By Pastor David M. Choi
Through the missionary activity of Barnabas and Paul, the God of grace presents himself to those who have yet to hear and receive his good news. However, we see their message being rejected in a twofold manner.
In vv.1-7, 19-23, the religious leaders of the synagogue foment religious violence against Barnabas and Paul, whereas in vv.8-18 the Gentiles of Lystra begin to worship the Christian missionaries as gods after having witnessed them heal a man who was lame from birth. These are two kinds of rejections, but rejections nonetheless. The Jews reject God by way of violence, and the Gentiles reject God through idolatry. For as Jesus says in Luke 10:16, whoever rejects the sent is ultimately rejecting the one who does the sending.
Yet notice, when God is rejected among the Jews, Barnabas and Paul shift their ministry towards the Gentiles. And then, when those in Lystra reject God through idolatry, Barnabas and Paul make preparations to move on to the next city. It’s clear: God goes where he is wanted. If you don’t want him, then he will move on to the ones who do. But it’s foolish and presumptive to think that you can keep pushing God away and that somehow he will remain. If you hear God’s voice today, do not be stubborn and harden your hearts (Hebrews 3:15). For God will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7).
There are those who believe in provisional rejection, the heresy that says we can reject God now in pursuit of our other idols, and then just come back to God whenever we feel like it, because “God is obligated to forgive me.” No, he has given you this window of opportunity right now, and it will not always remain. It can be taken away from you at any moment. So, the question is: Will you respond to the Lord today, and participate in what he is doing? Or, will you keep pushing God away and presume upon the riches of his grace?
If you do not receive him, then he will go to those who will. This means God not only requires an immediate response, but he requires a complete and wholehearted response, because anything less than that is no response at all.
Lord, you are a God of love and abundant mercy. So, what other response can there be but to give myself to you completely? I confess to you my sin, O Lord. The sin where I try and take advantage of your grace, thinking you are obligated to always be there. Be patient with me just a little while longer. By the grace of your Spirit, help me to fear you rightly, to love you wholeheartedly, and to receive you unconditionally. Amen.