Acts 8- Persecution of The Church

And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. Acts 8:1-2

As we continue to look at the death of Stephen, we see that Paul consented or approved of his death. Saul began to persecute the Church, as it says “there was a great persecution” why did Paul do this? Well he had zeal for God, yet his zeal was misled. He believed he was honoring God with his work, however Paul was actually fighting against God, as he will later find out on the Road to Damascus

We see that the Church began to become scattered, remember how Jesus described us as sheep scattered without a Shepherd. Paul was actually doing the work of Satan and trying to destroy the Body of Christ, but what we found out over history is that the Church is unbreakable. The more you persecute the Church, the more it grows stronger and bigger in size!

Notice there was a great sorrow or lamentation over Stephen. As stated previously he was believed to be the first martyr of Christianity, but Stephen is now with The Lord as we seen in Chapter 7

As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. Acts 8:3-4

Paul tried to single handedly destroy the Church, he went from house to house , seeking Christians and putting them in prison or persecuting them. However the more he persecuted the Church , the stronger they became. As the Christians began scattered, it allowed them an opportunity to share the gospel to a larger audience. Christianity was actually spreading due to the persecution

This reign of terror by Paul was why the Church was reluctant to accept Paul when he became Born Again on the Road to Damascus. We must remember that Jesus has the power to transform even the worst of sinners!

Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. Acts 8:5-7

Philip used this opportunity to head to Samaria and preach the gospel there. There he started a revival, performing miracles and healings by the Holy Spirit. Even though the Church was being persecuted, the Body of Christ was growing and spreading across the entire world

God can use what was meant for our harm and use it for our good, don’t live in fear, trust in Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you Amen!

Acts 7- Death of Stephen

When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Acts 7:54-56

Chapter 6-7 in the book of Acts documents the events of a disciple named Stephen. Now remember from previously , he was one of the seven men chosen by the Apostles, a deacon of the Church of Jerusalem.  Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit and highly respected among the Church. Many historians believe Stephen was the first martyr in Christianity. 

Stephen was performing many signs and wonders in the name of Jesus, and when the orthodox Jews confronted him about this, they couldn’t stand up against the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. So they made false accusations against Stephen, claiming he was speaking blasphemy against Moses and God. They acquired false witnesses to make false claims against him in front of the religious leaders (Acts 6: 8-15)

While Stephen was on trial, being filled with the Holy Spirit, he looked up into Heaven and saw Jesus sitting at the right hand of God. Imagine the comfort Stephen must of felt knowing The Lord was looking over him

Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Acts 7:57-59

When they asked Stephen to give his testimony, he basically went through the entire Bible from Abraham to Moses to Jesus. Only someone filled with the Holy Spirit could have gave such a great exegesis of the Bible, however the religious leaders were unable to comprehend the gospel

We notice a man named Saul responsible for the stoning of Stephen, this was the Apostle Paul before he became Born Again on the road to Damascus. This is why Paul calls himself the “Chief of Sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15) Paul was partly responsible for the death of Stephen, and he carried that guilt with him the rest of his life. But God took a man like Paul and used him for his good to spread the gospel to all the Gentiles

Notice what Stephen says before he dies “Lord Jesus , receive my Spirit” This is significant because in the Old Testament Psalm 31 “Into your hands I commit my spirit” , this was a prayer often said in Judaism to God. Stephen is displaying the deity of Christ by committing his Spirit into the hands of Jesus!

Acts 6- The Chosen

And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. Acts 6:1-4

As we study the book of Acts, we still see the roles and responsibilities start to develop and how the Church handled it. The Apostles were being burdened with “secular work” as distributing food to those in need, and it was taking a toll on their spiritual work. Anyone who’s been in ministry knows, it takes alot of time and dedication to study the Word of God, and remain in the Will of God

The Apostles decided to appoint a group of seven men to take over this duty, so the Apostles can be freed up to focus on their spiritual work. Now I know some would look at this and say the Apostles are being lazy or even egotistical. However from my experience being bi vocational , working in the Ministry and having a secular job, I understand the burden the Apostles faced here. There is just not enough hours in the day!

Notice the Apostles said they will “give themselves over to pray continually and the ministry of the gospel” How many people live a sacrificial life like this? Not many, to dedicate your life to God is harder than you think. Remember the Apostles already walked away from their careers when they were called by The Lord to serve

And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith. Acts 6:5-7

Notice this move pleased the rest of the Church, there was no grumbling or gossip, everyone was pleased to serve and follow Gods will. Imagine if the Church today was more like this! Notice they selected the seven men who were all filled with the Holy Spirit and had faith. Everyone has different callings from God, these men humbly accepted their roles with great joy to serve God

And lets see the result “The gospel increased and the Church multiplied” Since the Apostles were freed up to focus on the ministry, the gospel of Christ was spread even more generating more disciples! God knows what he is doing!

From a human perspective it may have seemed like a vain move but God knows what he’s doing! We are all given different gifts and different roles all for the same main purpose, to glorify Jesus Christ! Amen!

Acts 5- Fighting Against God

And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Acts 5:38-40

There was a religious leader named Gamaliel, he was very well respected and honored among the leaders. He advised them to leave the Christians alone. His logic was very clear, if the Christians were not from God, then the movement would die out. However if the Christians were with God, then the religious leaders would actually be fighting against the living God!

Now if the religious leaders really had any fear or respect of God, they would have let the Christians alone, however notice what they did after they agreed with Gamaliel. They beat the Apostles and forbid them to speak the name of Jesus! It just shows you the heart of the Pharisees and Sanhedrin , really didn’t love God but loved their religion more!

And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.  Acts 5:41-42

The Christians counted it as joy to suffer for the name of Jesus! The more the persecuted Christians, the more they grew in number. Since Jesus rose from the dead, Satan has been trying to eliminate Christianity, however it just kept growing , even today where billions of people identify themselves as Christians

As Gamaliel said, if Christianity isn’t from God then it would have just died out. The fact is , even after over 2,000 years since Jesus rose from the grave, Christianity is alive and well. Christianity will never be eliminated because God is with us, the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, and Jesus is on the throne as King of Kings and Lord of Lords

Christians rejoiced at suffering for the name of Jesus, is this still the same mentality the Church has today? We need to get back to our roots since the beginning, to live is Christ and to die is gain in Jesus Name Amen!

Acts 5- Obey God Rather Than Man

Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. Acts 5:17-20

 While the Church continued to grow in number, the religious leaders began to get jealous and decided to throw the Apostles in prison to try and shut down Christianity. Little did they realize that God was on the side of the disciples and not the religious leaders. While the Apostles were in prison, it looked like a hopeless situation, the authorities were against them and the Church had no money or power

However God was with them, and sent an Angel to free them from prison. Imagine the religious leaders, who believed they were doing God’s work, try to comprehend and explain that God was actually against them. The Angel gave them clear commands “Go and preach the gospel”!

And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within.Acts 5:21-23

When the religious leaders went to bring the Apostles to judge them, they were nowhere to be found. Imagine the humiliation of the religious leaders and officers, when the Apostles disappeared. There was no evidence of a break out or foul play. It was a miracle that could only be explained by God Almighty

Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow. Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. Acts 5:24-25

While they looked for the Apostles they found them on the street corner preaching the gospel, just as they were instructed. Imagine most people would be hiding for fear of their lives, however the Apostles had faith and were obedient to God, no matter what the consequences were

Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men Acts 5:29

When the Apostles were asked, why are they doing these things, they bodley proclaimed “We obey God rather than Man” Even though there lives were threatened and they were thrown into jail, the Church obeyed God rather than live in fear of Man

This should be the model and example for the entire Church today, Obey God rather than live in fear of Man. If God is for us , who can be against us in Jesus Name Amen!

Acts 5- The Holy Spirit is God

But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. Acts 5:3-5

One of the clear scriptures that the Holy Spirit is God is Acts Chapter 5. Here we see a married couple , Ananias and Sapphira , sold a piece of property to give the profits to the Church, which sounds like a good thing. However they lied to the Holy Spirit about how much they made, and hid some of the money for themselves

Peter called them out on their sin, and when Ananias confessed his sin , immediately died. This event obviously brought great fear among the Church. I believe God used this moment to demonstrate that the Holy Spirit is God and as Jesus taught “Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an unforgivable sin” (Matthew 12:31)

As Peter stated “You have not lied to men but to God” , its very clear that the Holy Spirit is God and we should pay honor and respect to the Holy Spirit as we do the Father and Son. 

And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Acts 5:6-9

Then his wife Sapphira tried to lie to the Holy Spirit also and was immediately struck down with death. As Peter said “How can you tempt the Spirit of The Lord”? Again it demonstrates the deity of The Holy Spirit. Again this sent a strong message to the Church, the fear of God was among all of them!

Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. Acts 5:10-11

As it stated “A great fear came upon all the Church” Do you think God was trying to send a message? The message is The Holy Spirit is God and Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven or tolerated. How many false prophets and religions should read this chapter! Scripture is clear The Father , Son, and Holy Spirit is God Amen!