by Andrew Hillard
What would you say is the most popular verse or passage in the Bible? Genesis 1:1? Psalm 23? John 3:16? If you were to ask me my favorite verse, the answer would be different, but I think the most popular verse in the Bible might be Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” For believers and nonbelievers, it is often (mis)used as a defense against any moral evaluation or against any definitive statement about salvation through Christ alone, which is the message that Paul proclaims in the synagogue in Antioch in Acts 13. The initial response of the people was to beg Paul and Barnabas to return to the synagogue the next week to share more, but when practically the entire city showed up to hear Paul’s message, some had a different reaction.
Acts 13:45 tells us that “when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him.” When it became clear that Paul’s message might actually mean a change to their way of life, they got defensive. They didn’t quote Jesus’ words from Matthew 7:1, but Paul and Barnabas respond as if they did. It wasn’t Paul and Barnabas that were judging or condemning those who rejected the gospel. It was their response to God’s word, to “thrust it aside” and judge themselves “unworthy of eternal life” (Acts 13:46), that left them in their sinful opposition to God. The good news of salvation through Jesus was proclaimed widely and freely, without judgment about who would respond or who was worthy. Paul and Barnabas remind us that it isn’t our place to decide how someone will respond to the gospel. It’s our mission to share who Jesus is and what He has done. And by God’s grace and the Spirit’s power, some will respond with rejoicing and by glorifying the word of the Lord.