"And (Paul) entered the synagogue (in Ephesus) and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks."
-- Acts 19:8,10
For the second time, Paul stays in one place for a long time, twice as long as the first time. He served in Corinth for a year and a half, then in Ephesus for three years. The only other lengthy stays he experienced during his ministry were in prison.
We learned much from Paul's first pastorate about pastors and people. Now we want to glean something from his second pastorate about the Gospel and the great divide it creates. Jesus said as much, what with all His talk about narrow and broad, sheep and goats, Heaven and Hell. Paul's preaching positions people perfectly into one place or the other, permanently.
The Gospel brings about regeneration or reprobation.
God and gods could be found in Ephesus. Most people found solace in the god of secularism and materialism, the almighty dollar, as do most people today. Some believed in false gods, but the true and living God had adherents, too.
I do not know how God judged the devout Jews who lived between the time of Christ and the destruction of the Temple. I do not know how God judged the messianic followers of John the Baptist who had yet to find Jesus Christ in the hazy soteriological transition from Old Covenant to New. But I do know how God judges people now. If you seek salvation in any other god other than the Lord Jesus Christ, you will not find Him.
Paul's work preaches the exclusive Gospel of Jesus Christ, to Baptists and Buddhists, to Jews and Jehovah's Witnesses, to Ephesians and Episcopalians, to everyone. What happens when the Gospel is preached is people are either regenerated into Christians and bound for Heaven, or they are reprobated into hardened heathens headed where the Son does not shine.
Praise God for Paul's preaching of the Gospel. Praise God for the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. Can you praise God? You can, but only if you've been regenerated, or as Jesus put it, born from above.
The Gospel results in reformation or rebellion.
The Gospel saves or hardens, and you can always tell the difference between the two. Salvation always results in reformation, and an ongoing one at that. Unbelief is rejection of God and rebellion against God, and the latter can be passive or aggressive.
We make much of The Great Reformation in our church, since we are a Reformed Baptist Church. The motto of old needs to be heard now, Semper Reformada. In reality, every true church is a reformed and always reforming church, just as every Christian is a reformed and always reforming Christian.
Whether you like Luther, Calvin, and Spurgeon, or not, every true Christian loves Jesus. And Jesus is a Reformer! He creates us in His image, but sin felled us, marred that image, separated us from God. The Gospel is required to regenerate, and when it regenerates, it reforms.
Through the Gospel, God regenerates us, reforming that perfect image through justification. Sin still besets us, so Jesus continues the reformation through sanctification, the Spirit and the word bringing conviction and constant reformation. In glorification, when we go to be with the Lord, the reformation project will be complete.
Reformation is constantly comparing your life and life choices with Holy Scripture, communing with the Holy Spirit in prayer in search of peace or correction, and getting rid of anything in your life that does not glorify God and communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
If you value money, or vocation, or other gods, or anything else above the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot be Christian. You have rejected the Gospel no matter how many aisles you may have walked and prayers you may have prayed. You are living in open rebellion against God. Rebels are glamorized in this life and culture. But, the end it will not be so exciting for rebels, according to the Lord.
In virtually every Christian church, you can see a cross. We revere the symbol, consisting if you will of two dividing lines. The vertical line divides the earth and its humanity, the Christians and the non-Christians. You can tell one by their regeneration and reformation, the other by their reprobation and rebellion. The horizontal line divides up and down, Heaven and Hell. The side of the line you are on in this life will determine the side of the line you are on in the life to come.
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected].