Heat and Light
Text: Acts 18: 1-22
Proposition: There are times when the gospel of Christ calls us to be conspicuous, heat and light will be the response as you testify that Jesus is the Christ.
Introduction: Last week we talked about how Paul used something old and something new to help people see who Jesus is. The Old was the ancient record of Scripture dating back at that point over 4000 years. The New was a thirst for the unknown, even the unknown God. Paul spent only a short time in Athens and then went about 80 kilometres west to Corinth, a place of wealth, immorality, business and godlessness. Have a look at that ancient map of Corinth on your bulletin. So how do you reach a people who not only don’t know they are lost but are buried in a culture of excess? Let’s see what happens in Acts18.
I. Whenever You Are Tempted to Quit, Move In Closer.
Paul had been alone in Athens, a few responded but the idolatry had a great grip on the people. Now in Corinth, the process of reaching people seemed just as obscure. Corinth at least had a synagogue and he used it as a place to debate Christ every Sabbath and he did persuade some there. About 5 years later, after Paul left Corinth, he wrote them a letter saying, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.”1 Cor2 It was then that Paul moved in with Aquila and Priscila, working with them making tents and selling them. There will be times when the next step seems obscure to us, when we struggle with the lack of results in relationships, career or ministry. If those are the very fronts which God is seeking to work through, don’t quit, move in closer. Sometimes that is a very literal instruction, move in to the job, move in to the town, move in to connect with other believers. Always it is an instruction to move in closer to the Lord, to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Take your eyes off all the other indicators of progress that you’ve been watching and watch Christ in you. To move in closer implies that either I’ve moved further away from Christ by distractions getting between Him and me or it implies I’ve stopped moving closer because things didn’t look like I thought they would. Satan’s strategy is to get you to leave, God’s direction is ‘move in’. Sometimes to reinforce that, when we least expect it, God sends reinforcements. Silas and Timothy were like that for Paul, they come from Thessalonica and the effect it has on Paul is powerful, look at verse 5. “When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.” Some translations use the word ‘pressed’ instead of ‘compelled’. It meant that Paul was moved by the Spirit to rely on the power of God to be the difference maker as he did what he could, presenting Jesus as the Christ. It was shortly after this visit that Paul wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Pressed, compelled by the Spirit, Paul moved in closer and God used it for lasting effect.
II. When You Testify That Jesus Is the Christ, Heat and Light Happen.
As Paul was pressed forward the effect was that the Jews became even more resistant. It came to a boiling point and Paul withdrew from the synagogue and was invited to come into the house of Justus, using that as a place to preach and teach. The reaction to Paul was intense, there was heat, but it was also effective, there was light. The leader of the synagogue and his whole family became Christians. But don’t miss the intensity of what is happening especially when Crispus became a believer. Look at verses 9,10, “Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” I think that Paul was feeling like it was time to leave Corinth, like things were going to turn into another Philippi jail. Whatever his thoughts the Lord knew them and spoke not only to them but through them. Don’t be afraid, don’t be silenced, I will be with you and protect you. Why... because I have many people in this city. People that were yet to hear the gospel, people yet to believe, people yet outside of saving grace, these people I have set right in front of you, they are the good works which I have prepared beforehand that you should walk in them. When you testify that Jesus is the Christ heat and light happen. I think something profound happened that night. When the Lord speaks to you it is profound and it calls for your response. Drop down a few verses to verse 18 that describes the time when Paul left Corinth, it says that Paul shaved the hair of his head off. This is not a cosmetic thing. It signifies the ending of a vow. From the time a person made a spiritual vow to God they would not cut their hair until it was accomplished, but when it was done they would then take the cut hair to the Temple in Jerusalem and present it before the Lord as a completion of the vow. Two thoughts, is it possible that Paul’s response that night when the Lord spoke to him was to vow to stay on until he felt permission to leave? If so then for the next year and a half from that night Paul would not have cut his hair. The point is simple, the longer that you testify that Jesus is the Christ the less you will fit in. If there is heat and light happening because you are listening to the command to move in, to testify, you will become more and more conspicuous. God reaches people with heat and light. Look at what happened to Sosthenes, a ruler of the synagogue that dragged Paul before the Bema seat in Corinth. The intensity of the crowd of Greeks against the Jews boils over when the governor refuses to rule in favor of having Paul arrested. The crowd turns on Sosthenes and beats him. When you read 1Cor 1, this same Sosthenes is now part of the church and Paul includes him as he addresses the leadership there.
We are called to a conspicuous faith, we worship a conspicuous Jesus, the results of salvation are conspicuous. Heat and light will happen when you testify to that.