God’s ways are confusing.
NOVEMBER 29, 2022
God’s ways are confusing. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
This is Key Life with our host, author, and seminary professor Steve Brown. He’s nobody’s guru, he’s just one beggar telling other beggars where he found bread. If you’re hungry for God, the real God behind all the lies, you’ve come to the right place.
Thank you Matthew. If you were listening yesterday, we introduced the subject of this week and next week, the Mysterious Ways of God. And if you were listening yesterday, we looked at the text from Acts 18:12 through 17, and then we dropped down to the 21st verse when Paul left Corinth and went to Ephesus. And Corinth is the place where some very weird things take place. And, we talked about we don’t have God figured. And when we as evangelicals and orthodox Christians who believe the entirety of the Bible, all of it, when we act as if we have God in our back pocket, we’re making a horrible mistake. Somebody has said, I think it was Einstein.
The universe is bigger than we think. In fact, it is bigger than we can think.
Well, let me tell you something that’s even bigger than that. God is bigger than we can think. And God is bigger than we think. And, I’m not going to read the text to you, but I’m going to be referencing it as we go along. And the first thing I want you to notice about this particular text is a startling fact. In these verses, we see God using in a glorious, magnificent, amazing, and beautiful way three things we don’t ordinarily see as a part of the action of God. We see first God used a trial, Acts 18:12.
And then Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack upon Paul and brought him before the tribunal.
Now, you’re saying, I don’t see what is so great about a trial. Let’s look, as a result of this trial, Christianity got its case in court and was given legal status in the Roman Empire. Right now, in both Canada and in this country, Christians are being persecuted. Now, it’s nothing like the persecution of the first century. Okay. I mean, we’re still doing good. A lot better than we deserve. I mean, we could get a lot more persecution and wouldn’t be even close to the cross. There’s an old story and it’s a wonderful, one time, wonderful story. One time, my mind is so quick and I’m so bright that I get ahead of myself on occasion. And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything. At any rate, one time, Donald Grey Barnhouse, one of my heroes, the late preacher at 10th Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, one time he was being persecuted and all kinds of lies were being said about him and he went to a lawyer, it got so bad. And the lawyer said, we can fix this and we’ll get justice. But from now on, when any of this comes up, you must respond by saying, I cannot comment. And Barnhouse thought they’re going to think I’m guilty when I say that. And the lawyer said, This is important. No comment. One time, Barnhouse was walking down the street and there was another pastor, a friend that he met, a Baptist pastor. And the Baptist pastor said, This is a hard time for you, Donald. How you doing? And he said, I’m not doing good at all. And then, and then Barnhouse told him what the lawyer had said, and the pastor said, That’s terrible. He said, Have they rejected you completely like your family and your elders? He said, Oh no. One of the wonderful things about this time is that my family has stood with me and my elders even gave me a raise, and they said, We just want you to know we’re with you pastor. And he said, Well, Donald, have you lost a lot of money so you can’t buy food? He said, No, I’m doing pretty good financially. And then the pastor put his hand onto Donald Barnhouse’s shoulder. And said, Have they driven nails through your hands and feet yet? Have they planted a crown of thorns and pushed it down on your forehead until the blood trickled down your face? Have they hung you spread eagle on cross beans? And Donald got the point and looked down at his feet and his pastor friend laughed and said, Donald, you have a long way to go yet. And that’s true. We have a long way to go yet, but you can see it happening. I mean, we are living in a culture that isn’t that happy with being Christians because of what we believe. We see those who are pro-life being persecuted, even some of them being brought to jail. Man, where’s God? He’s where he was when they weren’t in jail. He’s doing what is his thing and you trust that he’s using a trial in the same way he did in the 18th chapter of Acts. It gave PR to Christians. It gave an opportunity for the message to be spoken. It gave an opportunity for the populace to make a decision one way or the other. God is operating even in trials, and he was doing that in Acts 18:12. And then God used a lie, look at the 13th verse.
The Jews said to the proconsul, “This man is persuading men to worship God contrary to the law.”
Now, I want you to notice that it was this blatant lie, which caused Gallio to say in effect, Oh, come on now. It is obvious to me what you are saying just isn’t true. These Christians have just as much right to worship as you do. Isn’t that good? I’ll tell you the lies that are being told about the Christian faith are absolutely silly, that we’re homophobic, no, we’re not. And, I mean, we’ve got too many sins to be throwing rocks at anybody else. But the truth is the truth, and we’re not going to change it, but they’ll lie. They’ll say that we’re trying to create a theocracy so we can take away everything that pagan’s like, No, we’re not. We’re trying to fight for freedom, so you can do what you like if you want to, if you just leave us alone, but the lies are there and I could go on and on and on. Isn’t that awful? Actually, it’s pretty good because when lies are told, we get to speak the truth. When lies are told, we get to say, I understand where you got that, but you don’t know what you’re talking about, that’s not true. And then we get to say, I know they told you that we hate you, we don’t, we love you because the only people who love are people who have been loved and they love to the degree to which they have been loved. Jesus said.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life or his friends. And you are my friends.
You can’t love until you’ve been loved and we have been. And in the face of the lies, we get a chance to correct the lies with truth and to do it with love, which is even more powerful than correcting the lies. And thirdly, God not only used a trial and a lie, he used a beating. Now, I can deal with the trial and the lie. Just don’t start beating on me cause I have a gun. And, I know, I know. And you’ve heard me say it before. I do have a gun. Now, if we’re persecuted for Christ’s sake, we’ve got to take it, whatever they dish out. But if it’s random violence, you can shoot those suckers, the Bible is, don’t write me letters. I’m joking around, but a beating, man that’s, look if you will at Acts 18:17.
King James Greeks
seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal.
Now, what did Sosthenes do? Well, He wasn’t standing up and proclaiming the truth that the people, the leaders thought he ought to be proclaiming. He was kind of smiling at the Christians and he was saying, We ought to at least listen to what they’re going to say. And so, they beat him. If you remember when we studied the first few verses of Acts 18, we saw the leader of the synagogue. Crispus had become a Christian. The members of the synagogue were faced with an election and they chose Sosthenes. Here was a man they thought who will stand firm, and he didn’t. So, they beat him up. Isn’t that awful? No. I Corinthians 1:1.
Paul called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus and our brother Sosthenes.
How about that? You think about it. Amen.
And thank you Steve. When the trials and the lies and even the beatings come, we get to speak the truth, the real story. What a great and timely encouragement from Acts 18. More to discover here and we will continue that tomorrow. Hope you will join us. So, last week I mentioned a few of the newest features on our website Keylife.org but I didn’t have time to mention this, key life.org/magazines. There you’ll find not only the current issue of our digital magazine, but a whole archive going back years. Again, that’s Keylife.org/magazines and speaking of magazines through the end of the year, and there is not much of that left, we still have copies available of our 2022 print magazine, that’s a completely different set of articles. To claim your free copy of that, just call us right now at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that magazine. If you’d like to mail your request, send it to
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