The Crowds Are Fickle

If you have a crowd, or even a large group, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are all in agreement with what you are saying. It certainly doesn’t mean that they will continue in the same way that you had planned or hoped.

Paul and Barnabas were traveling around on their first missionary journey, preaching that Jesus was the Christ and trying to help the Gentiles know the true God. While they were in Lystra, Paul was preaching and performed a miracle to make a man who had been lame and unable to walk to stand and begin walking. Having seen this, the people start to call out worship to Paul and Barnabas, saying that they believed them to be Hermes and Zeus, respectively. They even started bringing bulls to begin to sacrifice to them, despite the apostles’ protests.

So we see this incredible scene of adulation and adoration of Paul and Barnabas, and then comes the next sentence:

Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.

Acts 14:19

What in the world? Wasn’t this crowd just praising and worshiping Paul and Barnabas? And now they’re stoning him and leaving him outside of the city?

A crowd of people isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but neither is it a confirmation that they are all in agreement nor are sold out to what is being taught or led. You might, in this case, say that they were very much on Paul and Barnabas’s side given that they were even sacrificing to them, but what they were doing had nothing to do with their devotion to Christ.

I see this as a warning to the churches today that have crowds coming to their church services. You may, or may not have disciples. You may, or may not, have people that are truly following Christ and sold out to the Gospel. Maybe. But maybe not. The number of people means nothing.

This week, we had more people in our church meeting than usual. More than we had previously. And that was encouraging. Afterward, I was encouraged and excited about it.

But we’ve also had the opportunity to encourage a brother in Christ about making a good decision that reflects the character of Jesus in his life. Despite the hard situation that he finds himself in, he is trying to follow Christ and do what will honor Jesus.

This is the real work. Yes, we want more people to hear the Gospel, but we are looking for the people who truly want to follow Christ, and that is where we need to invest our time. In those people, God will do His greatest work. Through those people we will reach many others. It won’t be through the crowds who could easily turn. It will be through the individuals who make the hard decisions to follow Jesus even when it hurts.

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