Preaching openly

composite-717916_640Acts 28:31: preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness. (NASB)

While the church was still limited to Jerusalem, persecution rose up against the church with Saul as one of the arrowheads.

He made it difficult for the Christians to preach openly, taking pleasure in harming them, and eventually they dispersed from Jerusalem, which was the epicentre of the persecution, to places where they can more openly share the word of God.

So the persecution turned out for the advancement of the church, for its expansion (Romans 8:28). What was meant to limit them, only made them spread. The persecution was to make them afraid, but it backfired on their persecutors as the church flourished the more.

At first the Pharisees warned the apostles to shut up, but he refused and continued to wax strong in the land. They went to their company and after they had prayed God released his power the more to work through their lives, but the persecution that ensued after did not answer to such prayer, this time around the Christians were being waylaid, and starting with the martyrdom of Stephen which emboldened the persecutors to harm to the Christian, who they then relocated in droves, running for their lives, but the apostles still remained in Jerusalem.

The other onslaught against the church also came through Herod who killed James in order to curry the favour of the Jews. While all these were happening, Saul got saved. It was when the persecution against the church was really hot and Saul was a hero among the persecutors. But after he was saved, his life was marked by an endless cycle of persecution.

At the end when the writing of the Acts of the apostle was winding down, it ended with a rare occurrence in the experience of Saul (now Paul), being under arrest but able to preach openly. The numerous persecution in his life could not shut him up, he was rewarded with the opportunity in the focus verse to speak openly.

This did not happen by chance, Jesus, by revelation, had told him while he was just arrested in Jerusalem that he will stand for his name in Rome.

So Paul had no doubt in his mind as to the purpose he was to fulfil in Rome, where he was eventually taken to as a prisoner. It was to speak about Jesus at every opportunity.

He was not made an apostle just to bear the title, he had a serious job to perform, which he did. When he was in prison, he wrote letters to churches and individuals; that have endured till date. He said: though he was in bounds, the word of God was not, and the bible in our hands today is a testimony to Paul’s legacy as an enduring apostle.

His boundless energy, understanding and passion for Christ oozes out of that letter and right now we are being impacted, down the ages. Just as he passionately opposed the cross, after he had an encounter with Jesus, he directed that passion to Christ’s work so much that he said that he labours more than the other apostles (1Corinthians 15:10).

He was always on the move, having as a goal to preach Christ where he has not been named (Romans 15:20), willing to pay the sacrifices, making the long journeys to reach those places. He said that he fought with the beasts in Ephesus (1Corinthians 15:30-32), he said he was in fasting often (), in peril often (2Corinthians 11:22-33); he said that just as he was committed to the destruction of the church the tenure of his mind changed and he became burdened for the church to flourish (Romans ), saying to the church in Rome that he was hard-pressed to have them see his face in the flesh so that he can impart on them spiritual gifts and help them along in their faith. He said that he writes based on the grace that was given to him (Romans 15:15).

Paul charged Timothy to preach the word with all sense of urgency (2Timothy 4:2). He did not tell him to do what he does not do. He said follow me as I follow Christ (1Corinthians 1:11). His devotion was unquestionable.

He spoke the word with all sense of urgency. He did not regard preaching the word as something to be ashamed of. He said: I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). He spoke and wrote with 100percent conviction with no shadow of doubt in his mind, otherwise he could not have survived the many persecutions that came along his way and still continue to burn hot in passion for Jesus.

He spoke of Demas who departed from being part of his ministry team to pursue some other things (2Timothy 4:10). He said he loved this present world, while the bible says that we should not love the world nor the things in the word and that if we do, the love of the father is not in us (1John 2:15-17).

Paul talked about his attitude as a preacher, saying that he does not peddle the word of God (2Corinthians 2:17), no participate in hidden things of unrighteousness (2Corinthians 4). He is not trying to hoodwink the people.

He says his life is an open book as he seeks not just to impact the word of God, but to impact his very life. In that case, Paul cannot impact others more than he has been changed. He does not just want to speak with high-sounding words but to impact on others.

He was so effective that those who have never met him felt his impact. And in the book of acts certain people said he had turned the world upside down. He was a revolutionary. He disrupted of the status quo. He pushed the cause of Christianity with the last of his blood. He was jealous for the church he founded. And consistently watched over them in prayer.

His apostolic work was not just in the fanfare alone but in the place of prayer. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, he mentioned two sets of prayer (Ephesians 1, 3). He taught them the word and understood that he has a spiritual role of prayer to play over them so that they can come into the fullness of God for them.

His two prayers for the Ephesian church was about fullness. He prayed that the eyes of their understanding be enlightened so that they may know things that have to do with their new self in Christ, that has to do with the new power they now have operating in them, which operated in Christ to raise him from the dead. It was all about the new identity in Jesus, which they should now walk in the full consciousness of it.

The second prayer has to do with the love of God which they are also to comprehend together with the saint, and which if they comprehend fully, they will be filled with all the fullness of God. Epaphras followed the example of Paul and was committed to praying for the church in Colossi that they stand complete in all the will of God. While we need to be taught the will of God, praying really gets us fully into it (Colossians 4:12).

Though you may not be able to preach to others all the time, you can pray all the time for them. Paul said that prayer should be made all the time because God does not want any to perish but come to the knowledge of the truth (1Timothy 2:1-4).

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