Why are we surprised?

Why are we surprised when unbelievers reject the gospel?

Why are we surprised when unbelievers reject the gospel emphatically?

Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7 serves as a demonstration of the history of the rejection of God by the nation of Israel.

  • “And he [Moses] supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand.” (Acts 7:25; cf. also vv. 26-29)
  • “This Moses whom they disowned, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ is the one whom God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the thorn bush.” (Acts 7:35)
  • ““Our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘make for us gods who will go before us; for this Moses who led us out of the land of Egypt — we do not know what happened to him.’” (Acts 7:39–40)
  • “‘You also took along the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Rompha, the images which you made to worship.  I also will remove you beyond Babylon.’” (Acts 7:43)
  • “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.” (Acts 7:51–53)

The history of Israel in the Old Testament was that they regularly rejected God in favor of some vain imitation of God — preferring a false idol to the reality.  And nothing changed when Christ came.  The nation no more wanted the Son, Christ, than they did the Father.

Christ said it would be that way:

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:18–20)

And Christ was rejected.  He was rejected during His ministry (Mt. 12:22-29).  He was rejected at the cross.  And the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:54ff) after his sermon serves as a further illustration that the natural man does not want God and does not love and will not submit to Christ. (Note that Paul affirms the same truth, 2 Tim. 3:12).

We need not be surprised when we declare the gospel and it is rejected.  We should be bold and continue to speak the gospel.  We should grieve over those who reject the gospel.  We should pray for the Spirit of God to produce regenerating life in those who hear (Jn. 3:6-8).  We should continue to trust that the gospel is sufficient to produce salvation in those who hear (1 Cor. 1:22-25).

But we should never be surprised that the gospel is rejected.

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