God’s Inextinguishable Fire

In the first half of Acts 17, there were Jews and pagans in Thessalonica who thought they could use their power, influence, and violent riots to stop the gospel preached by Paul and Silas. But for all the time and energy they put into their efforts, the result ended up being quite the opposite of what they intended. Here’s how the late 19th century British Christian theologian A. C. Hervey explains it in words that are applicable even in the 21st century:

“Among the hindrances to the progress of the gospel in the world we have often to notice the combination of the most discordant elements for the purpose of obstruction. Pilate and Herod were made friends together when they united in crucifying the Lord of glory. When the chief priests and Pharisees, in their blind hatred of the Lord Jesus Christ, sought his death, they did not [hesitate] to invoke the aid of the Roman power, the object of their bitterest hatred … to profess an entire devotion to that detested rule. ‘We have no king but Caesar.’

“So in politics, men of the most opposite principles often combine to crush the object of their common dislike. In religion, too, we see extreme parties joining hands to [distress] a third party to which they are equally opposed. In all such combinations there is [lack] of uprightness and truth. There is a culpable indifference to the nature of the weapons which men use to [secure] their own end. There is a clear evidence that it is not the cause of righteousness and of God’s truth that men are seeking to promote, but some end of their own.

“When these combinations take place to oppose the progress of Christian truth, though they may be formidable for a time, they carry with them the evidences that they are from beneath and will not prevail. The Church of God need not be afraid of them. The Jews of Thessalonica combined with the heathen rabble of their town, under a pretence of loyalty to Caesar, to silence Paul and Silas. When they fled they pursued them to Berea, and drove them thence onwards to Athens and Corinth. But the breath intended to extinguish the flame did but make it blaze up from place to place. So will it be with every conspiracy to put out the light of Christ. Philosophy and sensuality, science and lawlessness, atheism and superstition, may join hands and combine to remove the candlestick of God’s Church; it will but shed its light brighter and wider in the places where God wills it to shine, until at last the whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of God’s glory, as the waters cover the sea.” (A. C. Hervey, as quoted in The Pulpit Commentary, v. 18 (1958)).

Hervey’s phrase above stating that “they are from beneath” could be a very polite way of saying violent rioters full of envy are inspired by the forces of hell. Study their tactics in Acts 17 and you will see the same types of motives and tactics being played out today in the rioting, looting, violence, and vandalism that has taken place, which really isn’t for any noble cause like racial equality as they would have people believe. Their latest attempts to even target Christianity will only serve to expand it, just like it did when the rioters targeted Paul and Silas.

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