Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like the world is becoming darker and darker.
I frequently see headlines about Christians being persecuted around the world, even in countries with laws that supposedly protect religious freedoms.
At the very minimum, Christians are being treated poorly when they stand up for their beliefs. But many of them are facing lawsuits, prison sentences, and even death simply for holding to the truth of God’s Word.
It can be discouraging to read about the horrific things that believers are experiencing.
How can the gospel spread with such opposition? Will it ever make the progress that Christ intended when He told His disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15 NASB)?
I believe that it will.
"But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God. They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ." Acts 5:34-42 NASB
As this passage (and many others in Acts) demonstrates, Christ’s followers faced intense persecution after Christ died, rose to life, and ascended to heaven.
This particular passage immediately follows a passage that describes the apostles’ release from prison.
After the high priest and other religious leaders put them in jail, an angel released them. They continued to preach but were soon brought before the Council, where the religious leaders “intended to kill them” (Acts 5:33 NASB).
That’s when Gamaliel spoke up.
Essentially, Gamaliel told the religious leaders, “There have been leaders with followers before; their popularity fizzled out though. Just leave Jesus’ disciples alone because their popularity will also fizzle out eventually… unless they’re actually being led by God like they claim to be. If they are, we won’t be able to stop them.”
I actually think this passage from Acts is very encouraging.
Even a man who didn’t believe what the disciples were teaching was true still recognized that their message couldn’t be stopped if it was from God.
The gospel couldn’t be stopped, can’t be stopped, and won’t be stopped. No persecution or opposition can prohibit its spread because our all-powerful God is behind it.