“Three Ways God Spreads the Good News”
Acts 16:6-40 (click on Scripture references to read Scripture – takes you off site to BibleGateway.com)
People have utilized many ways of spreading news. In the past, the Pony Express and the telegraph were means people used to share information. Today, people use a plethora of methods to broadcast and receive news, such as television, radio, text-messages, cell phones, e-mail, and the Internet.
God can do anything He wants and could have chosen to write His good news, the Gospel, in the clouds. He could have personally manifested Himself in a visible and audible form to every human being to communicate the message. But God has chosen to spread His good news by other means. In Acts 16, we see three of those means.
1. Obedience to Guidance (v. 6-13)
In Acts 16, we find Paul on his second missionary journey. Like the writer of “Amazing Grace,” John Newton, Paul was now preaching the faith he had once labored to destroy because of the change God had made in his life. Along with Paul were Timothy, Silas, and Luke (the author, whose pronouns change to “we” and “us” in verse 10 to indicate his presence with the group).
The missionaries thought they should go to Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), but the Holy Spirit did not allow them. They were directed instead to Macedonia by a vision Paul received. They immediately obeyed the vision, believing that God had called them to preach the Gospel there. God used obedience to guidance to spread His good news.
In what areas do you need to obey God? If you know what you should do, then the response should be immediate obedience. Is there someone you know you should share the Gospel with? God may use your obedience to guidance to spread His good news.
2. Faithfulness in Clear Evangelism (v. 14-15, 30-32)
Arriving in Philippi, a strategic and historic city, Paul speaks God’s Word to a group of women gathered for prayer. This implies that there were not enough Jewish men in the area to have a synagogue, since Paul’s usual practice was to go first to the synagogue and preach Christ. He went to people who needed the Gospel. God opened Lydia’s heart and she believed the word Paul spoke. Paul also shared verbally with the Philippian jailer, telling him not only to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved but later speaking the Word to the jailer and his family, likely explaining matters more fully. God used Paul’s faithfulness in clear evangelism to spread his good news.
No one likes a garbled, confusing message. Therefore, we ought to be clear when we share the Gospel with people. We know from other parts of the book of Acts that Paul made the matters of the Gospel clear to others so they would know what they should believe and why. The Gospel is more than “Jesus loves you” or “ask Jesus into your heart.” We ought to tell people about the greatness of God and His right as our Creator to tell us what to do. We need to explain sin as rebellion against God, and that we are all sinners who deserve to be punished forever for despising God. We need to tell them who Christ is (the God-man, the Son of God in human flesh) and what He did in His perfect life and substitutionary death for sinners. We must tell them of his ascension and that He will one day judge the world in righteousness. We must not merely leave them with these facts, but must call upon them to repent of their sin and trust in Christ alone for their salvation so that they may have eternal life and enjoy God forever.
Even as God opened Lydia’s heart to respond, He does the same with people today. We are not responsible for the response to the message. We are responsible to deliver the message faithfully. God uses faithfulness in clear evangelism to spread His good news.
3. Praise in Suffering (v. 16-40)
Although Paul would not have adopted the motto, “Preach the Gospel – if necessary, use words,” he understood that his life should reflect the saving message he proclaimed. He wanted His walk to support, not hinder, the spread of the words of life.
A demon-possessed girl annoyed Paul by following the missionaries and announcing, day after day, that they were servants of the most high God who were proclaiming the way of salvation. Paul cast the demon out, much to the chagrin of her masters, who owned her as a slave and had profited from her fortune-telling business. Paul and Silas were falsely accused of instigating chaos in the city, and were then stripped and beaten. They were cast into the inner prison of the jail, and their feet were fastened in stocks which spread the legs apart and created much cramping.
These men who had come to proclaim God’s good news were now suffering for righteousness. How did they respond? At midnight, they were heard praying and praising God with singing. They gave God praise in suffering, and He used it to spread his good news. He sent an earthquake that nearly resulted in the jailer’s suicide, which Paul prevented by informing him that no one had escaped from the jail. Trembling, the jailer asked what he must do to be saved, and Paul shared the Gospel with him. He and his family came to know Christ through Paul’s and Silas’ praise in suffering. And their changed lives were evident as he washed the prisoners’ wounds and showed them hospitality.
Joni Eareckson Tada is another fitting example of praise in suffering. She became a quadriplegic, losing the use of her arms and legs, as a result of a diving accident as a teenager. Instead of remaining angry at God, she has praised Him for His goodness to her and has shared His good news with many – from her wheelchair. I recently attended the funeral of a woman named Lisa, who reached the point of thanking God for her brain tumors because He used her suffering to help reach others with the Gospel. It was fitting that one of the songs at Lisa’s memorial celebration was from Job 1:21, which speaks of how God gives and takes away, but His name is to be blessed, that is, praised.
Are you afraid to suffer for the Gospel? Can you praise God in trials? Have you considered how your reactions to suffering may bring to you greater opportunities to share the good news? Rodney Griffin wrote a song from this passage in which he made the point that the times of suffering are the times that “God wants to hear you sing.”
Remember that James told us to count it all joy when we suffer (James 1:2-4) and Jesus said that we are blessed if we suffer for His sake and have great reward (Matthew 5:10-12). Your best life is not now, but in the world to come. Let’s not forget the power of God and his time-tested method of using praise in suffering to spread His good news.
Our communication methods may come and go. E-mail and cell phones may one day be as obsolete as the Pony Express and the telegraph. But until Christ returns, God will continue to use the methods He has utilized for the last 2,000 years to spread the Gospel: obedience to guidance, faithfulness in clear evangelism, and praise in suffering. As we obey, share, and worship Him, may He be pleased to use us to spread His good news.