Sometimes when we speak the word of The Lord to people there are those that just don’t “get it.” No matter what you do or say they just seem to miss the point.
Too often I have seen those doing the preaching wring their hands (metaphorically speaking) because someone they have been preaching to and ministering to just walk away. They try to get them to come back and see what they are missing out on, but the people are simply not interested.
Well, sometimes there is nothing you can do about it. They are just not going to come to The Lord regardlesss of what you say or do, at least not unless or until The Lord is ready to bring them to Himself. The best you can do is to hold a mindset that at least the seed has been sown. Whether it will take root and grow or not is not up to you. In the end it is the work of The Lord, and just as you and I were given a free will to choose Jesus or not, so too these people also have a free will.
The best discussion of this comes in the parable of the sower, and it is in this light that we look at what happened to Paul and Barnabas when they came to preach the word at Iconium.
Preaching at Iconium
Paul and Barnabas had moved on and came to this city and began preaching the word of the gospel in the synagogue, as was their habit.
Just as an aside, you should note that each time Paul and Barnabas came to a new town or city they first sought out the religious people to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to. This is a good plan and one worth considering even today for such people already are invested in wanting to know God and the truth of His ways and so a new teaching is more likely to land on receptive ears than trying to “cold call” on unbelievers.
Anyway, look at what they did when they came to Iconium in these following verses.
1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
They began with the Jews and preached also to the Greeks and many of those who heard believed the words of Paul and Barnabas. But as we also see, there were many who did not believe, and like those in other places and the Pharisees and Sadducees who opposed Jesus, they similarly stood in full and often violent opposition to Paul and Barnabas.
Now how they could stand in such opposition is amazing, but it also proves what I said at the beginning of the post. Not all will believe no matter what is said or done. And these Jews and Gentiles who opposed had a separate agenda that had nothing to do with the truth.
Look at what Paul and Barnabas did amongst the people at Iconium. First and foremost they preached and urged the people, speaking in such a way that many believed. From this, and knowing Paul’s strong background in scripture, having been trained as a Pharisee, I am certain that he spoke from the scripture proving Jesus was the Christ and using the words of the law and prophets to show them as much.
Furthermore we see that The Lord confirmed the truth of the gospel and the words Paul and Barnabas spoke by granting many signs and wonders to be done by their hands. The Lord promised that went the truth was being preached He would do this, and if you want to check this, look at the last grew paragraphs of the gospel of Mark 16.
So how these Jews and Gentiles could not see the power of the gospel in their words and the miraculous signs The Lord did by their hands is amazing. But ignore them they did and they opposed Paul and Barnabas, and through them they opposed the truth of Jesus Christ as well.
Reaction of Paul and Barnabas
These two holy men did not shrink back from preaching the word. On the contrary they continued to preach the word boldly to the people there.
But when they were opposed they did not simply up and leave. They had bought a number of people to the place where they now believed in Jesus Christ. So Paul and Barnabas had a responsibility to continue to teach them and strengthen them so they could stand and face whatever would come against them.
It is evident that if the Jews and Gentiles opposed Paul and Barnabas, who were strangers to the town, then they would also go to work on turning those who had believed away from The Lord.
Thus Paul and Barnabas needed to strengthen the people so they could stand in this new teaching, fully understanding that opposition would come. They had sown the word among these people, now they needed to tend that seed and the new shoots as they grew, feeding and watering them until they could stand against the elements that would come against them.
Parable of the Sower
As I alluded to earlier, this is a classic example of the parable of the sower in action, at least in part. For we see several of the examples of the types of seed/people in the reactions of the people in Iconium. If you need to familiarise yourself with this parable, have a read of Matthew 13:1-8, and then the explanation of the parable in verses 18-23 of the same chapter.
In brief, Jesus identified four types of people in this parable and likened them to those who have the seed sown along the path and snatched up by birds, on rocky soil that is parched as the sun rises, amongst the weeds and is strangled by weeds as they grow, and finally those where the seed is sown in good soil.
These four groups correspond to those who have the word snatched away by the evil one as soon as they hear, those who hear the word and accept it with joy but quickly fall away when persecution arises, those who take in the word but it is choked by conflicting priorities and the cares and pleasures of this world and they fall away. And finally those who hear, understand and take in the word and bear fruit as they mature in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
In Iconium Paul and Barnabas came up against all of these types. The Jews who heard the word and rejected it standing in opposition to the gospel were like those whose seed fell upon the path. Those who would be carried away by the teachings and unable to stand had to be separated from the rest for more teaching if they were to be able to stand, but would eventually succumb in the heat of the process. Then there would be those who, living in the city, would succumb to the advances of friends and relations to leave the group of disciples and the words of life would be choked out of them. But finally there would be those left who on hearing Paul and Barnabas took the word to heart, understood what was on offer and were prepared to give up their past life for the sake of receiving the kingdom of God.
As I said in the title…not all will believe. The parable of the sower relates to those who have actually heard the gospel preached, and as we see only one of the four groups identified believed. Only one of the four were prepared to listen and go the full way where they would bear fruit.
And this fruit they bear is not winning more people to The Lord, although some may do that also. The important fruit they bear are the fruits of maturity in Jesus Christ. The fruit of the Spirit as defined in Galatians 5:22-23 which says,
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
This is the fruit that the parable of the sower relate so.for those who believe, listen and understand they will bear these fruits and come to the fulness of maturity in Jesus Christ.
But there will still be many who will not believe, and we do not know who those people are. Only The Lord knows those who will accept His call and turn for Him to save them. Our role is to present the gospel when we can, whenever the opportunity arises so that they can hear it.
But if they do not listen and choose to reject the gospel, don’t beat yourself up over it as some people do. Recognise that not all will believe and also know, it is not you whom they are rejecting, it is The Lord they reject. And as hard and heartless as it may seem to say it…their blood is on their own heads.
Look to your own salvation first and don’t worry about what The Lord may or may not be doing with someone else. Bear testimony and witness when the opportunity arises, but understand that even if someone you really want to come to God eventually does come, you may not be the vessel God chooses to call that person. We are His servants and His workmanship and He will do with each of us as He chooses.
(Picture sourced from stock.xchng taken by Andreas Krappweis)
You might also like:
The Parable Of The Sower
A Sower Went Out To Sow
Understand The Parable Of The Sower
Growth In The Kingdom Of God
Crumbs From The Masters Table The Canaanite Womans Faith
The Promise To Jesus Followers
The Disciples Will Fall Away
Repent And Believe In The Gospel
Spreading The Gospel
Have Faith In God
The Great Commission
Increase Our Faith
Faith Is More Important Than Knowledge
Seeing Is Not Believing