Those Crazy Christian

“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here to our city as well.”[1] 

Turned the world upside down? The Church?  Surely the news was exaggerated.

Paul and Silas, two of the prominent preachers in the early church, had just crossed from the Roman province of Asia[2] into the province of Macedonia.[3]  They left Asia because they had been forbidden to preach in that region anymore. Now one might assume the edict against their further work in Asia had come by the hands of the Roman government.  But such is not the case  .  .  .  this prohibition against preaching was by God Himself.   The Spirit of God would not permit Paul to preach in Asia at all. . . . .  God had other plans for the good news.  Paul received a vision in which he saw a man from Macedonia pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!”[4]  In the city of Philippi a demon possessed girl had followed them around for several days, proclaiming them to be servants of God.  Finally, Paul had finally come to the end of his tolerance.  He turned on the girl and commanded the demon to leave her by the authority of Jesus’ name.  Instantly the evil spirit left the girl and she was made whole.

This display of supernatural power brought intense persecution upon Paul and Silas.  The girl’s masters could no longer profit from the powers of divination that the evil spirit provided.  When the demon left, so did the divination.  They incited the crowds against the preachers and managed to land them in jail.  But before they were imprisoned they were first scourged.  That is, they were beaten with a multi-tailed whip that was designed to take the victim to the very point of death.  Then they were given unto the charge of the jailer.  Now since Roman law required that his own life was surety for the lives of these two itinerant preachers, he threw them into the innermost chamber and secured them in stocks. 

Around midnight, Paul looked over at Silas and said, “Isn’t it grand to be a preacher of the gospel.  I have an idea – why don’t we get a little praise service going?  Why don’t we sing that new praise chorus we heard the other night in Troas?  You know that one that talks about us being a new generation of believers  .  .  .  and signs and wonders following us.  Come on Silas, let’s sing!”  I can almost hear Silas saying, “Sing!  I think I may die before sunrise  .  .  .  and you want to sing.  Paul I’m not sure I feel like singing.  But you lead out and I’ll try to follow.”  I can hear them now — starting out sort of slow and quiet – “We are  .  .  .  we are  .  .  .  we are a new generation of believers” .  .  .  .  . picking up intensity as they go.  I can see them the second time around, as they come to that part about “marching on to victory” – moving their feet and rattling the chains like tambourines.  They were having one intense praise meeting.  All the other prisoners were watching and wondering, when all of a sudden the place began to shake.  The very foundations of the prison were trembling . . . the shackles fell from their hands and feet  .  .  .  but instead of running, they used their freedom to break into a dance.[5]  The cell doors swing open, but not a single prisoner fled.  They are spellbound by the presence of God carried into their prison by these two men.  The jailer comes rushing in and seeing the cells open, draws his sword to kill himself, for he would rather die than take the escaped prisoners place.  But Paul calls to him and tells him that no one is leaving – the meeting is just getting good.  Upon lighting a torch and verifying the truth of Paul’s report, he too sensed the presence of God.  He fell at their feet trembling and asked “What must I do to be saved?”  He was expressing his desire to have the kind of life dwelling in him that he saw in Paul and Silas. 

That night, the jailer and his entire household heard the good news of life in Jesus and responded to the demonstrated power of God.  He and his family ministered to the beaten bodies of the two preachers, while Paul and Silas ministered to their spirits and souls.  On that night the jailer and all of his household believed and were baptized.  The next morning the two apostles were released and they made their way toward Thessalonica.

The city of Thessalonica was about one hundred miles from Philippi.  It is not specified how these men traveled – whether they walked or traveled on horseback or in a wagon.  But more than likely, they simply walked ministering the good news of Jesus along the way.  The record does indicate stop offs at Amphipolis[6] and Apollonia.[7]  We can only assume that since these cities are specified some type of ministry must have occurred there.  These men entered the city of Thessalonica, not as sheepish preachers still smarting from the beating they took in Philippi.  They came boldly into town  —  preaching the good news of the Messiah to the people in the local synagogue.  It was their entrance into Thessalonica, their bold preaching of the gospel, and most likely the story that had preceded them about what happened in Philippi that caused the uproar.  But how could this be?  How could it be that just twenty years after the crucifixion of Jesus, Paul and his entourage caused such an uproar in a Roman city of major importance?  What was it that caused them to be labeled “men who have turned the world upside down?”   

Christianity had begun as a rather small, obscure sect in the Roman province of Palestine and grew to astronomical proportions in just a few short years.  A simple group of one hundred twenty faithful followers waiting in Jerusalem for the “Promise of the Father,” became a body of several thousand in just one day.[8]   As the sect grew, it attracted more and more attention.  Some of this attention was good and stimulated more growth.  However, some of this attention landed Peter and John in the Jerusalem jail.  They were threatened with severe punishment if they continued preaching in Jesus’ name.  It was during this time that these early believers prayed a prayer that set the course for the early church.  “Grant to your servants boldness that they may speak your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.”[9]  That prayer had come to fruition in the days of Paul’s missionary journeys.  There was great boldness to preach and notable signs and wonders followed his ministry.

What did they have that we don’t have?  What did they understand that we don’t understand?  We must have this kind of power-backed boldness in the Church today.  The world has witnessed powerless preaching and is not impressed.  The world wonders how the God we proclaim can be so powerful – the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, Almighty God – and yet, be impotent to change the world in which His children dwell.  If He is powerless to help them in this present world, they wonder how they can be sure He is able to save them in the hereafter.  But He surely was not powerless in the early years of the Church – his followers were “turning the world upside down.”

They were turning the world upside down because they were reversing the order of things.  In their thinking and in their living, the physical was not the real world.  They viewed themselves as “aliens and foreigners”[10] in this realm of physical existence.  To often we see ourselves as aliens, but of the illegal type.  Christians often walk around like illegal aliens – fearfully waiting to get busted by the local authorities.  We are aliens here!  But aliens of a superior race.  We are the ones with the real power and knowledge.  We are citizens of a supernatural realm that has invaded the natural.   The firstborn of our royal race set the example for us.[11]  Jesus never let the physical realm rule Him.  Rather, He ruled the physical.  When the boat was in the middle of the sea and He needed to get to it; He simply walked on the water.  Physical law says that is not possible.  Man cannot walk on water.  He will always sink.  But Jesus lived by a more powerful law and what was impossible in the natural was a “walk in the park” for the SUPERnatural.   When five thousand men plus their wives and children needed feeding and all He had was a few little rolls and couple of fish, He fed the crowd.  What was impossible in the natural was a simple feat in the SUPERnatural.  When His friend Lazarus died, He didn’t need to mourn.  That was the natural thing to do – but He didn’t operate that way.  He went to the tomb where the corpse had been laid out for four days and called to His friend, “Lazarus, come forth!”[12]  Even natural death had to give way to the SUPERnatural.  Death had to release its prey. 

We must always keep in mind that we are of another lineage.  We are children of the King . . . joint heirs with Christ.[13]  We are here on a mission.  We are ambassadors of this supernatural kingdom.[14]  We have been given SUPERnatural abilities to accomplish that mission.  If we are true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are not like everybody else – we are different.  We have been “born again.”[15]  We have been born into the SUPERnatural realm of life in Christ Jesus.  We have become a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that we may proclaim the praises of Him, who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light: who were once not a people, but are now the people of God.”[16]  This is not empty rhetoric – it is spiritual reality . . .  a spiritual reality that must saturate our every part.  We are not natural – we are SUPERnatural.

This is what Paul is speaking of when he tells us to “be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,”[17]  Don’t live like the rest of the world.  Don’t let other people tell you what can and cannot be accomplished.  Remember, “all things are possible”[18] with God.  We can’t allow ourselves to think like normal people.  Normal people focus on what can’t be done – on how big the problem is.  The laws of the physical world they inhabit bind normal people.  They do not understand that God gave us the physical word to subdue and rule over.[19]  Natural men see things with natural eyes.   Supernatural men see things with SUPERnatural eyes.  We have spent too much time trying to convince the world and ourselves that Christians are normal.  It is time we announced to this hopeless world that we are not normal – we are far above normal.  We are human beings that have been filled with the very presence of God and we walk in the very power of God.  Nothing is impossible for us if we walk in the Spirit and prayer in the power of Jesus’ name. 

Those early believers that were turning the world upside down understood experientially the power of the good news they proclaimed.  We catch a glimpse of the foundational points of their theology in Paul’s preaching in the Thessalonica synagogue.  Acts 17:2 reads, “Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.’”

The first of these truths is that Jesus had to suffer.  Notice that it is not simply “happened to suffer” nor even that Jesus “suffered.”  But rather, the Christ “had” to suffer.  Paul understood that the death and resurrection of Christ was a multi-faceted victory.  It was not enough that Jesus died – He had to suffer.  To accomplish His mission this was part of the “cup” He had to drink.  Paul was an accomplished Hebrew scholar of the Scriptures.  He had been instructed by Gamaliel, one of the most respected Hebrew teacher/theologians of the day.  He was very familiar with Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming Messiah.  It is Isaiah the prophet who foretold the necessity of this suffering.  He tells us, “Surely He has borne our sicknesses and carried away our pains; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed  .  .  .  Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to sickness.”[20]  Now if you look in your Bible at this passage you will probably not find the words sickness and pains, but instead, griefs and sorrows.  However, if your editors have been honest you will find these words footnoted.  The margin notes for this passage in the New King James Version advise us that these words are literally sicknesses and pains.  The Hebrew word translated griefs means diseases, maladies, or sicknesses.  Why would they then choose to use the secondary words griefs and sorrows?  Because to do otherwise, causes us to re-examine our theology and experience in light of this tremendous, prophetic passage. 

Do you understand what this means?  Jesus not only took our sins in His body while dying on the cross – He also took our sicknesses.  And if I might be granted the smallest liberty, I think we are well within the mark when we say that He became pain and sickness for us.  He, who knew no sickness because He knew no sin, became sickness for us.  No wonder the prophet says, “He has no stately form or splendor, and when we see Him, there is no beauty (no goodly appearance) that we should desire Him.  He is despised and rejected (forsaken) by men, a Man of pains, and acquainted with sickness.  And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised and we did not esteem Him.”[21]  This must speak of His time on the cross, for during His ministry He was a much sought after party guest.  Why would anyone want to have a special guest at their party, who is a man of pains and much acquainted with sickness?  No Jesus is accused of being a party guy and a winebibber during His life.  This hardly matches up with the prophecy.  And people did esteem Him and definitely desired to see Him.  No this must apply to His time on the cross.  No wonder He prays in the garden, “If there is any other way, let this cup pass from me.”  He is not only about to drink the cup of sin, but the earthly consequences of sin – pain and sickness.  He is about to drink the cup of cancer and the cup of Tuberculosis and the cup of Lupus and the cup of AIDS.  He is about to know the pain of mankind in His own body.  He is about to be disfigured by sins vile consequences and no man will look on Him – He will be forsaken.  If He was going to bring physical healing to man, He had to take the sin and its consequences away.  He “had to suffer.”  The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus “healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying; ‘He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.’”[22]  Jesus came to “destroy the works of the Devil”[23] and sickness was a prime work.  But eternal, infinite justice demanded that He not just obliterate it, He had to carry it away.  And so He did, He suffered our sicknesses and diseases that we might have physical healing as part of our SUPERnatural living. 

But not only did Jesus have to suffer, He had to die and rise again from the grave.  The Scripture tells us that “the wages of sin is death.”[24]  If Jesus was going to set us free from the law of sin and death, He was going to have to die.  He took our place – we were condemned criminals waiting to die and took our punishment.  He died for us.  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.[25]  Jesus had to die for us – He had to take our sin to its final consequence.  “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”[26]  He did not come just to die; He came to put us on the right way – to put us in right standing with God.  He became our sin, that we might become His righteousness.  “Who Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed.”[27]

As Jesus hung there on the cross, the sky grew dark in the middle of the afternoon as the sin of all mankind came rushing into the body of Jesus.  He had silently borne the physical suffering; the pain of the crucifixion, pain and sickness of mankind, the scourging, the nails in His hands and His feet, the crown of thorns beat into His skull.  But when Sin came rushing in He cried out, “My God! My God!  Why have you forsaken me?”  Hear was an experience He had never known before.  The Eternal One began to die because of the sin and its wages.  Because of the magnitude of the sin load, death came quickly and suddenly.  God the creator of all that is was suffering the pain, torment, and punishment due His prize creation, man.  Just as suddenly He was taken to the punishment created for His sinful creations —  Christ found Himself in Hell itself.  Sin had been placed in Him and had been judged by God Himself.  He was judged a sinner that we might be judged righteous.  Our forgiveness did not come by God looking the other way and passing over our sin.  No, He took our sin placed it on Jesus and Jesus bore our judgement.  He Himself went into hell for us.  He bore our punishment.  And by so doing He bought mercy for us.  Now notice, I said bought mercy.  He bought mercy for us by being judged, condemned, and punished for our sins.  Therefore, His judgement became a place of mercy for all of us.  “He Himself (Jesus) is the propitiation (place of mercy) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”[28]

There is much talk today about God judging America for her sins.  These people do not know what they are saying.  America may reap what she sows – there are natural consequences of wrong behavior.  But God is not going to judge America.  When Jesus was ministering here on earth He sent His disciples out to minister in a Samaritan village.  This village would not receive the Christ and James and John came to Jesus asking, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”  But Jesus would have none of it – He said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.  For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”[29]  These people proclaiming a judgement on America do not understand what manner of spirit they are entertaining with their evil prognostications.  The judgements of God are sealed up until the final day of judgement when every man will be judged.  All of those who have not received the work of Christ on the cross will be judged for their own sins.  Those of us, who have received the forgiveness that Christ offers by paying our debt for us, will escape the judgement. 

But Christ’s death on the cross and condemnation to hell itself, is not the end of the story  — it is only the prelude.  This is where the story gets good, for Christ conquered death and the grave when the Spirit of God entered that place and said, “Enough.”  The stone was rolled away and Christ rose from the dead to assume His rightful place as the right hand of God.  It is amazing that the Church has so focused on the cross and missed the triumphant Lord.  When we pray, we are not praying to the suffering Lamb upon the cross, we are praying to the triumphant Lamb upon the throne.  Christ defeated death, the grave, and hell by meeting them head on and rising to His rightful position.  When we really get it into us that the cross is not the end of the story – we will get past the “veil”[30] and enter boldly into the throneroom of Grace by the new and living way which He initiated for us.[31]  When begin to understand that we are seated right there with Christ Jesus in heavenly places.  Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus these words, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”[32]  You are there – seated with Christ in heavenly places.  When we begin to walk in this revelation, we will begin SUPERnatural Living.

There is one final point Paul made clear to his audience in Thessalonica – Jesus is the Christ.  Oftentimes, we make Christ into Jesus’ last name.  Christ is the English transliteration of the Greek word Christos and it simply means “the anointed one.”  Paul is telling his audience that Jesus was the One anointed by God to come and deliver them from the sin and sickness.  Jesus spoke of this anointing in the synagogue of His own hometown, Nazareth.  He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted; to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”[33]  Now, if He is the anointed One and we dwell in Him and He dwells in us – don’t we become anointed as well?  Absolutely, Christ did not come to keep us in captivity to sin.  He came to give us the anointing to live above it – to have SUPERnatural living.

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”[34]  Notice, he is not speaking of life in the hereafter.  He says “life to your mortal bodies.”  He was wants you to have life and have it to its fullest possible extent.  Jesus came to anoint us for SUPERnatural living. 

What made the authorities of Thessalonica label Paul and Silas as “those men who have turned the world upside down.”?  It wasn’t that they heard a great sermon or read a great book.  They saw men who were living above the natural.  Men who were experiencing SUPERnatural living. 

Want to make a difference in your city?  Want to turn your world upside down?  Then set your whole heart on SUPERnatural living in Christ Jesus. 

[1] Acts 17:6

[2] Modern day Turkey

[3] Modern day Greece

[4] Acts 16:9

[5] OK. So it doesn’t exactly say that in Acts 16.  When I read it, that is the way I see it happening.  This is the

  Technecolor version.

[6] Approximately 33 miles southwest of Philippi

[7] Approximately south-southwest of Philippi and 37 miles southeast of Thessalonica

[8] Luke 24:49, Acts 2

[9] Acts 4:29-30

[10] Hebrews 11:13

[11] Romans 8:29

[12] John 11:43

[13] Romans 8:17

[14] 2 Cor 5:20

[15] John 3:6-7

[16] 1 Peter 2:9-10

[17] Romans 12:2

[18] Matt 19:26

[19] Genesis 1:28

[20] Isaiah 53:4-5,10

[21] Isaiah 53:2-3

[22] Matthew 8:16-17

[23] I John 3:8

[24] Romans 6:23

[25] Romans 5:8

[26] 2 Corinthian 5:21

[27] 1 Peter 2:24

[28] 1 John 2:2

[29] Luke 9:54-55

[30] Hebrews 10:20

[31] Hebrews 10:19-20

[32] Ephesians 2:4-7

[33] Luke 4:18-19

[34] Romans 8:11