These couple of scriptures are only short and could be easily overlooked. However they teach us about withdrawing from evil which is a valuable lesson that we need to recognise and understand.
Too often people these days are more concerned with standing and fighting against evil men. We see arguments across the web, on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other social media where those who believe in The Lord argue with those who do not believe.
Atheists in particular are often the cause of this fighting for they have no belief in God and many seem to think it is their right and duty to belittle and oppose those who do believe in The Lord.
But in these few scriptures Paul gives us an insight in how to behave and what to do in such situations when we are constantly being opposed by people who have no faith.
Withdraw from Evil
As we read these few lines of scripture we see that Paul was having difficulty as he taught the word. He would argue with those in the synagogue but they would not listen and continued in unbelief. Verses 8-9 show us what he did about this issue.
8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.
When these unbelievers became too stubborn and began to speak evil of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the New Covenant, Paul withdrew and went elsewhere. He took those who did believe and moved to another place where these new disciples could be taught without the constant barrage of negative and false opposition to the word.
And it was the right thing to do. Having brought these people to The Lord Paul obviously felt a duty of care towards them to ensure they were nurtured and nourished in the word so that they could grow. This is especially so in their early days as disciples when they had little knowledge of the truth and little strength to stand against the concerted attack being thrown at Paul.
Paul could certainly stand against the attack and come through unscathed, but the new Christians did not yet have his strength, knowledge or understanding. So he made the decision to move on and take them somewhere they could learn and grow in relative peace.
When the Going Gets Tough
The approach Paul took to this opposition is contrary to the way many in this world would react. It is common for people when opposed to stand and fight. That saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” is often used in the world as a call to arms and prepare to fight.
But if you even look at that worldly statement it is actually saying to move on. What do the tough do when the going gets tough? They get going. They move on. OK this is just a play on words, but the principle is well documented in the bible that when it becomes too hard we should move on.
Jesus taught the disciples this principle saying. In Matthew 10:14-15,
14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
Also we see this principle further expanded by Jesus speaking to His disciples in Matthew 10:23.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
Jesus taught that we do not have to stand and fight the opposition that comes from the devil. Yes we need to be strong in ourselves and fight the opposition that comes within in the forms of temptation to sin, but when we are subject to external attack and physical danger from those who oppose, or if we need to protect others as Paul did in the scriptures above, then the wise move is to move on.
We see this principle laid down in relation to the church moving away from persecution also in the prophecies and imagery of Revelation. In Revelation 12:13-17 we see the following.
13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.
The woman is the church, the dragon is the devil and the male child is Jesus. When Satan was thrown down he pursued the woman to try and destroy her. But what we see happen is the same as what Paul did in Ephesus, the woman fled from the evil to the wilderness which was a palace where she could be safe to be nourished and grow.
Even when the devil poured a river of false teachings from his mouth to attempt to drown the church in false religion, salvation came in the form of the rest of the earth absorbing this river of false teachings, which also helped the church by taking the pressure off so they could learn the truth.
So any time you are under attack from others whether direct confrontation or on social media, it is OK to withdraw from evil. In fact it is a well documented process taught by Jesus to His disciples.
And it makes sense. You do not have to put yourself in harms way. In the end the judgement against those who propose to do evil against the children of God is His to make. As Moses said to the people when they were running from the pharaoh of Egypt and about to cross the Red Sea in Exodus 14:13-14.
13 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
You do not have to fear and you do not have to fight. It is OK to withdraw for the fight belongs to The Lord. We need only to stand firm in our faith and hold fast to the promises of Jesus Christ.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Adriano Goncalves)
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