When Paul preached in the city of Thessalonica, his preaching had mixed results. As he explained and demonstrated from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ, there were some Jews, a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and a number of the leading women who accepted the gospel message.
How did others there respond when they heard God’s good news? Hear the words of Acts 17:5-8:
(5) But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. (6) But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, ‘These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. (7) Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king – Jesus.’ (8) And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things. [underlining mine, rdc]
What happened in Thessalonica? The preaching of the gospel resulted in a mob of opposers setting the city in an uproar. God’s powerful, living word was getting people’s attention! They went so far as to describe Paul and other Christians as “These who have turned the world upside down.” Indeed, they had. To “turn upside down” means “to stir up, excite, unsettle” [Thayer, word no. 387 via e-Sword]. Jesus and His ambassadors taught His followers to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), lovers of friends and foes (Matthew 5:43,44), and submissive citizens (1 Peter 2:13,14). Even as they pursued such a life of peace, love, and submission, when the Lord’s disciples preached the truth, they faced opposition, mobs, uproars, and accusations.
When the early saints turned the world of their day upside down, they did not do so by erecting impressive, beautiful material structures in which to assemble. Their beautiful lives were a whole lot more important than having a beautiful structure in which to congregate. Nor did the early church have such an impact on the world by hiring special experts to do their work for them. Each member of the Lord’s body was expected to be a worker for the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). While the apostles and evangelists were active in spreading the gospel, the other “ordinary” disciples did the same (Acts 8:4).
We admire the commitment of the early saints. We are amazed at their evangelistic zeal. I am convinced that you and I also can, in a good way, turn the world upside down in our generation. In order for that to happen, we will need to do some things. What are some of those?
Preach Jesus as King. That is what the disciples did in Thessalonica, and boy did it get people’s attention (Acts 17:6).
Preach the necessity of people changing their thinking and changing their conduct. The Bible calls it “repentance.” Lost people need to hear that the God of love calls on all men to repent (Acts 17:30).
Be committed to denying ourselves and living lives of sacrifice for the Master. Paul did, and so must we (Philippians 3:7,8).
Be prepared to face opposition, and be prepared to be hated and persecuted. Blessed are those who stick with Jesus when they are taunted, tormented, and tortured by haters (Matthew 5:10-12).
Be prepared to keep on preaching the truth, even if such preaching causes an uproar. As the flames of the fire of trials grew hotter, in the first century the devoted saints of our Lord did not stop proclaiming His good news (Acts 5:40-42).
Be prepared to leave our comfortable church buildings and go seek for the lost. Paul and others did not sit and wait for those outside of the Christ to come to them. Rather, they went throughout local communities, they went to Philippi, they went to Thessalonica, they went to Corinth, and they went all over, going with the gospel.
Be prepared to take the Great Commission seriously. It still says “all nations,” “all the world,” “every creature,” and “all” that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:19,20; Mark 16:15). Are you and I seriously ready to open our mouths to teach the gospel to every man and woman in our own society, regardless of custom, culture, and civil decree?
Be prepared to persevere. Evangelism can be a slow, trying process, as it is a matter of changing society and changing the world one person and one heart at a time. The early Christians persevered, persisted, and pressed on! We must do the same.
Be prepared to go toe-to-toe with the advocates of false religion and tell them this simple Bible truth: no person can be saved and go to heaven unless he/she goes through Jesus and follows the instructions of His gospel. Jesus, and He alone, is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
Be prepared to live, teach, and work for God’s glory. Paul and others who joined him in turning the world upside down did not seek their own glory. They did it for the Lord, and so should we.
If we are not prepared to do these things – all of them, we will never turn the world upside down, and that, of course, will make the world quite happy. We praise the first-century followers of Jesus for their relentless efforts that turned the world upside down. We say that we want to be like them, emulating their courage and devotion. Well, who is preventing you and me from doing that very thing? Think about it.
— Roger D. Campbell