The Apostles Preach and Are Driven Out, But the Disciples Still Rejoice
We read yesterday that the Gentiles rejoiced when they heard that the word of the Lord was to be preached to them as well. Today we read that the “disciples,” meaning the new believers, both Jew and Gentile, “were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
But the question is, “Why would they be so filled?” This statement is written by Luke after he relates the persecution and driving of the apostles out of, not just Antioch of Pisidia but the very region in which the Gospel was spreading, some eighty miles or so east to Iconium. When these newborn believers might see their fathers in the faith again, they had no idea. And no doubt the same persecution awaited them as was leveled against the apostles. But we read that they were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit anyway. And this is supposed to be the way it is with the believer. The believer in Christ Jesus does not find his joy in his circumstances. Who enjoys persecution? Who enjoys being bereft of those they love, those who were instructing them in that most holy faith they had just embraced as those “ordained to eternal life?” And yet they did rejoice, because they were full of the Holy Spirit. And this is the Christian’s secret to joy: It is the infilling of the Spirit, the desire to please him, to lean on him and not one’s own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). Being filled with and walking in the Holy Spirit is the way the Christian conquers all trials and counts them all joy (James 1:2).
We then read that when the apostles preached in Iconium, they encountered the same treatment as before. Even as the Holy Spirit worked many signs and wonders by the hands of the apostles, it made no difference; they still had to flee to the nearby cities of Lystra and Derbe. But we read that this second mistreatment changed nothing of the apostles’ task, which was to preach the Gospel, which they then did in those two cities.
And we come away from this understanding that our task is to bear witness to what we have seen and heard, to the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Of course, some will mock, others sneer, and many turn a deaf ear. But be sure of this: circumstances will rarely favor sharing the Gospel. It is true that we should not cast our pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6), but it is also true that if you wait for the “opportune time” to share with someone who might listen, it will never come. God controls all circumstances anyway. Share your faith and be filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.