On September 23rd, my blog post was about signs and wonders in Jerusalem (hometown – take a look).
Today I want to look at examples of signs and wonders among the disciples, out a ripple on the pond – to Judea (the region that surrounded Jerusalem).
- Acts 6: 5–15– Stephen – one of the 7 deacons chosen by the apostles to help serve food at the tables.
- Never underestimate or down play any of the jobs/ministries that need doing in the church. The deacons were not superstars. Rather they were servants who were helping feed the widows of Greek ethnicity who were part of this huge swell of new people in the church.
- Ministry is not just for the VIPS. We all GET to do ministry.
- v7 – The Word Of God spread just like the wildfire that burns in the Dismal Swamp. Key words: multiplied, greatly
- v8 – Full of faith and power, not half full, not below a quarter of a tank – but full. He did signs & wonders among the people.
- V9 – 10 – Disputes arose, but they were unable to resist the wisdom that the Holy Spirit gave him.
- V11-15 – What went on here sounds like the same carnival-sham pulled by the religious leaders before Jesus was condemned to death before Pontius Pilate.
- My observations on this passage:
- Don’t be surprised if you also face opposition, accusations, and misconstrued comments made by the people around you. Don’t let it shut you down, or cause you to question God’s goodness. Don’t have a pity party and don’t walk off in anger and say, ‘I’ll sue you!’ The devil hates to see the Gospel advance and attempts to stir up everything he can in opposition. Remember we are out to please the Father and not be people pleasers.
- Stephen had the face of an angel – which I would think was a peaceful face, not a face of confusion. That could only have been from the controlling influence of the Holy Spirit in his life.
2. Acts 7: From verses 1 – 53 – Stephen went back and highlighted things that God had done in the history of His people to include Abraham, the patriarchs, Moses and the people of Israel in the wilderness – to include the fact that they were rebellious and stiff necked. He went on and directed some very strong statements at the people about their stiff necks and hearts. This is when the fun began. Let’s look at verses 54 – 60.
- V54 – Cut to the heart, gnashed their teeth
- V55 – Stephen full of the Holy Spirit, saw a vision of heaven
- V57 – They cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, ran at him, cast him out of the city, and stoned him.
- V58 – Witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of Saul
- V59 – 60 – Stephen prayed, knelt, cried out with a voice of forgiveness and died.
- Because Jewish law did not allow executions within the walls of the Holy city, the religious leaders took Stephen outside the city walls.
- Graphic in nature – Jewish custom was that the 1st witness would push the condemned person face forward into a 12 foot deep pit. If the person survived the fall their body would be turned over and large boulders would be thrown down on his chest to crush his ribs. If he was still alive, stones would be thrown by the entire congregation.
- Stephen died a martyr, a man full of faith, a man not bent on revenge or judgment, but a man who patiently took what came his way.
3. Acts 8: 1 – 3
- V1a – Pretty incredible verses. Saul was one of the masterminds behind the killing of Stephen. I imagine that Saul/Paul never forgot the way that Stephen died or the part that he played in his death. I imagine that he wrestled with guilt and forgiveness issues. Look at the prayer of Stephen in verse 60 and the way that it was answered in Saul in Acts 9 at his conversion. Paul, Stephen and what happened to the church there was a similar situation to that of the missionary Jim Elliot and the 4 others who were killed by the Auca Indians in the 1950s in Ecuador. Years later Steve Saint and others went as missionaries to the Auca Indians. Later many of those Indians came to Christ and Steve became very close to the man who had killed his dad.
- Think about Paul’s words in Romans 8: 28 about all things working together for the good in those that love Him and are called according to His purposes.
- V1b – Take a look at Acts 1:8 – What were Jesus’ words to the apostles? After the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and unto the remotest parts of the earth… By this point in the book of Acts had they gone very far from Jerusalem? No, they were still lingering. Had God used them? Yes. Did He want to use them more? Definitely. It seems that as a result of the persecution, the saints were forced to get out of Jerusalem and out to other places. The Christians had to flee to avoid the harsh persecution being inflicted on them. The entire church felt the heat of the persecution, not just the apostles. As they went they were both refugees (people who had fled their homes) and witnesses (of God’s grace in Jesus) at the same time.
- V2 – Saul had been given the authority by the religious leaders to go house to house and drag Christians off to prison. He was a feared man. Little did he know, but God was after him!