After allowing himself to be brutally beaten without cause at Philippi, Paul has adopted a “custom” of teaching and reaching the local culture wherever he may be.
We saw last week how Paul had been led by the Holy Spirit to bypass the small towns along the way and to teach instead the major cities that could act as hub locations for the Gospel to spread. We know this was successful because we are seated in church today reading this chapter in God’s Word together.
Remember – as far as we know – at this time Paul was the ONLY missionary in the whole world. (Of course, his ministry also included Silas and Timothy and others who supported him along the way.)
Along with reaching out to major cities, (which is probably even more difficult than engaging smaller towns when you think about it,) Paul now employed the “custom” of moving on quickly to spare himself to ‘fight’ another day in another place. If the Gospel was to be spread, it required someone to spread it. While Paul had certainly demonstrated he was willing to suffer for the Gospel, it was now part of his plan not to suffer unnecessarily.
Suffering does have its place in the delivery of the Gospel – certainly a willingness to – but so does survival. Paul escaped from Thessalonica, and he escaped from Berea. There was no point taking a beating from the enemy.
It is fascinating to consider why the Gospel causes such disproportionate hatred.
Thinking back, we can probably all remember hearing the Gospel along the way, and some of us can probably remember having a visceral hatred for what we heard. Then we transferred that hatred to one who told us about Jesus and our need for a savior.
The true Gospel is always delivered with open hands and an open heart. There is never coercion from the one delivering the news. Perhaps there is genuine enthusiasm and persuasion mixed in, but there is never physical force and there must never be. The hearer must be free to make their own determination.
Why then the desire among so many to kill and/or destroy the messenger of such good news? The ONLY reason I can think of is the enemy inspires revulsion to truth because he is a liar and the father of it. Recognizing the enemy desiring his destruction, Paul escapes, rather than allowing men the guilt from the sin of participating with Satan in opposing God.