The gospel divides. It splits people, dividing the repentant from the unrepentant, the saved from the unsaved, the believing from the unbelieving, and those who love truth from those who reject truth. The Lord Jesus was the most divisive preacher that ever spoke. He said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household” (Matthew 10:34-36).
The gospel is explosive. “It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). The Greek word translated “power” is dunamis, from which we get our English word “dynamite.” In its positive effect the gospel is an explosion of the power of God which dramatically transforms those who believe. It is an explosion of light that reveals sin, righteousness, and judgment and is gladly received by some. In its negative effect the gospel is an explosion of light that exposes the darkness and depravity of men stripping them of their self-righteous pretenses and aspirations, often infuriating those who reject the light of the gospel.
So the gospel, by its explosive nature, will produce both revival and riot; acceptance and opposition; and obedience and disobedience. Because the gospel has both positive and negative effects, because the gospel divides, and because the gospel is explosive, there is no positive-only-gospel.
Acts 14:1-7 gives us a clear illustration of the explosive gospel.
I. Proclamation (1)
A. The method – to the Jew first (1a)
B. The message – and spoke (1b)
1. Explanation of the activity of God – His works and ways from Genesis to Jesus Christ (Acts 13:17-25)
2. Application of the apostasy of God’s people – sin (Acts 13:26-31)
3. Invitation of opportunity to receive God’s forgiveness by receiving Jesus, God’s anointed and appointed King.
C. The manner – and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks (1c) - revival
1. Not in cleverness of speech (1 Corinthians 1:17)
2. Not with superiority of speech or wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:1)
3. Not in persuasive words of wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and power (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)
4. Not watering down the gospel (2 Corinthians 2:17) “For we are not as many which corrupt the word of God” (KJV)
5. Not as pleasing men but God (1 Thessalonians 2:2-4)
6. Not with flattering speech (1 Thessalonians 2:5)
7. Not seeking glory from men (1 Thessalonians 2:6)
II. Opposition (2)
A. Disobedience to the gospel (2a)
1. Disbelief is nothing short of disobedience to the explosion of light in the gospel that reveals sin, righteousness, and judgment. (See 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10)
2. Rejecting and disobeying the explosive light of the gospel begins with religious people – But the Jews who disbelieved! The last thing a disobedient synagogue or church member wants is to have his or her darkness and depravity exposed by the light of the gospel.
B. Deterrence to the Gentile (2b) – see 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16
1. Provoke – stirred up the minds of the Gentiles
2. Poison – embittered them against the brethren. “Made their minds evil affected against the brethren” (KJV).
III. Opportunity (3)
A. Opposition can serve as an opportunity to teach (2 Timothy 3:8-9)
B. Opposition can serve as an opportunity to speak boldly (3a)
C. Opposition can serve as an opportunity to rely upon the Lord (3b)
IV. Division (4) – the explosive gospel divides. The light of the gospel demands either obedience or disobedience and therefore by nature it is divisive. People will either believe those spreading poison or those speaking truth.
V. Persecution (5-6) – those who don’t like the message attempt to get rid of the messenger
VI. Perseverance (7)
The explosive gospel is the revealing gospel! Much of what is called the gospel today is appealing but not revealing; it is comforting but not convicting; and sadly, it is palatable but not powerful. Today’s appealing gospel has no opposition, does not divide, and receives no persecution
The explosive gospel of Christ is a disturbing and dividing force. G. Campbell Morgan said, “Unless the Christian evangel [gospel] of to-day is a fiery, dividing, separating influence, flinging men into opposite camps, it is not the evangel of the apostles” (The Acts of the Apostles, pg. 345)