The missionary journeys of Paul commence in Acts 13, a chapter full of drama about his early experiences. There are lessons for us from the varied reactions of people at that time; there were plenty of scoffers then as there are now.
Paul and Barnabas came to Antioch in Pisidia (southern Turkey) and went into the synagogue. There they were invited to speak (verse 15). Paul began by giving them a history lesson of God’s actions in bringing Israel through the wilderness to the promised land; then He gave them kings, in particular David who God said is, “a man after my heart, who will do all my will” (verse 22). Paul’s message then jumps forward to the role of John the Baptist – and then to Jesus and how the Jews “fulfilled them (the message of the prophets) by condemning him” (verse 27).
Paul knew many of the Jews in Antioch would do the same, becoming jealous of the Gentiles when they accepted the message that “everyone who believes (in Jesus) is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the Law of Moses” (verses 38,39). The warning is made, “Beware therefore, lest what is said in the prophets should come about” (verse 40) – that is, God’s judgement on those who were wilfully blind to this new work of God.
Tragically that’s what happened! And the same can be said of people today in their reaction to any teaching about God. Paul quoted the words of Habakkuk, “Look you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work you will not believe, even if one tells it to you” (verse 41; quoting Habakkuk 1:5).
Today we have scoffers who deride the Bible, apparently learned men who scoff at the very thought that there is a God. One day soon they will “be astounded and perish”. Then God’s laws will come into action, no longer will permissive laws exist that allow many kinds of ungodliness. Let us prepare ourselves for that time by taking the words of Jesus, the Apostles and the prophets fully to heart.