We see two different responses in two different places, to Paul’s (and Silas’) presence and participation in synagogue worship.
At Thessalonica, Paul did as usual, going to the synagogue on the Sabbath day explaining the scriptures, and helping the people to connect God’s word to the Living Word, Jesus the Messiah. He helped them make sense of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, key points in the gospel message. The result was that they persuaded many in the synagogue who became believers. But so also did, it would seem, many more Gentiles and quite a few women. This upset the Jews who set their trouble machine in motion.
Why are ruffians ever so available to do dirty work for hypocrites? Is there a chance that we can use them to stir up good works?
I guess no; not while they are sold out to the devil. They like dirty excitement and seem to get a high from stirring up trouble this way. Only when the Lord turns them around like Saul, do they become ever so zealous in doing the right.
Since the commissioned ruffians could not find Paul and Silas, they took who they could, Jason who had been a willing host to Paul, and some others. The real troublemakers accused these believers of making trouble. Imagine!
I suppose that is why so many people rather sit on the fence than take a stand. Taking a stand on the Lord’s side is costly. If you are a supporter of the message of the gospel, you could be up for attack by others who see you as turning their world upside down. But it makes sense for you to do that; yes, turn their world upside down. It needs to be, so it can be aligned with God’s will. In truth, their world needs to be set the right way up, but truth always looks strange to those who reject it. For those on the side of evil, the counterfeit, rather than the real life in Christ looks like the real, good, attractive thing.
Next the faithful believers sent Paul and Silas off to Beroea where they do the usual thing. They go the Jewish synagogue. This time the reception is better and their explanation of the message yields even more good fruit. Many believe including notable Greek men and women.
So what do think would happen? The jealous Jews left Thessalonica to continue their dirty mission in Beroea to incite the crowds there.
Well, as the hymnist put it, “God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform”. I believe that only the mysterious Lord our God would know how fruitful a former persecutor of Christians would become an even stronger defender of the faith in the face of persecution.
That could not and would not stop Paul, not while he understood his calling to be a chosen vessel, an instrument to bear the Lord’s name to Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel. Indeed, God would let him know the experience of suffering for such a worthy cause as this. (Acts 9:15-16).
When people cause trouble for us, do we just moan about the problems they cause, or do we hand them over to the All Powerful One who decides to disable or to enable them?
I think we need to concentrate more on the transformation that is well within God’s possibility. Not that I’m seeking an easy life; but I do recognize that troublemakers generally have some insight into crowd psychology. I’ve seen dirty politics in motion. I’ve seen how self-seeking people incite a crowd to do dirty work without the troublemakers ever stopping to think that they are working for their own destruction.
Let’s put our faith in God to act on behalf of right. God will do that anyway. Don’t be deterred by ruffians and troublemakers. Pray for them. And even of they never change, you know their lot. They will not win!