Acts 28:23-29 (ESV)
When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement:
“The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: ‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”
By now Paul knows that the one thing guaranteed to tick off the Jews is telling them that he’s taking the gospel to the gentiles. When he says that, they leave (or worse). So, why does he say that this time?
Unlike many of Paul’s previous audiences, these Jews are receptive. They’re genuinely interested, saying, “We desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” And after Paul spoke, some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved.
So far, so good. But then Paul gives his usual explanation of the Jews rejecting the gospel, ending with, “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” And disagreeing among themselves, they departed. This looks like a bad ending. But is it?
Paul has been preaching from morning till evening … trying to convince them about Jesus. But when Paul preaches late into the night, people sometimes doze off and fall out of windows (see Acts 20:9).
One of the challenges of preaching is to get people to remember what you said. When the sermon ends, the lesson fades. Paul’s harsh ending was designed to keep the discussion going. They didn’t just leave; disagreeing among themselves, they departed. This sets up his points to be hot topics around the office.
So, after spending much of his life being falsely accused of rabble rousing, Paul finally does some.
Paul’s imprisonment limited his options; he had to do something radical to impress his lesson on his audience. We have other ways. So, how can you impress the gospel on people?
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” – Romans 12:20b
The point of the burning coals line isn’t to injure folks; it’s to get their attention.
Charity, especially radical charity, confronts non-believers with something they can’t explain away.
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