus message kicked out.
Because so-and-so says so is a terrible reason to believe anything. Let Jesus be the primary source, and let everything else be supplementary. But those who hear and reject will continue to trumpet the next closest thing, which is typically not God, but a man instead.
5) They believe it.
Salvation is not as far off as you think: recognizing your sinful condition (which isn’t too difficult if you look at your pattern of behavior) and embracing grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is one sincere prayer away. It requires giving up all of yourself, but the reward is worth it. Those who believe it know this first-hand.
The Gentiles didn’t argue or attempt to justify the message to make it more convenient for themselves. They heard the very same thing you just read, and they took it up. The message is the same today as it was when the events of the book of Acts took place — if you believe on (not just “in”) the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved.
What’s your response to the gospel?