Moishe Rosen, the founder of Jews for Jesus, was very special. He was wise. And he was an activist for the proclamation of the Gospel. Moishe understood that followers of the Messiah who proclaim the message about the Messiah will experience controversy. Controversy is to be expected. It is not to be feared. In fact, it is to be welcomed. One of the sayings that Moishe frequently used was: “Every knock is a boost.” Attacks hurt, but they also help.
Yeshua Himself was very controversial. God used the controversies Yeshua was involved in to advance the Gospel and the kingdom of God.
Yeshua told us to be the same way: courageous and controversial. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.
And He warned us that if we faithfully followed Him the way we should, we would cause controversy, and suffer for it; but, that would enable us to impact religious and political leaders. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.
Rabbi Paul understood this, and like his Lord, he caused a lot of controversy – practically everywhere he went. In fact, one way of understanding the last half of the book of Acts is by focusing on the controversies caused by Paul and how God used those controversies to advance the Gospel and the kingdom of God.
Acts 13. Paul, after teaching in the synagogue on a Sabbath in Pisidian Antioch, and receiving a good reception, returned the next Sabbath and almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jewish leaders who did not believe saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him. But, every knock is a boost.
Then the word of the Lord spread through the whole region – and more controversy ensued. The Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.
Acts 14. God uses controversy to advance the Good News. At Iconium, Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jewish people and Greeks believed. And controversy ensued. The Jewish people who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Yeshua-rejecting Jews, others with the apostles.
There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. But they found out about it and fled to Lystra and Derbe.
God uses controversy to advance the kingdom of God. In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes. The priest of Zeus brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. Barnabas and Paul had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.
Then some Jewish people came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. In a short time, Paul went from being considered a god and worthy of worship to being considered worthy of death. Now, that’s controversy.
Acts 16. In Philippi, Paul and his team were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of them, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Yeshua the Messiah, I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. That caused a controversy.
When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them before the magistrates. The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods and thrown into prison. However, every knock is a boost.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Those prisoners were hearing the Gospel because of this controversy. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The Philippian jailer thought the prisoners had escaped, and he would be held responsible, and possibly executed, and was about to commit suicide. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” The jailer rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Yeshua, and you will be saved – you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house, and they believed. Their salvation was the result of controversy.
Acts 17. When Paul and his companions came to Thessalonica, as was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures. Some of the Jewish people were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women. But other Jewish people were jealous and stirred up controversy. They rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Yeshua.” When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Talk about being controversial! The believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. More controversy – which advanced the message about Yeshua in Berea. Every knock is a boost.
Acts 18. More controversy. Paul went to Corinth. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. Some of the people in the synagogue opposed Paul and became abusive – but every knock is a boost. So Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.
Later, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. This was another knock and another boost. Gallio proconsul of Achaia, refused to get involved in a religious dispute among the Jewish people. Then the crowd turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him. It could very well be this same Sosthenes who became a believer and wrote First Corinthians with Paul.
Acts 19. More controversy. In Ephesus, Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. But, every knock is a boost. Paul remained in Ephesus for two years, preaching and teaching; and God did extraordinary miracles through Paul; and the word of the Lord spread widely.
God uses controversy to advance the Gospel and the kingdom of God. About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, believed that Paul was bad for business and was undermining the worship of Artemis. He spoke to his fellow craftsmen, who became furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized two of Paul’s traveling companions, and all of them rushed into the theater together. The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Things got worse when Alexander started to speak. When the crowd realized he was a Jewish man, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Finally, the city clerk was able to quiet the crowed and dismiss the assembly. Now that’s quite a controversy – and it impacted the whole city of Ephesus!
After years of serving the Lord in the provinces of Asia and Greece, Paul decided to go up to Jerusalem. God repeatedly warned him that if he did, hardships and prison awaited him. Nevertheless, Paul believed it was the right thing to do.
Acts 21. Paul arrived in Jerusalem. Some Jewish people from the province of Asia (where many of Paul’s controversies took place) saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, “Fellow Israelis, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” Those were all false accusations – but they created a huge controversy, a critical controversy that set off a chain reaction of events that affected Paul’s life for years to come; and which enabled him to bring the message about the Messiah to many more people, including some of the most powerful people among the Jewish people and in the Roman empire.
The whole city of Jerusalem was aroused (talk about being controversial) and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple and tried to kill him. The commander of the Roman troops took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains and ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander to speak to the people. Paul wanted to use this situation to tell the people of Jerusalem about Yeshua. Every knock is a boost.
Acts 22. After receiving the commander’s permission to speak to the people, Paul stood on the steps and began telling the crowd his story, how Yeshua revealed Himself to Paul. However, before he finished, the crowd went berserk and Paul was taken into the barracks. The next day the commander released Paul and ordered the chief priests and all the members of the Sanhedrin, which included Pharisees and Sadducees, to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them.
Acts 23. God uses controversy. Paul, wise as a serpent but harmless as a dove, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided – because the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things. And, of course, the Pharisees were right. There was a great uproar, and some of the Torah teachers who were Pharisees stood up and started defending Paul. The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. Talk about being controversial! He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.
Some of Paul’s enemies then plotted to kill him. The son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, informed the commander, who sent Paul to Felix, the Roman governor, who was in Caesarea.
Acts 24. Every knock is a boost. Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and brought their charges against Paul before the governor. This enabled Paul an opportunity to defend himself and proclaim the Gospel to these powerful leaders – because of the controversy in Jerusalem which resulted in Paul’s arrest. Paul remained under arrest for the next two years. During that time was able to speak to Felix, the governor, and his Jewish wife, Drusilla about the messiahship of Yeshua.
Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. Acts 25. Shortly after he arrived he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. The Jewish leaders brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them. Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.” And he appealed to appear before Caesar to be tried, which was the right of a Roman citizen.
A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to the new governor. Festus wanted advice about Paul’s case and discussed Paul’s case with the king. Agrippa wanted to hear directly from Paul himself, so King Agrippa and his wife Bernice and the high-ranking military officers and the prominent men of the city went into the audience room of the Roman governor, and heard from Paul.
Acts 26. In defending himself, Paul was able to tell these powerful people the truth about Yeshua. Gospel proclamation was made possible because of the original controversy in Jerusalem which resulted in Paul’s arrest.
Acts 27. Paul was sent by ship to Rome. On the journey, the people on the ship experienced a terrible storm. God used Paul to help save the lives of the 276 people on the ship. They too were able to hear the Gospel because of the controversy in Jerusalem which resulted in Paul’s arrest.
Acts 28. The ship crashed on the island of Malta. The Lord used Paul to bring the message about the Messiah to Publius, the chief official of the island, and to many others on the island – because of because of the controversy in Jerusalem which resulted in Paul’s arrest.
Months later, Paul was put on another ship, which arrived in Rome. Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him. He called together the local Jewish leaders, to explain to them why he was in Rome and under arrest. They arranged to meet Paul on another day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Yeshua. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. More controversy resulted because of the original controversy when Paul was arrested in Jerusalem.
For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Yeshua the Messiah -with all boldness and without hindrance – all made possible because of controversy. Every knock is a boost.
While in Rome, Paul wrote his prison letters. Consider this from one of those letters: Philippians 1: Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Messiah. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
God uses controversy to strengthen His people, and to make them more confident and dare all the more to proclaim the Gospel without fear.
God uses controversy to advance the Gospel and the kingdom of God. Every knock is a boost.
Most Christians today, and most Messianic Jews today, don’t want to be controversial. Therefore they don’t share their faith the way they should; don’t proclaim the Good News the way they should.
I want us who are part of Congregation Shema Yisrael to be different – to be like Paul; to be like Messiah Yeshua. Let’s be willing to be controversial. When we summon the courage to be controversial, we may suffer for it, but let’s not allow that to deter us.
If we do become controversial and suffer, how do we cope?
We pray. We tell God we are controversial, like He told us to be, and we are suffering for it, and the God of all comfort will comfort us.
We look for the support and encouragement of friends and family and our brothers and sisters who will reach out to us and encourage us. To get that full support, we need to be involved, active members of a local congregation. Sadly, too many so-called believers today refuse to become part of a congregation. Sad. Tragic. Foolish.
We remind ourselves that suffering is not something strange; that it is to be expected; and our suffering proves we are genuine disciples of the Messiah. Yeshua said: If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.
We remind ourselves that the prophets, the greatest of God’s servants who came before us were rejected. They will get a great reward, and so will we. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. This hope encourages and helps us endure our suffering.
We remind ourselves that our reputation isn’t what’s important. It’s the name of God, the reputation of God, the honor of the Messiah and the advancement of the Gospel that are important.
And we begin to understand that the more we become controversial, and endure it, the tougher we get; and the better able we are to endure controversy the next time it comes.
Lord, help us understand that every knock is a boost; that although attacks hurt, they also help; that You use controversy to advance the kingdom of God and advance the Gospel.
Help us not to compromise in order to avoid controversy, but embrace controversy and rejoice in controversy.
Help us to be bold, confident, courageous, and controversial for Yeshua!