When the Apostle Paul finally made it to the city of Rome in Acts 28:14, it probably wasn't what he had imagined. He came in the chains of a prisoner.
At Rome, Paul and Luke found a small enclave of Christians. But it was the Jews, to whom Paul always brought the Gospel first, who had an unusual report: "We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect [i.e. Christianity] we know that everywhere it is spoken against" (Acts 28:21-22, emphasis added).
Why is this true? Why is Christianity "everywhere spoken against"? How is it possible that a message consisting of (1) a loving God (2) who sent His son to die for our sins (3) and forgives us by grace, while (4) giving us His Holy Spirit to live lives of love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness--can be the subject of such sustained, organized, and vitriolic resistance?
At least three factors explain this ubiquitous resistance to the Gospel.
First we remember that the Gospel is an attack, a direct assault really, against the spiritual forces of evil. Every sinner that is freed from sin by the Gospel is a slave freed from the clutches of the enemy. As it happens, most masters don't let their slaves go easily. Satan kicks and screams against every one of his captives who are loosed.
Secondly, remember the very nature of the Gospel itself. The Gospel is only good news when the "bad news" is first heeded. The "bad news" of course is that we are totally depraved sinners, hopeless to save ourselves outside of the grace of Christ (cf. Romans 3:10-18). As it turns out, many people don't like to be told that they are sinners! The Gospel itself begins with the offense of declaring the truth about our own human nature.
Finally, our lives of committed obedience are also offensive. Sure, we cannot live perfect this side of Heaven, even in the redemptive grace of Christ. Our opponents are quick to remind us of our many failures. But the very fact that we even pursue holiness is a stick-poke in the eye to those who have no such motive as grace. Our desire to live as holy persons, pursuing the life of our Master, will always be an offense to those still captive to sin.
As long as these three factors are still true--and they will be until Christ returns--we can expect that "everywhere Christianity will be spoken against."
Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida.