The account concludes with a very familiar pattern:
“Reports got back to Thessalonica that Paul and Silas were now spreading God’s message in Berea; the Jewish people who had incited the riot in Thessalonica quickly came to Berea to do the same once again. The believers sent Paul away. A small group escorted him, first to the coast, and then all the way to Athens. Silas and Timothy, however, remained in Berea. Later they received instructions from Paul to join him in Athens as soon as possible” —Acts 17:13-15.
Well wouldn’t you know it? Here come the hounds of hell panting down the road from Thessalonica. These Jews weren’t just content to drive Paul out of Thessalonica they pursued him sixty miles away to Berea and when they arrived, they used the same tactics. They move in and stir up the thoughtless crowds who are governed by their emotions and respond to anything which gets them mad. They set them on Paul and Silas, and Paul has to slip out of the city again by night. You know, I don’t think he ever left a city by daylight. He came in by day, but he had to leave by night. This time he is on his way to Athens, leaving Silas and Timothy behind to establish the church.
That, of course, is the point of the whole story. Paul is free to leave because he has left a church behind. With each church I helped to begin, when we left we knew there were men to guide and oversee the group. In Berea, God had implanted a believing community who will be a bridgehead in the midst of the evil of that city, to arrest its corruption and dispel its darkness, as they operate in the freedom and liberty of the body of Christ, exercising their gifts and proclaiming the delivering truth.
Now that may sound like a mouthful. But that’s what it means to be empowered and led by the Holy Spirit. Whenever you get a church operating like that, you find that all the entrenched evil in a community is immediately under attack. I can prove this in the headlines . . . during the Florida Outpouring, it was being transmitted into 214 countries—revival was spreading across the world—but not without strong resistance from the enemy! There were 114 pastors in two Muslim dominated and controlled countries who had boarded airplanes to attend the Florida outpouring to get a “special anointing” to take back to their own churches. They boarded their airplanes and some Jihadists raided the airports and grounded all the planes. People in Florida began interceding for their release. A day or two later they arrived in Florida!
There may be a stiff battle for a while, but, eventually, the forces of light will win and the community will begin to be delivered and will find itself set free. A friend of mine was explaining how they are able to successfully minister in a Muslim dominated and controlled country. The Word of God can not be quenched.
In fact, in Columbia, even amidst the harsh realities of serving Christ on the frontlines of drugs, violence and terror, seven young adults must answer the question, “What are we willing to risk for Jesus?”
For more than 40 years, Colombia has been terrorized by kidnappings, drug lords, and revolution led by the notorious FARC guerrillas. But in the face of such tragedy, courageous Christian workers continue to bring a message of peace.
`The reality is that Light will penetrate the darkness. The light of the gospel lifts the whole level of community life. That’s why Paul was so concerned that these young Christians left in Berea and Thessalonica would grow in grace, would understand the power committed to them, and exercise it to set these communities free.
Shockingly, if you ever visit Berea today, you will find that the church which Paul planted has now become the persecutor. The Spirit has had to break in afresh with a new body of believers who meet in secret places there to avoid persecution and oppression by the church that Paul began. The Greek Orthodox Church, the lineal successor to the church that Paul started in Greece, has now become sunken in apathy, liturgy and ritual, and dead orthodoxy, and is persecuting the fresh, alive, evangelical church of these areas. It’s a sad reality that if you don’t continue in the Word of God, your church will become all goofed up—or as Norvel Hayes used to say, “They become flaky people.”
In fact, one church was deliberately built behind a group of buildings in a little compound where it could be partially hidden. The believers can’t advertise their meetings, and they have to meet secretly, at unscheduled times. They can’t openly evangelize within the city but have to meet from house to house. Yet a very alive and fruitful work was going on in these cities. If you want to pray for Christians in Greece, pray for these evangelical believers in Thessalonica and Berea today, who are still being persecuted.
If nothing else, this should prove to us that any group can become the instrument of evil as well as good, if the life of the body in that group isn’t kept fresh and vital. When a group loses its savor and its light, it becomes an instrument of evil and darkness, and God has to break in afresh (as he is doing in so many places in our day) and awaken a new body, pour new wine into new wineskins, so that the freshness and vitality of the gospel won’t be hindered. So you can rejoice because our Father is doing that all over the world today.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Book of Acts: