God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Monday, November 18, 2013

November 18 - Acts 7-8: Persecution Scatters the Message to New Lands

Today’s Reading: Acts 7-8

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Persecution caused the church to move beyond Jerusalem.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Stephen argued that the Jews refused to listen to God even when God gave them His Word.
The crowd rioted and stoned him. As he died, Stephen saw Jesus and asked that no one be punished.
Saul encouraged Stephen's murderers.
The church scattered due to persecution. Philip healed many in a Samaritan city. Two Apostles helped them receive the Holy Spirit. Simon, a newly-baptized magician, wanted to pay the Apostles to give the Holy Spirit. They condemned his attempt to buy authority from God. He asked for forgiveness.
God sent Philip to teach a high-ranking Ethiopian leader. He was baptized.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Stephen's death provided the first proof that the world would hate Jesus' Disciples because they hated God.

Jesus warned the Apostles several times that they would be persecuted because the world did not like the Father nor Jesus. Stephen suffered the first martyrdom because He called out the Council for being stubborn even though they had God's Word. Obeying God does not always lead to peace and tranquility. Stephen died because he wanted them to realize how they and their ancestors missed God.

Stephen modeled Jesus' teachings on enemies as well as a view on death Jesus' Disciples should have.

Jesus wanted His Disciples to love their enemies and not resist them. Stephen neither pleaded for his life nor asked that God punish the ones killing Him. He saw Jesus beside God and asked that they not be punished for killing him. He had no reason to fear death—when Jesus' Disciples are murdered, they are given the gift of being with God sooner rather than later. Stephen did everything but thank them for helping him see Jesus.

Saul encouraged those who killed Stephen.

We will read about this in a few days. Saul thought he was doing God's Will. He will later realize his mistake.

The persecution in Jerusalem forced the Message out of Jerusalem.

Tradition states that these events in chapters 7-8 could have happened 10 years after Jesus' Resurrection. Whether or not this is true is unknown; however, one thing that we should realize is that persecution can be the best cause of evangelism far and wide. When God's Chosen People move, they take God's Message with them. Persecution should not be ignored, but we should realize that persecution can only lead others to a quick reunion with God or cause the Message to spread underground. It cannot stop God's Will.

Simon misunderstood how God works though he had a good heart.

Magicians, before the Internet, paid to learn how to do tricks, unless they developed them at home or had a mentor teach them for free. Simon thought the gift of the Holy Spirit was a magic trick—a sustained illusion. He was naïve in his new faith. When the Apostles showed him he misunderstood how God worked he quickly changed his mind. He had work to do to change his ways, but he had the heart to do it. God's Chosen People are not perfect. They have hearts willing to change.

God sent Philip to one man because the man wanted to obey God.

The story of Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch is interesting, not because of a strange fact within but because of the lack of an interesting plot twist. It seems to be a fairly routine conversion story—Philip goes to a man reading Scripture and helps him realize Jesus is the Messiah God pointed to in Scripture. The man becomes a disciple and is baptized. I think this story could have been remarkable to Luke for one (or more) of three reasons: 1) the man is African, not Jewish. He was most likely a proselyte. 2) The man is a powerful ruler in his country and may have helped many at home become disciples of Jesus. 3) He could have returned to the area and become one of the leaders in the church. What we should see is that God cares for anyone willing to obey Him. This one man travelling home from Jerusalem was important enough for God to send a delegate out of a city to help him understand the Scripture and how it pointed to Jesus.

How have you misunderstood how God works?

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