Vs. 1, “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” While the stoning death of Stephen is tragic to the church, notice how this incident would actually help the Christians finally start spreading out to Judea and Samaria (Acts 1:8). Notice how we now focus in on Samaria as Philip (one of the seven chosen in Acts 6) goes down from Jerusalem. Question: How could Philip go down when Samaria was north of Jerusalem? Because when Jerusalem was higher elevation and Samaria was in a valley, so literally, Philip went down. Anyways, we see Philip bring the Gospel to the Samaritans and also run into Simon the Sorcerer (vs. 5-25). It’s interesting to note how they believed and were baptized, but it wasn’t until Peter and John came that the Holy Spirit would fill those who truly believed. I say “truly” believe, because Simon the Sorcerer confessed belief, but did not truly believe. There is also the issue of the “Pentecost” like experience with the Holy Spirit to the Samaritans. There is not an agreed consensus on how to explain this. In my Seminary class, we talked about how this was still the early church and the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit was not yet normative at that time as our present age when we accept with belief and the Holy Spirit comes into our life. We then come to an interesting encounter with Philip and an Ethiopian (vs. 26-40). We see an angel of the Lord specifically command Philip to go south and while traveling he runs into an Ethiopian eunuch (high official). Geographically, this would be fulfilling the aspect of going out finally to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). The Ethiopian just happens to be reading the text from Isaiah 53 (referring to Jesus the suffering servant). What a wonderful example of NT Scripture fulfilling OT scripture! God would use Philip as quite the missionary evangelist!
Regarding application…Opportunities to Share. Vs. 29, “The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” When we are walking with the Lord, He undoubtedly will give us opportunities to share our faith! Just this Monday, I was at LA Fitness and relaxing after working out in the spa & swimming pool area. There was a gentleman that happened to be finishing up a business trip and driving back to Arizona the next day. We acknowledged each other, but then a very interesting conversation ensued. We talked about what each of us currently do and He was sharing with me how he is a Jew. We talked for about 15 minutes, I had the opportunity to share my faith. He had his own skeptical responses, but I could see that there was emptiness in his life. This story in our passage today reminded me of my encounter with the traveling Jewish salesman. You see, God will give us opportunities when we are pursing Him! Your schools, workplaces, hangouts, places you frequent…they are all opportunities to strike up conversation and even share your faith! That’s one of the main reasons we are still here! To be witnesses of Jesus Christ!
Vs. 51, “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” Remember, yesterday’s QT ended with the Sanhedrin listening false testimonies of people saying lies about Stephen speaking blasphemy. Stephen is given his opportunity to defend himself (vs. 1-53). Stephen’s speech is the longest one in Acts and it paves the way to reveal a very profound truth. Question: What is that truth? Stephen starts to give a nice little history lesson from Genesis. Of course, this would have been review to the Jewish audience. But, Stephen is reminding the Jews that God has historically worked in all parts of His creation. God was not confined just to the temple. Additionally, the Jews continued to reject God’s messengers, especially Jesus (vs. 52). This angelic face of Stephen delivered a very tough but honest message. You are sinners. The truth did not sit well for them. Stephen would be the New Testament’s church’s first martyr. And notice how Saul (who would later change his name to Paul) was there as well (vs. 58).
Regarding application…Ready to Die. Vs. 59, “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Stephen had so much to offer. Stephen was highly esteemed and chosen by the apostles to be one of the seven to assist in the ministry of the church. Question: Why would God allow Stephen to die? I don’t have the answer, but I do know his life and testimony of faith has encouraged the church even after nearly two thousand years later. Many have taken that same road over the centuries by literally realizing we gain by dying (Philippians 1:21). It impresses my heart so much that Stephen was ready to die for his faith and belief in the Lord! Brothers & sisters…this gives us some perspective, huh? It reminds us of the bigger picture about how we see our lives. We are all just traveler’s and sojourners in a temporary fallen world. That fact actually gives me great comfort. While I want to live as long as I can to love my wife and share the Gospel, I also realize I should be ready to die for Christ. The more we read and know the Bible, the more we will be ready to answer a lost world even if it means being ready to die.
Vs. 1, “In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.” Earlier in Acts, we saw a vibrant and loving church sharing to all in need. As a bit of time progressed we run into some issues (vs 1-7). However, don’t be discouraged when such things happen. Where God is working the enemy is also at work. There was a specific way to take care of the needy; in this case it was the widows. The Grecian Jews and the Hebraic Jews indicate that while they were both Jews, they were of different culture. I work in Korean-American ministry and it would sort of a similar situation. The first generation adults grew up in Korea and now live in America. They still speak Korean. The second generation Koreans are Korean, but they grew up in America and speak English. So, instead of ignoring this issue, the apostles wisely raise up seven leaders (possibly among the Grecian Jews) and this begins to show us the model of the “deacon” in the church today. As the church grows, we need to have people who are Godly continue to pick up the increased work and attention to all. Among the seven deacons chose, we zero in on Stephen (vs. 8-15). This reminds me of the lies of the Persian Leaders (Satraps) that were presented to Darius in Daniel 6. Satan is the father of lies and the extent of brining witnesses to bear false testimony is sadly something that hasn’t changed for how the enemy works. We must be very discerning! In our next chapter, we will further investigate more about Stephen.
Regarding application…Reflecting God’s Glory. Vs. 15, “All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” We know Stephen was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit (vs. 5). Question: Is this how people would describe us? This reminds me of the glory of God shone through Moses’ face coming down from the mountain (Exodus 34). One of the most Godly people I ever met was Bertha Holt. She and her husband Harry Holt founded Holt International. Holt International is world-wide adoption agency that has placed so many orphans into homes. I had the opportunity to meet Bertha on several occasions and I will tell you that I understand Luke’s descrpiption of Stephen in our passage today. Bertha radiated the glow of God’s glory. It was amazing. It was as if it was a minor miracle that God would manifest himself so evidently into someone. Brothers & sisters, this is something we should humbly seek. That when people see us, they see God’s glory!
Vs. 1, “Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.” This is reminiscent of Achan’s sin in Joshua 7. Question: What happened here? It was a very big sin of lying and the early church needed to make a statement. More than likely, the Holy Spirit had revealed to Peter this deception. We can only speculate that it was God’s immediate judgment, but one thing we can deduce is that we see how important it is to deal with problems in the church. Our churches today should follow this example of dealing decisively with sin. This was a time in the early church where God still worked in very powerful ways (vs. 12-16). We then see the persecution of the Apostles led by the Sadducees and brought before the Sanhedrin (vs. 17-42). I preached a message from Daniel & the Lion’s Den today and spoke about the jealously of the Persian leaders towards Daniel. This is kind of what was happening in response to all of the attention the Apostles were receiving. The Sanhedrin thought they had gotten rid of Jesus, but there were certainly very wrong!
Regarding application…Rejoicing in Suffering. Vs. 41, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” In my Seminary class last week, we had talked about the passage in James 1:2 where we should consider it joy when we receive trials. While this “joy” is not necessarily an emotion that we jump up and down when we lose a loved one…this case of rejoicing from the Apostles, is certainly an oxymoron. Question: How can you rejoice when you just got flogged and almost put to death (vs. 33, 40)? They were putting all their trust in the Lord! It brought them so much joy that they were counted worthy to be persecuted (Matthew 5:10). Brothers & sisters, let us be ready to rejoice in all circumstances! Have a blessed week!
Vs. 1, “The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people.” We now begin to see Jesus’ words come true as the world will begin to respond in hatred to those who follow Him. We meet the Sadducees again as they were part of the priests who did not believe in the resurrection. They were alarmed to be seeing a healing of man in the temple courts. Peter and John are arrested by the same Sanhedrin that conspired to have Jesus crucified. As they were questioning the two (vs. 5-22), we see a wonderful example of the Holy Spirit filling Jesus with extra power to boldly speak the truth. This eloquent and bold response astonished the Sanhedrin because they were unschooled men (vs. 13). They were concerned because they saw many who were at the temple also praising God. They order Peter and John to keep quiet, but I love their response…“Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.” (vs. 19).
Regarding application…Compelled to Share. Vs. 20, “For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Nothing was going to stop Peter & John from bolding sharing the truth about Jesus. Nothing was going to stop them from praying and reaching out to the lost. Because of this perseverance, we are told five thousand more responded in faith (vs. 4)! Despite the increasing persecution of the early church, they cannot contain the love and hope they have in Christ. Question: What would compel them to share? The answer lies in the Holy Spirit (vs. 8). Question: What is compelling you to share your faith? Upon salvation, we have the Holy Spirit as a promise from Jesus. But, if we are not walking in the will of the Father, the Spirit cannot fill us properly. Let the prompting of the Holy Spirit this weekend to compel you to share and come worshipping God at church!
Vs. 1, “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon.” It was common for the believers to still go to the temple and pray. The regular prayer times were 9:00, 12:00 and 3:00 when Peter and John went, they would prayed for one hour. They pass by a crippled man from birth (vs. 2), he was asking for money, but Peter had something different to offer than money (vs. 6). Question: Where would they have learned this type of compassion? Jesus set the example for them as He often reached out to the poor, the widowed and the orphan. By Peter healing this man also reminded everyone that the ministry of the Holy Spirit would continue to bless others as Jesus did. It is admirable that Peter and John do not point at their own power, but give full credit to Jesus (vs. 11-16). Peter than uses this as another opportunity to preach and remind the Jews that though they rejected Jesus, God is giving them another opportunity (vs. 17-26)
Regarding application…Praising God. Vs. 8, “He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.” Remember, this man was crippled since birth. He probably never had the opportunity to walk and jump! And don’t forget, salvation also came into his heart! In the midst of all our busyness, we can forget what our purpose is. Peter and John could have easily just walked by him and ignored him. They could have thought, “I don’t have time for you because I have to spend time with God.” But God often uses these moments to remind us why we are here in the first place. Some of us have forgotten the joy of just praising God for what He has done for us! Question: What can you praise God for today?
Vs. 3, “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” Question: What is going on here? The setting is in Jerusalem and Pentecost aka Feast of Weeks (Jewish harvest festival) is upon them. Pentecost was 50 days after Passover and it recognized the barley harvest and how God continues to provide for His people. How appropriate that Jesus was the Passover Lamb and now the Holy Spirit is given on the day of Pentecost. It’s important to see the timing of God as many Jews would make their pilgrimage to the Holy City. Jesus’ promise comes true in the form of the Holy spirit coming like a rushing wind (giving life) and tongues of fire (bringing judgment). When the Spirit was given, the disciples began to speak in tongues (vs. 4). Bear in mind, what was going on here in the first place. There were Jews from many nations (vs. 5-12) and they were quite astonished to realize that these Jews from most of Galilee were speaking in their native dialect (vs. 12). Some assumed they had been drunk (vs. 13). While there are differing viewpoints on the topic of speaking in tongues, one thing I want to point out that nowhere in Scripture are we told that speaking in tongues (Acts 2, I Cor. 12, 14) must accompany the Spirit baptism we receive upon accepting Jesus. We also see Peter stand up with courage and address the onlookers and subsequently thousands come to faith that day (vs. 14-41). Peter applies the Old Testament prophecies to the person of Jesus and calls for all to repent and believe. And then lastly, we come to a somewhat shocking yet beautiful picture of the genesis of the church (vs. 42-47). They were spiritually filled and devoted to fellowship (Koinonia – Greek), remember Christ and prayer (vs. 42). Some accuse the early church of looking like communism, however, the sharing of the early church was out of the “voluntary” goodness of heart and it was not something forced upon them. It reminds us of what our churches should look like today!
Regarding application…Being Together. Vs. 44, “All the believers were together and had everything in common.” We live in a world that teaches us to be strong and independent. You’ve heard of the adage, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” But, here we are reminded of a completely different paradigm of thinking. Here we see a community of believers just being together as one body. Question: Is this possible in the churches today? Absolutely! But, it starts with leaders in the church paving the way. It starts with members in the church “buying in” to being a community of believers. God loves His churches. We are not perfect. But, I sure hope and pray we continue to strive to be a church like the early church. Sometimes, I think we are too quick to assume that isn’t possible in this day of age. In my years serving the church, I connect with vs. 46, as a powerful reminder of opening our homes to each other. Many of my most cherished times as a church community is when we visit each others homes and just enjoy being together!
Vs. 4, “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” After the resurrection, Jesus spent forty more days with His disciples instructing them (vs. 2). He was reminding them that the thirds person of the Trinity will be coming. The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit for many Christians is the most difficult to understand. While there are differences in understand the baptism of the Holy Spirit (vs. 5), we as Christians have the confidence that we have the Holy Spirit in us. The Holy Spirit helps us to be holy and sanctified for God. The Holy Spirit guides us and helps us to do the will of the Father in Christ Jesus. In this chapter, we see the disciples obey Jesus and wait for the coming of the Spirit (vs. 9-26). I love how we see the dependence shown in fervent prayer (vs. 14). We also see the adding of Matthias as Judas Iscariots replacement among the twelve (vs. 20-26)
Regarding application…You are Witnesses. Vs. 8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” How can I not highlight this verse for our application today? This was Jesus’ last command before He ascended to Heaven. This fulfills the importance of what we call the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20). Though we have not physically seen Jesus, we still have the important job of witnessing because we have experienced Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Brothers & sisters in Christ…This is our purpose. So often we ask ourselves, “What is God’s will for me?” We are to be witnesses of Christ in all that we do. A witness in a trial bears testimony for what they saw and believe. We do the same thing. That is why we devote time to reading the Bible, because the more we know, the more effective our witness becomes!
Acts is pivotal book in the New Testament. Luke is believed by a vast majority of scholars to have been the author of this book. It is Luke’s part two of his Gospel written to Theophilus, probably a Roman citizen. Luke was a companion of Paul and it widely believed his eloquent Greek and vocabulary points to Luke being a physician. Luke probably wrote Acts in the early 60’s (not 1960’s…but 60’s A.D.) In Acts we see the beginnings of the church. It is full of intrigue and adventure as we see the Gospel literally go from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Acts teaches us how to be followers of Christ. Of course, in Acts we also see the promised Holy Spirit come and indwell believers and empower them in the early church. We have much to learn and apply these truths in Acts to our churches today.
Vs. 9, “Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.” God is going to allow the Assyrians and later the Babylonians to conquer their land. But, the ways of the LORD are right. God is calling Israel through His prophet Hosea to repent. It is a message that is a common denominator throughout Scripture. When we ask for forgiveness and repent, God hears us (vs. 2). You see, there is miracle going on that is unseen. The miracle of God’s grace to an undeserving people (vs. 4-8). We are to be discerning and choose wisely the ways of the Lord (vs. 9)
Regarding application…Free to Choose. Vs. 4, “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.” Setting aside the controversies of election vs. free will…I want us to focus on God is choosing to love us freely. Jesus had a choice in the desert, throughout his ministry and in the garden to do the will of the Father. God created and chose to give His love freely. Question: What are you choosing in your life? Repentance or sin? Perhaps the reason we do not choose God is because we love our life on earth too much. We think we can do a better job. I think of all the critics out there. We look at the mistakes of others and are quick to judge them. Question: Why? Because, perhaps we think we could do a better job. We see the mistakes of Actors, celebrities, sports stars and shake our heads. That is our pride and that is sometimes what we do with God. We choose ourselves and think God has it all wrong. Brothers & Sisters…Hosea is calling us to choose to walk in the ways of the righteous. Don’t let others, the enemy or this world influence your heart. Let us choose freely and wisely.