Jewish religious authorities worked hard to silence the voices testifying that Jesus is Lord. But it’s tough to fight God when he sends his angel to release his people from prisons and commands them to proclaim the good news about Jesus right in the heart of the Temple! God’s actions caused these religious leaders to pause, but not to change their hostile attitude.Read More
When the apostles burst upon the Jerusalem scene after Jesus ascended and the Holy Spirit came, they continually urged people to recognize in the gospel the truth of God. “Jesus is the Messiah” and “God commands all people to repent and believe this good news!” The Jewish authorities struggled with these truth claims.Read More dilemma, opposition to God, peace with God
When the church grows, it always faces new challenges. Growth requires change. The apostles could no longer manage the care for widows, as well as prayer and proclamation. We see the Spirit leading the church to find good resolution together. The apostles as spiritual leaders define the issue and propose a solution. The believers accept the recommendation and discern the individuals whom they believe are gifted for this ministry of care.Read More Holy Spirit, Unity, problem-solving, diversity
The Christian leader Stephen bursts into the Acts story. Luke tells us he was “full of faith and the Spirit” (v 5) and “full of grace and power” (v 8). Through him the Spirit does “signs and wonders” and his opponents in the Greek-speaking Jewish synagogues cannot withstand “the wisdom and Spirit with which he speaks” (v 10). And when he does present the gospel, people discern that his “face is like that of an angel” (v 15).Read More wisdom, truth, gospel
Stephen is so audacious! As his defence before the Jewish religious leaders, he gives them a history lesson, re-telling their own history through the lens of God’s sending Jesus the Messiah. What irony that these leaders who claim to know God and to be experts in the interpretation of the Jewish scriptures are treated as novices on both counts.Read More God’s story, new covenant
Stephen rehearses the story of Moses, the person whom God used to shape Israel into a nation and lead them out of Egypt. Again God’s interventions are instrumental in advancing his plans.
We discover that Moses was forty years old (v 23) when he made an explicit attempt to become Israel’s leader and “give salvation to them” (v 23).Read More patience, God’s timing, perseverance
Stephen thunders on with his fundamental charge – “you are always fighting against the Holy Spirit” (v 51). This was the story of Israel and the current Jewish leaders were just being true to type in Stephen’s view. It did not matter how often and in how many diverse ways God communicated with Israel, the response was the same – disobedience.Read More Holy Spirit, forgiveness, God’s patience
In the most dangerous circumstances Stephen sees “the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right side of God” (v 55). It’s as if God is saying to Stephen, “Your testimony is approved and I recognize your faithfulness.” God knows what is about to happen and he lays out the welcome mat for his witness, Stephen.
His claims infuriate the Jewish court and they lynch him.Read More trust, faith, good news
The earlier sections of Acts 8 indicate that Philip was having an exciting time sharing the gospel in the region of Samaria. Many people were responding. In the midst of this productive ministry God sends Philip some distance away to meet a single person. This individual has political status, is a Jewish proselyte, is learned enough to read the Hebrew text of Isaiah, and is Ethiopian.Read More witness, “God-thing”, appointments