Unreasonable Response To A Reasoned Faith - Acts 17:1-15 NIV
#1 Our understanding, presentation, & defense of the gospel shd be _______________ .
"As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures." Acts 17:2 NIV
Let's focus on those words, "he reasoned." This meant that he was willing to give solid rationale as to why Jesus was the Messiah, why He was God's Son, why He died, and the evidence of resurrection. He didn't just walk in, stand up front, start preaching in a different sing-song voice or rely on charm and charisma to win the crowd. He reasoned!
Do you know that your faith, Christianity, is a reasonable faith? Certainly there are aspects of our faith that is hard to grasp, such as the Trinity and the 100% human and Godly attributes of Christ. But that doesn't mean that we just believe with a blind faith. We certainly aren't expected to believe just because our parents believed, or because we're members of a particular church. The Bible instructs us to examine our faith!
"Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good." 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 NASB
This is a fascinating verse. "Do not quench the Spirit" - there are certainly times when you can't explain why God's Spirit is moving you as He does. "Do not despise prophetic utterances" - yes, you should listen to those preachers / pastors charged with teaching you God's Word. BUT - little word, big meaning. "Yet at the same time," "Even so," "It may seem contradictory, but also do this..." Examine everything carefully. That means use your minds. Use your reason. Think it through. Our faith is not so fragile that it cannot stand up to close examination.
"Now these [Bereans] were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so." Acts 17:11 NIV
Luke compliments the Bereans because they checked everything out! They didn't take everything Paul said as a given. They checked and made up their own minds. That's what we are all supposed to do!
"Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind." Romans 14:5b NIV
When I was in school I would daydream about my English teacher debating my pastor. I wanted to see if the pastor could stand up to the strong, anti-god, anti-faith logic of my admired teacher. Same thing in college. I had a college instructor who said, "You couldn't possibly believe..."
What I've learned since - There have been 2,000 years of deep thought about Christianity. Our faith will stand up to any serious challenge - far more than our resolve to challenge it! So don't be afraid to think. Don't be afraid to ask questions. God is bigger than our honest examination.
Why is this important to us today? What is true for our own doubts and questions is doubly true for those who don't yet share our faith...
#2 - Some will respond positively to the gospel, but most will _______ it .
"Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women. But other Jews were jealous..." Acts 17:4-5a NIV
Whenever we hear about those who DO come to faith in Jesus, we alway also hear about those who DON'T. And that's exactly how Jesus predicted in his scattering seeds parable. Some would plant and take root. Many would not for many different reasons. For our time...
"In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions." Jude 1:18 ESV
People shun the gospel for various reasons (remember some seed fell on shallow soil, some on rocky ground, some on thorny ground.) Many reasons to shun the good news. For Paul, there was jealousy. For us...
Three "SHUN" Responses:
A. Some reject _________________ .
Sometimes people simply have rational doubts based on evidence. "I'm not convinced. I don't see the evidence." Actually these kinds of shuns are good news. Those who honestly seek out the evidence like Lee Strobel will find it! This is why we want Church Requel to always be a safe place to say, I'm not convinced.
B. Some reject _________________ .
Often people have doubts that are based entirely on emotions. You'll recognize this when people say, "They're all hypocrites. If that's what Christianity is all about, I don't want any part of it." Often when you dig deeper you'll find people like this are skeptical because they've been injured or offended by Christians. It's very difficult for them to evaluate Christianity fairly. This is another reason why we was Church Requel to be a safe place. And why we emphasize transparency. "Jesus came to save sinners / I'm the worst." (1 Tim 1:15)
C. Some reject __________________ .
These deny the possibility of Christianity for volitional reasons. They are willfully resistant and refuse to accept an argument offered by Christians, regardless of how reasoned the arguments might be. Many of these volitional rejectors actually HATE the very idea of God and all it means. There's not much we can do here. Pray for them. Pray that God would reveal Himself in a way that cannot be denied. But even so, understand that God will not force Himself.
Many in our society today fall in this volitional category. And now it goes even further. Our country was once a nation under God. But now we are becoming a nation against God. And so...
#3 - Beware of the _____________________ accusation .
What Paul faced in Acts 17...
"These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here... They are all defying Caesar's decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus." Acts 17:6-7 NIV
This was the state of things for the first 300 years - Christians against Romans. Constantine became Christian. In 313 Constantine issued the Edict of Milan which decriminalized Christian worship. For most Americans, we have grown up expecting our worship of Christ to exist without opposition.
But we should know 2 things -
A. Even now, one in every nine Christian lives in an area or culture in which Christianity is illegal, forbidden, or punished - according to latest report on global persecution by Open Doors USA. That's up 14% over prior year. Last year 1266 churches or Christian buildings were attacked; 2635 Christians were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned; 4,126 Christians were killed for faith-based reasons.
B. It's also becoming dangerous to be a Christian in America. Just look at the gov't telling Hobby Lobby it has no religious duty - and therefore no freedom - to follow Christian ethics in its corporate ethics. Consider what it means now for wedding cake service providers who are also Christian. Finally, you know that since April 20, 1999 there have been 220 school shootings. But did you know that in that same time there have been 18 fatal church shootings? Including the 2017 shooting at 1st Baptist Sutherland Springs, TX with 26 deaths including an unborn child?
Conclusion - How to wrap this up? Faith will never be totally rational. There comes a time and place where you need to take a leap of faith beyond your reason. But that's not to say that your faith can't be a reasoned faith. Nor should you ever stop asking questions about your faith. God is bigger than your questions and welcomes your questions.
Also understand that opposition to your faith is not always going to be reasonable. Your faith enemies are becoming more unreasonable all the time. Better you know that and be prepared for it. You're not always going to be loved by others because of your faith in God. But God will always love you because of your faith in Him. Is that enough for you?