How should we RESPOND when people REJECT the GOSPEL? “So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved...Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.” (Acts 28:23-24, 30-31)
When our Lord Jesus Christ transferred His authority to all His disciples to preach the gospel, this is what He had stated: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:18-20). Furthermore, Jesus gave power to His disciples be a witness for Him through the baptism of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:8). However, the role to change the hearts of the people who heard the gospel still rested with the Holy Spirit alone: "And when He (the Holy Spirit) has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8).
The closing message of Acts is that many Jews during the time of Apostle Paul, from Jerusalem to Rome, rejected Jesus as their Messiah. This is so true in our day and time. So, the question before us today is: how should we respond when people reject the gospel message? When we carefully study the narrative that describes the reaction of Apostle Paul towards the people who rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ despite his passionate persuasion and witnessing, we can certainly learn some valuable insights that we can use in our own lives as well:
- Paul knew very well that following Christ would lead to hostility and rejection (see v. 19). This will exactly happen to us as well. However, during this time we should remember the words of Jesus: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).
- Paul made sure that all the people who heard him deserved a full and detailed explanation of the gospel, even though it took them a special meeting that lasted all day (v. 23). We also should attempt to explain the gospel in great detail as our Lord Jesus did to the two disciples walking to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-27) or, as the Philip the Evangelist did to the Ethiopian eunuch traveling back in his chariot from Jerusalem (Acts 8:26-35).
- Paul’s efforts did not convince all his Jewish audience at all (vv. 24, 29). This has also happened in the case of Prophet Isaiah (Isa. 6:9–12), our Lord Jesus (John 1:11; 12:37–43), as well as Barnabas and Paul at various occasions (13:44–46; 18:5–6; Rom. 11:7–10). Almost certainly, this will happen to us as well, but we should not get into any vain arguments with anyone (2 Tim. 2:23).
- Paul now changed track and focused his ministry on the Gentiles who were eager to listen to him (see Acts 13:46–52; 18:6; Rom. 1:16). He remained in Rome for two whole years, living in his own rented house, and ministering to a continual line of visitors. He kept witnessing and it was probably during this time that he wrote the epistles to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. The gospel had reached out to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and now with the apostle to the Gentiles witnessing in the uttermost parts of the earth (1:8).