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Bible Pathways 11/11/04

November 11

Read Acts 7 - 8

In Today's 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 and he knew well the Old Testament Scriptures. He boldly reminded the unbelieving religious authorities: You always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets have not your fathers 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 (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 like Saul of Tarsus 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, persecution 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 by Jesus of Nazareth. On learning that Jesus was the Messiah (Savior), 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 he baptized him. . . . the eunuch. . . . went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:36-39)

Word Studies:

7:19 subtilely = shrewdly, treacherously; 7:51 stiffnecked and uncircumcised = stubborn and unrepentant; 8:9 sorcery = witchcraft, magic.

Cross References:

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.

Prayer Needs:

Pray for Government Officials: Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA), Rep. Corrine Brown (FL), and Rep. Pete Stark (CA) · Country: Australia (19 million) an island continent between the Indian and Pacific Oceans · Major languages: English and native languages · Religious freedom · 40% Protestant; 27% Roman Catholic; 3% Orthodox; 2% Muslim · Prayer Suggestion: Intercede in prayer for your friends (Job 42:7-10).

Memory Verse for the Week: II Corinthians 4:11

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