By Pastor Glenn Pease
Men are trying to have babies. Some are experimenting with the idea of surgically implanting an embryo into the male and then surgically removing the child when it is grown enough to love on its own. But there are things even more bizarre. In 1978 science writer David Rorvik wrote In His Image. It is about an American millionaire who goes by the code name Max. He wanted a child created from one of his body cells. In other words, he wanted to be cloned. He found a willing scientist and set up the lab, and the attempt was successful. Max is now the proud father of a son make in his image. He is a carbon copy of his father, and has only one genetic parent.
This stirred up a great controversy that went all the way to the U.S. Congress, but nobody knows if it is was a hoax, or if it was true. Nobel Prize winning geneticist Joshua Lederberg said of cloning, "There is nothing to suggest any particular difficulty about accomplishing this in mammals or man.." In other words, it may very well be a reality that a man has had his own baby. Hoax or not, it reveals just how desperate people become to reproduce. There are so many infertile couples who want babies that they have created a whole new world of baby making science. Not a day goes by that there is not a baby conceived outside the human body. In vitro fertilization is conceiving of a baby in glass. It is often called a test tube baby.
The first such baby was born on July 25, 1978 in England. Until Louise Brown was born every human being had begun their existence deep in their mother's body, but Louise began in a glass dish. Yes Solomon, there is something new under the sun. But he was right in that the ingredients are the same and the process the same. They had to have a mother's egg and a father's sperm in that dish or she never would have been born. The dish was merely an artificial womb. All life demands an egg and a seed, or fertility and verility. This is true for those born into the family of God as well. In our last message we looked at fertility and the need for the proper soil for sowing the seed. Now we want to look at the second element which is-
All the fertile eggs in the world will not produce a baby without seed, and so fertility and virility are the twin elements that must come together to make any baby possible. Vir is French for man, and virility means masculine and manly vigor. In the spiritual realm it applies to both sexes for in Christ all are part of the bride of Christ and can reproduce.
When we looked at fertility we looked at the nature of the people Paul preached to. They were the synagogue people who loved the same God and the same Bible that Paul did. They were open to new light on the Messiah and so were fertile soil. Now we are focusing on the seed which must penetrate that fertile soil to bring forth babies for the kingdom of God. Fertile soil will not necessarily bring forth fruit without vigorous effort. When Paul found fertility he still had to demonstrate virility. He had to go through tough labor to bring forth new life.
We look at verse one and it sounds like an afternoon stroll in the park as Paul passed through Amphipolis and Appellonia. But it was not so, for it was 33 miles from Philipi to Amphipolis, and this was a journey taken after Paul and Silas had been beaten and spent the night in prison where they were up most of the night. Like so many mothers do, Paul gave birth to babies for the kingdom in the middle of the night. The Philippian jailer and his family believed in Jesus and were baptized. It was a hard night and after some refreshment in the home of Lydia they took off for a new adventure. It was just like the old stories of the women who would be working in the fields. Her baby would come and she would lay down in the grass for a brief rest after her delivery, and then get up and keep on working. This is what we see Paul doing in the realm of having babies for Jesus.
After 33 miles to Amphipolis they had another 30 miles to Apollonia, and then another 37 to Thessolonika. It was a hundred mile journey. This is not much in our day but it was no small effort for Paul, and it took the better part of the week. Paul had to spend three Sabbaths in reasoning and explaining and in proving that Jesus was the Messiah. It was hard physical labor to get there and then he had to labor hard mentally to get the seed to penetrate the minds of those who listened to him. He had to work hard to get them pregnant with the Gospel. Virility had to be combined with the fertility of the soil. You cannot just cast the seed out and hope for results. Had Paul given up after two Sabbaths he could have lost all his labor, and there would have been no one born anew there.
There are many infertile couples who do not have the baby they desperately want because they give up too fast. There are dozens of options available today to help people have a baby. It is the same in the spirit realm. People fail to see the seed they sow bring forth new life and so they quit sowing thinking they just do not have the gift. Even though the Bible says all God's children have His sperm, they are convinced they have such a low sperm count that they cannot reproduce.
The real problem is the lack of understanding. They are trying to sow in the wrong soil where there is no fertility. They buttonhole strangers, or give tracts to strangers, and do all sorts of witnessing to people they have no positive relationship to on any level. This is ineffective for the most part even though there are some outstanding examples of such seed that does produce fruit. It is usually futile to sow that way, and it leads to discouragement, and Christians give up altogether and never do it the right way.
They also lack persistence when they do press on to find the right soil, which is the person who likes them in some way. The people liked Paul, for he was a Bible expounder and that is why they were in the synagogue. But they did not just accept everything without question and a great deal of skepticism. They did not just jump on his bandwagon. It took a lot of persuasion to convince them. We need to realize that people have a right and an obligation to be skeptical of any religious message. There is so much false teaching and foolishness in this realm of life that we need to be very cautious and expect others to be also. Accept people's doubts as legitimate, and seek to give them all the evidence they need to believe. Virility means that you hang in there and persist with vigor to persuade people of the truth. Christians often give up too quickly and lose the babies they might have had.
The key to successful fertilization is focus. You will notice Paul did not get into the 1000 and 1 issues that Jewish theologians debated. Out of 200 million sperm only 1 penetrates the egg and determines the nature of the baby. The sperm that Paul wants to succeed in this tremendous competition is the seed of Christ. Paul had a narrowly defined target and his focus was on the cross and resurrection of Christ. He did not get off the track on minor issues. He had his convictions on many subjects, but the only sperm that will produce babies for Jesus is the truth of the crucified and risen Savior.
Christians get off on so many side issues that will never produce a baby. If all you ever do is try and persuade people that your denomination is the best, or that some pet doctrine is true, you will never have any spiritual kids. The new birth comes only by people trusting in Jesus as their Savior, and no other truth will enable it to happen, and so success in persuading them of any other truth will not produce new life for the kingdom of God. Only one sperm can fertilize the egg, and only it will be honored by the Holy Spirit to produce new life, and that is the truth of the crucified and risen Savior. So this has to be our focus if we expect to have a baby for Jesus. Paul had to cover some common ground with the philosophers when he preached on Mars hill, but he vigorously stuck with persuading them concerning Christ as his primary goal.
You will also notice that being vigorous does not mean threatening people and being high pressured with tactics that rob people of their free choice. Paul reasoned and explained the good news and what this could mean to people. He did not once in this chapter preach hell fire and brimstone. People say there is not much preaching on hell these days, and they are right. It was also true of Paul's preaching. It is true these people were going to hell without Christ as Savior, but that was not his message. His message was that all could be saved because of Christ's death and resurrection. Paul had a positive approach. The negative is real, but it is not a part of the good news, and seldom does it have a place in effective evangelism. Evangelist who use the negative approach to scare people into a decision often see their so-called converts disappear as fast as they come forward. They do not love the Lord but are responding in fear.
We are to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, and going to hell is not the Gospel. The good news is that nobody needs to go to hell because Jesus paid the penalty for us when he died for all of our sins. The good news is that we are loved and forgiven in Christ. It is folly to complain that hell is not preached if people are preaching Christ and the salvation that is freely given to all who will receive Him as their Savior. He is the good news. There are times when you have to give stern warning to some, and the threat of hell needs to be made real, but this is the exception and not the rule. We do not hear the negative approach in Paul's preaching in Acts. He refers to judgment when preaching to the idolaters in Athers, but only to exalt Jesus as the Judge of all, and the one to give your life to.
The point is that Paul gives birth to most all of his babies by means of a positive appeal. Virility does not means to treat people with forceful aggression and tell them they are hell bound sinners. It may work for some personalities in relation to certain other personalities, but for most Christians it is not an effective approach. We need to, like Paul, be so convinced that we have the greatest news in history, and because of it seek to use every positive means possible to persuade others to open their lives to Jesus.
The beauty of the message of the cross and resurrection is the simplicity of it. It does not take any great theological training to tell this Gospel story. A child can learn this story and convey it to others. Remember, babies are not born because dozens of sperm penetrate the egg, but only one, and people are not born into the kingdom of God because they have been persuaded of dozens of doctrines. They are born anew by just one truth that penetrates their minds and hearts, and that is the truth that Jesus died for them and rose again to assure them of eternal life if they will trust Him.
People like to embellish the Gospel and offer what God does not, and this leads to discouragement. God offers eternal life in Jesus, but some want to add to the Gospel offer that if you come to Jesus your problems will all be over and you will have heaven on earth now. This is a false promise that men offer and not God. Those who come to Jesus with this false hope will be greatly hurt when life had all sorts of troubles that follow. They will feel they must not be truly saved because of all the things that go wrong in their life, and they will be discouraged and may even fall away. Paul makes not such promise, for it is not part of the Gospel. The problem free life is a fiction and is not found in the Bible. Paul suffered greatly in being what Jesus wanted him to be, and he knew better than to offer what Jesus never authorized anyone to offer.
Virility does not mean to misrepresent the Gospel so as to get people to come to Christ under false pretense. This is like planning miscarriages, and it is not an effective way to build the family of God. Virility means a vigorous effort to have a baby, but not at the expense of the truth by the use of deception. We need to have a strong motivation to have babies, but always be under the control of the truth that God has given in His Word. We need to want babies as much as couples want babies who have a problem with fertility.
Here is a partial account of just how desperately people want babies from Peter Singers book Making Babies. Stefan was 43 and Nadia was 39. For 18 years they longed for a baby. After 5 operations the doctor told her it was hopeless. She got a second opinion and he agreed. They wrote to test tube baby programs in Britain and the U.S., but they were told they were too old. In 1980 they heard of the idea of surrogate mothers. A lawyer told them they would have to move to Kentucky and pay 22, thousand for all the expenses. They did it and the surrogate mother was inseminated with Sephan's sperm, and they at last had the child they dreamed of most of their lives. This is not an isolated story, for it is going on all the time all over the world. Hagar became a surrogate mother so Abraham could have a baby. Both Rachel and Leah did the same thing with their maid servants.
It has been a major issue all through history-how can we get a baby? And this has to be a major issue in the realm of the spirit as well. We need to want to have babies for Jesus as desperately as Paul. He gave his life and suffered greatly in order to have babies for Jesus. He had special gifts for the job, but all of us have the ability to look for fertile soil in which to sow the good news of Jesus. All of us should be praying for some specific person to come to Christ, and make some effort to make that happen. God forbid that we practice birth control in the realm of the spirit and try to avoid having a baby for Jesus. May God motivate us by the life of Paul to keep trying to be a baby maker for the kingdom of God.