Highlights In Today's Reading:
Stephen relates the history of God's people from Abraham to Jesus (7:1-50). Leaders' actions bluntly denounced (7:51-53)! The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — all three Persons of the Godhead — witness Stephen's faithfulness as he is received into heaven (7:55-56). Persecution scatters believers abroad (8:4). The Gospel of Jesus given to the Gentiles: 1st to the Samaritans by Jesus and now by Philip, Peter, and John (8:1-25).
Stephen's Spirit-filled sermon was by no means calculated to secure for himself an acquittal with the Sanhedrin. Rather, it was a defense of Jesus as the Christ — God's only appointed way of eternal life. Such convicting words were too much for the listening Sanhedrin. They cried out with a loud voice . . . And cast him out of the city, and stoned him (7:57-58).
Stephen's last testimony for Christ was a prayer: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit (7:59). He then prayed for his enemies as they stoned him: He kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep (died) (7:60).
The indwelling Spirit of Christ alone can cause a man to pray for his murderers. This prayer was first prayed by our Lord on the cross, Father, forgive them (Luke 23:34). Such a prayer has no parallel outside the Christian Church. If Stephen had not prayed, the Church may not have had an Apostle Paul.
The few who experience the highest glory of the Christian life will, as did Stephen, pray forgiveness for all those who misunderstand the love of Christ whom they represent.
Does God really expect us to deny ourselves so entirely for others? Is it not asking too much? It is indeed our calling to become like Jesus who said: If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me (9:23). Only by demonstrating His self-sacrificing love can the Church fulfill its destiny of being the Body of Christ on earth (I Corinthians 12:27).
The height of God's love was manifested in the self-sacrifice of Christ. It is the highest glory of the Christian to be like his Lord. Let our love prove itself to be conformable to Him in daily self-sacrifice for the welfare of others; so will it also be acceptable in the sight of God. We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (I John 3:16). Christ's example of self-sacrifice should be the rule of our lives, even in the daily affairs of home, between husband and wife, and between brother and sister.
If we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6:5).
Thought for Today:
Are we pretending to be Christians who really possess the love of Christ? Or do we really have His self-sacrificing love?
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 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 Radio Sri Lanka International Shortwave Broadcasts sponsored by Dorothy Mowatt and Mrs. Audrey M. Johnson • Staff: Gina Lesnefsky • Government Officials: Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA), Rep. Corrine Brown (FL), and Rep. Pete Stark (CA) • Country: Mongolia (2.4 million) in east-central Asia • Major language: Khalkha Mongol • As a 70-year era of communism wanes, Bibles are now on sale in the capital, Ulaanbaatar • 95.5% Tibetan Buddhist; 4% Muslim; .3% Christian; .2% Other • Prayer Suggestion: Pray for our nation, that it would truly be a Christian nation (Psa. 67:1-7).
Memory Verse for the Week: 2 Timothy 4:5