“The Jewish leaders hated Paul. They followed him from town to town and made trouble for him wherever he went. He would spend weeks, months, or even years in a place teaching about Jesus and then his enemies would show up, get him run out of town, and then stay and attempt to undo what he had taught.
The Christians in the “circumcision group” continued to actively oppose him, too, insisting on adherence to their traditions. Paul warned Titus about them when he wrote, “For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain… Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.” (Titus 1:10-11, 13-14) I like the way the KJV words verse 14: “Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.”
Paul would go into a city and teach, the unbelieving Jewish leaders would soon follow to discredit him and the believing “circumcision group” would further confuse things by insisting on putting new wine into old wineskins. (Matthew 9:17)
He was opposed from within and without.
Have you ever been opposed from within and without?
When I first started speaking about abstinence I expected to face some opposition from without, but I wasn’t prepared for the vicious opposition I would soon face from within. I was asked to speak to a certain youth group one evening. God had given me a message for them that was different from any I had given before or since. As I was taking it down I asked, “Are you sure, Lord?” Even though the message was intense, I had never had such a clear sense that I was taking His dictation. As I gave the message one of the youth leaders (an adult male) began raising objections. It would have been appropriate for him to pull me aside afterward to share his views but instead he repeatedly interrupted the presentation. In spite of the interruptions a few of the students seemed to be taking the message to heart. A few quickly aligned themselves with their leader. The rest just looked confused. I handled the objections cordially and then stayed for punch and cookies before hauling my equipment from the basement of the church.
As I wrestled to get my load through the heavy outer doors, none of the youth standing nearby offered to help. They just stood in a huddle glaring at me. I drove home grieved that those youth would exude such hate toward a guest in their church – a guest who had come to minister to them. What grieved me the most was the realization that their attitudes reflected their leadership. It had been a long day of presentations and I was exhausted when I arrived home but, since I had been away from my computer all day, I decided to quickly check my e-mail before going to bed. Waiting in my inbox, just itching to pounce, was the worst vitriol – actually the only vitriol – that had ever been leveled against me. In the time it had taken me to drive home that youth leader’s objections turned from rude to punch-me-in-the-gut ugly. It sent me reeling for days. A Christian is capable of writing that? Or was he one of those guys about whom Jude warned?
For the first and only time I was tempted to quit. I wondered whether I had been mistaken about my calling. A few days later I received a beautiful note in the mail. It was from a seasoned saint who encouraged me with Jesus’ words: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” (Matthew 10:14-15 )
Her timely note reminded me what God had told me the moment of my call to this ministry, “It is not going to be easy.” Instead of quitting, I resolved to speak all the more. Shamefully, the man launched a whisper campaign against me, the ripples of which I still occasionally feel today. The campaign against Paul was on a much larger scale. The aversion some women have toward him even today are ages old ripples. You’ll see what I mean. For now, just keep in mind that those who hated and hounded him were not going to let his words go untwisted.
We’ll start some untwisting tomorrow.”
The above is an excerpt from a Bible study I wrote five years ago. I am currently converting it to a book for publication. Thought I’d share a bit of it with you, see if you have anything to say…
Update: Years later I heard disturbing news about that youth leader, and about the pastor who backed his ugly words. No wonder the hounds of hell were barking and snarling so viciously. No wonder God gave me that particular message.
© 2015, The Reluctant Baptist