Highlights In Today's Reading:
Stephen tells it like it is (7:1-53). This 1st Christian martyr gives us a glimpse of heaven (7:54-60). Follow the Lord's plan to tell the world: (1) He allows persecution (8:1-3); (2) Believers scatter sharing the Word as they go (8:4).; (3) Individuals hear Word and believe (8:12,27-38); (4) Preaching continues in all the cities (8:40).
Stephen could have avoided being stoned to death by being more "diplomatic" and saying what the Sanhedrin (6:12) wanted to hear. When confronted by the high priest and others who opposed Jesus as the Messiah, He made it clear that they were guilty of crucifying the Just One; of whom ye have been . . . the . . . murderers (7:52). In anger, they dragged Stephen out of the city, and stoned him (7:57-58).
Following the example of the last prayer of Jesus on the cross, as he was dying, Stephen prayed for his enemies: He kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge (7:60). Stephen's prayer undoubtedly was answered in part through one young man named Saul, who stood by watching and listening. If Stephen had not remained loyal to his Lord there might never have been a converted Saul to later become the Apostle Paul. In the spirit of our Savior's love, we too need to pray for the blessing of the love of God upon those who wrong us. One who seems to be our enemy may someday be saved if we remain faithful to the Lord by proclaiming His Word and then praying for our enemies just as Stephen did. After his death there was a great persecution against the Church . . . at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout . . . Judaea and Samaria (8:1). Instead of discouraging believers from telling how Christ died on the cross to save sinners, this persecution resulted in the first missionary movement. They that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the Word (8:4).
Just think! They could have gone into hiding or denied their faith. But this persecution was the will of the Lord to fulfill His command: Ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (1:8). What at first would seem like a disaster to the early Christians was the will of God for spreading His Word. Our disappointments are often His appointments.
God sometimes uses persecution and difficulties from evil people to bring about the fulfillment of His will, as he did with the Apostle Paul. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18).
Thought for Today:
For in the time of trouble He shall hide me . . . in the secret of His Tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me up upon a rock (Ps. 27:5).
7:19 subtilly =b> shrewdly, treacherously took advantage; 7:51 stiffnecked and uncircumcised =b> stubborn, deaf to the truth, and unrepentant; 8:9 sorcery =b> witchcraft, magic arts.
For Acts 7:3: See Gen. 12:1. Acts 7:27-28: See Ex. 2:14. Acts 7:32: See Ex. 3:6. Acts 7:33-34: See Ex. 3:5,7-8,10. Acts 7:37: See Deut. 18:15. Acts 7:40: See Ex. 32:1. Acts 7:42-43: See Amos 5:25-27. Acts 7:49-50: See Is. 66:1-2. Acts 8:32-33: See Is. 53:7-8.
Pray for International Broadcasts in honor of Dr. John A. Hash • Staff: Al Joslyn • Government Officials: Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA), Rep. Corrine Brown (FL), and Rep. Pete Stark (CA) • Country: Latvia (2.48 million) eastern coast of Baltic Sea in northeastern Europe • Major languages: Latvian and Russian • Religious freedom • 20% Protestant (mainly Lutheran); 20% Roman Catholic; 15% Orthodox; .9% Jewish; .4% Muslim; 43.7% Atheist/Agnostics/Other • Prayer Suggestion: Seek the Lord when you are oppressed (Ps. 102:8-13).
Memory Verse for the Week: Matthew 16:25