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Bible Pathways - November 11, 2005

November 11

Read Acts 7

In Today's Reading:

Stephen's speech; his martyrdom; Saul's persecution of Christians; Simon, the sorcerer; Philip and the Ethiopian

Stephen was a faithful deacon in the church at Jerusalem and he knew the Old Testament Scriptures well. He boldly reminded the unbelieving religious authorities: Ye do always resist the Holy 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 7:51-53).

With the same hatred which had caused them to crucify Christ, the angry authorities dragged Stephen out of the city, and stoned him (7:58). As he was dying, he . . . cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge (7:60). 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. It appears to have made a powerful impression on Saul of Tarsus who witnessed Stephen's love toward his murderers.

With this same spirit of love, we too need to pray for those who despitefully treat us. Today, those who seem to be our enemies, like Saul of Tarsus may someday be saved if we express to them the love of Christ as Stephen did to his persecuters.

At that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem (8:1). Instead of discouraging believers, the severe persecution resulted in a great missionary movement as Jesus' followers dispersed widely 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 the Ethiopian read the Book of Isaiah, God led Philip to explain to him 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).

Word Studies:

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

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 The English International Shortwave Radio Broadcast sponsored by Clarence & Pat Chauncey · Staff: Ilene Wallace · Government Officials: Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA), Rep. Corrine Brown (FL), and Rep. Pete Stark (CA) · Country: Tuvalu (11,000) nine islands in the southwestern Pacific · Major languages: Tuvaluan and English · Religious freedom · 92% Protestant; 5% Baha'i; 2% Roman Catholic · Prayer Suggestion: Let your faith in the Word of God overrule all fears (Psalm 18:30).

Memory Verse for the Week: James 1:22

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