“And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.” — Acts 17:32
One of the hardest things to deal with as a missionary is the varied levels of response to the gospel message. In Acts 17, we read about three different cities that Paul went to – Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens – and three different responses to the gospel.
In Thessalonica, some Jews and quite a few Gentiles believed, but some of the Jews were so angry that they stirred up a mob against them. In Berea, there was a great response with many Jews and Gentiles believing. They only left because angry Jews from Thessalonica came and made things difficult for them. In Athens, most of the people mocked and very few believed.
Each time, it was the same message, the same messenger, but a completely different response. This is similar to Jesus’ teaching on the sower and how different soil produced different results (Matt 13). The same has been true for all those who give God’s Word.
Here are a few observations:
- We must be careful to not assume the type of response we will get. We must broadly sow the seed of the gospel and leave the results up to Him.
- We must carefully examine the methods that we are using to make sure they are Spirit-filled and in keeping with Scripture. We must continually suspect our own hearts, our own skills, and not assume we don’t need to improve in all these areas.
- We must ultimately accept that some people will be more resistant than others and there is not a lot we can do about that. As frustrating as it can be and as much as we want to make people believe, there is no way to force people to willingly believe. Even Paul and Jesus could not convince some people.