All Of Them Heard The Word
It would be nice to say "All of them heard me." I mean "all" as in everyone present in that location. But sometimes what we mean by "all" is really "most of them" or "a significant number." There is a verse in the Book of Acts that has all scholars (okay, maybe most scholars) of the New Testament baffled. It describes the state of the missionary work under the leadership of Paul. It pertains to the qualifier word "all." Did Dr. Luke the writer really mean "all" or just a majority of the people? If it is really true, could it happen within the time frame specified by the writer? Was there really a lot of people living in that area?
Acts 19:10 says: "And this took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks." (NASB)
What took place before this verse was Paul's change of strategy of preaching the Word of God. He moved from the Jewish synagogue to the Greek meeting place called "the school of Tyrannus" (see Acts 19:9). The narration says he met a stiff resistance from the people at the synagogue. They became hardened and spoke evil of Paul. So, Paul tried a new approach and the result was that all of them heard the Word of God.
Did Dr. Luke the writer really mean all the people in that area heard the gospel? I do not want to go into the technical discussion of this verse. Many scholars have explained this word "all" in the context of the demographics of the day and the social life of the early people living in Asia Minor. What I want to talk about is the circumstances before this verse happened. What brought about this increase of people hearing the Word of God? The word "all" may have some technical explanation, but it is obvious that a measure of growth is happening here. The verse reports of a significant new thing happening, that more and more people are responding to the preaching of Paul. What prompted this growth? What changes did Paul introduce to his missionary work? What events ushered in this phenomenon of positive response?
I suggest three things. These three made it possible for Paul and company to bring the Christian gospel to the level of the people in their area, in Asia Minor. One is that the issue of the preaching location. Paul moved away from the strategy of starting in the Jewish synagogues. Instead, he "took away his disciples" and started a new method of preaching in places where Greeks frequented (verse 9). He took them to the school of Tyrannus, a place where the local gentiles went for a time of discussion, philosophical talk, and social exchange. The challenge for us here is that we need to bring the gospel to the places where the locals meet for a time of spiritual dialogue and social interaction. Does this mean we should stop talking about the Bible in our churches and start talking about God's love at the local bar or the people's living rooms? I do not know. But one thing is for sure. Favorable results happened when Paul changed his strategy.
Two is the issue of the frequency of preaching. The text says that Paul "reasoned daily in the school of Tyrannus" and he did this for two years. This gives us a picture of consistency and Paul's availability. He was always present for the local people during these two whole years. Does this mean we should have services everyday and not just during Sundays and Wednesdays? Maybe. What is obvious here is that the preacher or the person bringing the Good News should be available for the people on a daily basis. If the non-believer knows that the bearer of the gospel is available everyday and any day, then it is most likely that that person will be willing to open up his or her life to the message of the gospel and listen to the Word of God.
Last is the issue of the work of the Holy Spirit. In verses 1-7, Dr. Luke the writer gives us a simple story of the Spirit's coming to a group of people. He narrates this event right before this report we are discussing (verses 8-10). The clear conclusion we can give here is that growth and positive results come because of the work of the Holy Spirit. What is so unique about Acts 19:1-7? Don't we see the Spirit already working even from the very first chapter of the Book of Acts? Isn't Paul's missionary work full of the Spirit's outworking and abundant in miracles? Yes and yes. The difference in Acts 19 is that Paul gives a primary emphasis on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Look at the text again. He starts off his conversation with the Ephesian disciples with the question: "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" (Acts 19:2) Whereas, before, the emphasis was not there. Does this mean we should start all our conversation with this question above? Perhaps. We could try. The point here is that when we worship the Holy Spirit and give Him the central focus in our evangelism and missions work, then results will come and all people in our localities will hear the Word of God.
It would be nice to read a report that says "All the people of Taiwan heard the Word of God" or a similar report of another locality. But, this won't happen unless we give honor to the Holy Spirit, bring the gospel to the level of the local people, and make sure they know we are available everyday and any day.
You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.