Acts 17:3, "Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ."
This morning, the evil shrouds of darkness get worse and worse. Just as Paul was inspired to prophesy, evil men and seducers wax worse and worse. (II Timothy 3:13) While the worsening world does not please me in the slightest, there should be no surprise that it is indeed occurring. One of the most prominent tactics that evil employs is that of secrecy and concealment. Christ many times spoke of this during His earthly ministry. His coming marked the coming of the True Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (John 1:9) Because the Saviour's deeds are good, light seems a very fitting moniker, and the evil deeds of men and devils equally fits being darkness. However, the assault upon the kingdom of light has heightened in my lifetime, and I fully expect the war to rage even more bitterly in the moments to come. There is a grave warning to the household of faith to be wary of all that comes before us as light and righteousness. Since Satan and his ministers pose many times as ministers of light and righteousness (II Corinthians 11:13-15), we need to be vigilant to spot real gold as opposed to pyrite. Something may glitter, but as the song goes, it still may not be gold.
When reading the Holy Scriptures, it never ceases to amaze me at the great richness it contains with every pass. The luster of the book never fades with time. Equally impressive is the freshness that it maintains both with "known" thoughts as well as the "recently discovered nuggets." In the last several days, a portion of this verse shone forth like never before. Quite often I would read this verse or speak about it while visualizing the scene. My visual included Paul in the synagogue reasoning and meeting the arguments with force and blessing from on high. I could almost picture our beloved brother Paul driving all the arguments to the contrary to the ground while setting up the glorious structure of God's salvation through the merits of His Son Jesus Christ. Indeed, that visual is – I believe – true. However, that visual only captures half of the scene. What I have just described in my mind's eye can easily be described by the word "alleging" in our study verse. To allege something is to firmly commit to it and be willing to defend it. When someone presents formal "allegation" in court, they are showing a willingness to stand behind what they are saying. Doubtless, Paul did not lack for courage, and being the able lawyer that he could be with legal arguments, his alleging of Jesus being the Christ and having really and truly paid our sins and been made our justification were air tight and secure.
Yet, Paul did more than just allege these things. His legal arguments were sound, but his presentation included so much more. The word that I had "missed" all these years was "opening." The purpose of light is to manifest things. The truth is our light, which lights our feet and path. (Psalm 119:105) It opens to us the rich beauty of Christ, His work, and His kingdom. Paul opened the Scriptures to these Jews. To show the need of the suffering Messiah, he would point to a place like Isaiah 53 and then correlate that to what the man they knew as Jesus had experienced. In an effort to show the foreshadowing of the resurrection, Paul would point to a place like Psalm 16, and much like Peter at Pentecost, he would show forth the beauty of Jesus's resurrection among many witnesses – himself included. By showing the prophecies of the Jews' anticipated Messiah or Christ and paralleling them with Jesus's life, Paul was opening to these people that that man Jesus is verily the Lord above. Paul probably could have debated with the best of them, but on occasions like this, Paul desired to argue rather than debate.
To argue a point is to present facts, points, and draw conclusions hoping to arrive at the truth of the matter. Two people reasoning together by way of argumental structure is a very fitting way to come to understand more profoundly the truths of an important subject. Sadly, most people today think of arguments from the negative connotation, and I believe that most of this comes from a misnomer. Most of what people perceive as arguments are really debates. Debates are not held to arrive at the truth of the matter, but they are held to "win the day" as it were. The whole focus and goal is to win. So, while the methodology may look the same, the pivotal motivation drives a totally different circumstance. Paul argued to arrive at truth rather than debate to win the day. So should our reasoning be that we would allege our beliefs and do so with the opening (rightly dividing) process of Scripture.
When one considers the ideas of erroneous teachers and false doctrines, there is a common thread between them. They desire to keep their hearers and followers in darkness. Secret orders will not expose their followers to many of their ideals and beliefs until they pass through certain levels of service. The shroud of darkness taints everything they do. Other erroneous orders of people are taught that their leaders have more knowledge than they do, and their leaders do not share their privilege of knowledge. Politicians today rule by legislation that is so complicated that not even they understand it well enough to explain it. Some even sign documents and legislation that they have no idea as to the precise contents of the document. One of our politicians in this country famously stated, "We need to sign this bill now so we can find out what's in it." All of these patterns follow the prince of darkness himself. Consider his first tactics in the Garden of Eden. Truly, he mentioned things that would happen if they ate (i.e. their eyes would be opened), but he veiled the real problem with disobeying God's commandment: death.
All error, lies, and falsehood preys upon the idea of keeping the followers in ignorance to their own destruction. Contrasted with the promotion of truth, the contrast could not be any more stark. The point of preaching the Scriptures in truth is to expound (lay open) the teachings for all to see. Paul told the Ephesian brethren in his farewell to them that he had kept back nothing profitable (Acts 20:21) in his labours there. He further declared to them all the counsel of God (Acts 20:27) – which in essence says, "If I knew it, you got it. I held nothing back." As promoters and allegers of the truth of Jesus Christ today, we should be desirous to open things to people. If you rightly divide Scripture for people, you are hoping that they will see and the ideas will click.
There have been occasions when I have been engaged in Bible discussions with people, and I have pointed out a passage that plainly declares the opposite of their contended position. This pointed opening sometimes evokes the following confession from them, "I was hoping you wouldn't go there. I don't have an answer for that." They knew it was there, but they wanted it to stay veiled throughout our discussion (closed). Friends, our desire should be to open things, and sometimes, they need to be opened for us as well. None of us are above learning and discovering freshness in the concepts of Scripture. If a valid, reasonable, and above all, Biblical argument can be posed to nudge us in a direction previously avoided, we should labour to follow after that which is opened to us.
In a world that is daily gravitating towards the darkness and further down the hole of death and destruction, may we keep moving upwards towards the glorious light that opens things to us. His Book declares that He came down, lived here, died a criminal's death in shame for us, and was raised the third and glorious day for our justification. Anything contrary to this lovely story should be avoided as the works of darkness. Anything that promotes, adorns, and becomes this sublime account should be alleged and contended for. But, it should also be opened as well, for the things that pertain to Christ and His work will ever stand forth in glorious reflection in the light of examination and have no fellowship with the works of darkness.