First-century Christians recognized the incredible, "explosive" power of the Gospel (Romans 1:16) -- they had seen its effect in their own lives (Acts 4:33), as well as in the lives of their peers:
Before: "And Saul was there, giving approval to his death . . ." (Acts 8:1a, NIV). "Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem" (Acts 9:1-2, NIV; cf. Acts 26:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Philippians 3:6; 1 Timothy 1:13).
After: ". . . He arose and was baptized . . . Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, 'Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priest?'"
Before: "But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great . . . And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time" (Acts 8:9, 11).
After: "Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with them . . ." (Acts 8:13a).
Before: ". . . Many . . . practiced magic . . ." (Acts 19:19).
After: ". . . Those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver" (Acts 19:19).
Before: "Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9b-10).
After: "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11).
1. Let's be cautious about prejudging the hearts of men. If we're not careful, we will look only at the surface (James 2:2bff; John 4:7ff) -- that which is overt. But not everyone sees the Gospel in the same way. Yes, some will despise and reject it (2 Corinthians 2:16), but others -- despite their appearances -- will recognize, love and treasure it (Matthew 13:45-46). If a murderer like Saul of Tarsus will accept it, who in the twenty-first century is too unlikely a prospect to whom to take the Gospel?
2. Remember that the Gospel can change can the hearts of men. ". . . If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away . . ." (2 Corinthians 5:17; cf. Romans 6:5-6). If charlatans like Simon the sorcerer and the exorcists of Ephesus could be brought to repentance, and if the immoral citizenry of Corinth could become moral, then the Gospel can still bring about life transformation today. ". . . The word of God is living and powerful . . ." (Hebrews 4:12; Jeremiah 23:29).
3. When we fulfill our duty to preach the Word to men, God will take care of the results. "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11). Like Sarah with Abraham (Genesis 16:1-2), we sometimes want to "help God along" and force the harvest. But our job is to sow the seed -- Word (Luke 8:11), and let the Almighty manage the soil (1 Corinthians 3:6) and produce a crop.