In Today's Scripture Reading:
Stephen's speech; his martyrdom; Saul's persecution of Christians; Simon, the sorcerer; Philip and the Ethiopian
Stephen was a deacon in the church at Jerusalem who knew well the Old Testament Scriptures. He boldly reminded the unbelieving authorities: Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost (Spirit): as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers (Acts 7:51-56).
With the same hatred which had caused the crucifixion of Christ, the angry authorities dragged Stephen out of the city, and stoned him. As he was dying, he . . . cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge (7:57-60). Stephen could have avoided death by saying nothing, but he made it clear that the religious authorities were responsible for crucifying Jesus, the Just One. Stephen's faith and forgiving attitude in the face of death was the same as his Savior's on the cross, and it 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. Those who seem to be our enemies today may someday be saved if we express the love of Christ to them as Stephen did to his persecutors.
At that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem (8:1). Instead of discouraging believers, this resulted in a great missionary movement as Jesus' followers dispersed throughout the region. Philip, who was also a deacon in the first Church, was led by the Holy Spirit to meet an Ethiopian official on his way home. As he read the Book of Isaiah, God led Philip to explain to the Ethiopian how the prophecy of Isaiah 53:7-8 had been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. On learning that Jesus was the Messiah (Savior), the Ethiopian asked to be baptized . . . Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. . . . and he baptized him. . . . the eunuch. . . went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:36-39).
7:19 subtilly =b> shrewdly, treacherously; 7:51 stiffnecked and uncircumcised =b> stubborn and unrepentant; 8:9 sorcery =b> witchcraft, magic arts.
For Acts 7:3: See Genesis 12:1. Acts 7:27-28: See Exodus 2:14. Acts 7:32: See Exodus 3:6. Acts 7:33-34: See Exodus 3:5,7-8,10. Acts 7:37: See Deuteronomy 18:15. Acts 7:40: See Exodus 32:1. Acts 7:42-43: See Amos 5:25-27. Acts 7:49-50: See Isaiah 66:1-2. Acts 8:32-33: See Isaiah 53:7-8.
Pray for The Arabic International Shortwave Radio Broadcasts to the Far East in honor of the Persecuted Church Government Officials: Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA), Rep. Corrine Brown (FL), and Rep. Pete Stark (CA) • Country: Philippines (76 million) in Southeast Asia • Major languages: Filipino and English • Religious persecution in some areas • 80% Catholic; 9% Protestant; 8% Muslim (mostly Sunni); 3% Other (Buddhist, Animist, non-Religious) • Prayer Suggestion: Ask God for daily direction (Psalm 48:14).
Memory Verse for the Week: Titus 2:12