Read Acts 7 -- 8
In Today’s Reading:
Stephen's speech; his martyrdom; Saul's persecution of Christians; Gospel preached in Samaria; Simon, the sorcerer; Philip and the Ethiopian.
Stephen was a deacon in the church at Jerusalem. He was a man of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3). Stephen knew the Old Testament Scriptures well and his faith was unshakable as he faced the anger of the religious authorities. He boldly reminded them: You always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, and he went on to proclaim: Which of the prophets have your fathers not persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom you have been now the betrayers and murderers. . . . And (they) cast him out of the city. . . . And . . . stoned Stephen (7:51-59).
Stephen could have avoided being stoned to death by saying nothing, but he made it clear to the hostile crowd that they were responsible for crucifying Jesus, the Just One. With the same hatred which had demanded the crucifixion of Christ, the authorities now dragged Stephen out of the city, and stoned him. As he was dying, he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge (7:60). Saul of Tarsus stood by, watching and listening. Stephen's faith and forgiving attitude in the face of death was the same as his Savior's on the cross and surely must have made a powerful impression on those who witnessed Stephen's love toward his murderers.
In the same spirit of love, we too need to pray for those who despitefully treat us. One who seems to be our enemy may someday be saved if we express the love of Christ to them as Stephen did.
At that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem (8:1). However, instead of discouraging believers, this persecution resulted in a great missionary movement. They that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the Word (8:4) concerning Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah who was crucified. They could have gone into hiding or denied their faith. But this persecution did not diminish their zeal to witness. At times it may seem that someone or something has kept us from experiencing God's best; but, as we remain faithful, a new revelation of His will presents itself.
Philip, who was also a deacon in the first Church, was led by the Holy Spirit to meet an Ethiopian official who had left Jerusalem to return home and was reading the Book of Isaiah. God knew that he had a desire to know the Scriptures and led Philip to explain to the Ethiopian official how the prophecy of Isaiah 53:7-8 had been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. On being enlightened that Jesus was the Messiah as foretold by Isaiah, the Ethiopian asked to be baptized. Philip said, If you believe with all your heart, you may. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. . . . And they both went down into the water . . . and he (Philip) baptized him. And when they came up out of the water . . . the eunuch . . . went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:37-39).
Thought for Today: You can never appreciate God's peace until you have encountered some of life's storms.
7:19 subtilly = treacherously; 7:51 stiffnecked and uncircumcised = stubborn and unrepentant; 8:9 sorcery = witchcraft.
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 Isa. 66:1-2. Acts 8:32-33: See Isa. 53:7-8.
Government Officials: Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA), Rep. Corrine Brown (FL), and Rep. Pete Stark (CA) · Pray for one another · Country: Colombia (39 million) in northwestern South America · Major language: Spanish · New government has declared religious freedom · 96% Roman Catholic; 1% Protestant; 1% Indian tribal religions · Prayer Suggestion: Beseech the Lord in intercessory prayer for others when you have questions (Exodus 32:11).
Memory Verse for the Week: Acts 8:37-39