Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Acts Studies|
Chs. 7 & 8
Chapters 7 & 8
Chapter: Acts 7
Passage: Acts 7:1-53
A. Find Out:
1. Who was questioning Stephen? v.1
2. What had Moses prophesied? v.37
3. What point does he make about Moses? v.35,39,42,43
4. What point is he making in verses 44-50?
5. What judgement does he make in verse 51?
6. How does he prove it? (3 ways) v.52,53
The first charge against Stephen had been that he was rejecting Moses, and thus God. The first part of Stephen's response is to carefully work through the history of the Patriarchs up to the time of Moses and the Exodus. In this he shows that he is well taught and orthodox and in no way denies anything of Moses. He does point out when he comes to Moses that he had prophesied about one coming after him and he had been rejected by the people who had early on turned away from God.
The second charge against him was that he spoke against the Temple . He simply argues that he knew the history of both tabernacle and temple and reminds them that the Scriptures reported God as saying that any earthly dwelling place was not big enough to hold Him. The implication is that the Temple is not so important as they make it.
Having countered these two charges this man, previously described as full of faith and the Holy Spirit, now confronts them with their sin. Just like their fathers before them they had rejected God. They had rejected the prophets, they had not kept the Law, and now they had killed the One sent from God. This indictment of the Jews was hard, precise and accurate, but they would not like it!
1. Rebellion or rejection of God is at the heart of all sin.
2. The task of the anointed man of God is to confront sinners with that
truth, however unpleasant it may seem!
A. Find Out:
1. What was the initial response of the Sanhedrin? v.54
2. What happened to Stephen and what did he say? v.55,56
3. What was the response to this? v.57,58
4. How did Stephen cope with this? v.59,60
5. Who also was there? 8:1
In many ways an awful episode; in other ways mysterious, in other ways glorious.
First, the awful aspects of these verses: Stephen has very clearly shown how the tendency of the human race, exampled by the Jews, was to reject God. All he had said was the truth, yet this ruling religious Council refused to hear it. Their minds were so set that they could not see that it was the very God they were supposedly worshipping who was behind it all. The more Stephen said the more they became upset until eventually, when Stephen appears to claim incredible revelation in front of them, they can take it no longer and take him outside and stone him for blasphemy.
Second, the mysterious aspects of this: it was only because the Lord gave Stephen such revelation that he spoke out in such a way that he provoked the Council. The Lord must have known what this revelation would do and yet went ahead. Why? We can only speculate as to specific reasons but one thing we must be able to say is that it must have fitted in with the Lord's sovereign plan and purpose for his church. In one sense this killing sparked off the persecution that drove the church out and eventually across the world.
And triumph? Well just consider the way he died: in control with forgiveness on his lips, just like his Lord had done (Lk 23:34 ,46)!
1. God's purposes are sometimes quite mysterious.
2. God's purposes sometimes involve us going through tough times.
A. Find Out:
1. Who were scattered that day? v.1
2. What happened to Stephen? v.2
3. What did Saul do? v.3
4. What id the scattered church do? v.4
5. What did Philip do? v.5
6. With what effect? v.6,7
We sometimes think of persecution in very negatives ways, but here we see that this wave of opposition to the church had very positive results. But first see the cause of the persecution: the “apparent blasphemy” has been dealt with by the “lynch mob” and the religious establishment has taken a first real step since killing Jesus, to quell this religious uprising. A young zealous Pharisee by the name of Saul, presumably with the authority of the Sanhedrin, went out hunting down known Christians in Jerusalem , and put them in prison. On what basis? Presumably on the basis of keeping the peace! Ungodliness so often reverses the truth!
But now, let's observe what happened as a result. The Christians of Jerusalem fled - all except the apostles who presumably were still held in some awe by the authorities - but instead of going meekly and silently, wherever they went they told about what had been happening. So although Satan might have intended to shut down the new faith, the persecution in fact had exactly the opposite effect! When Philip, one of the recently appointed deacons, escaped to Samaria and told what he knew had happened, the Lord confirmed his message with signs and wonders. The Lord is in all this!!!!
1. Persecution tries to oppose but results in growth.
2. Persecution is unpleasant for Christians but releases new life. When it
comes, God's grace will be there for us though.
A. Find Out:
1. What had Simon done and what had he thought of himself? v.9
2. What had the people thought of him? v.10
3. Why had they followed him? v.11
4. What had happened when Philip had come? v.12
5. What had happened to Simon? v.13
In Star Wars films they say, “the Force be with you” and New Age followers use similar language but the force they speak about is quite different from the Holy Spirit in at least three ways: first it is impersonal, second it is under the control of people and third it glorifies people. That was obviously true of Simon. He used “a power” and he was glorified as a result. It was something under his control and he used it to make himself look great. But then things changed!
Philip arrived and, inspired by the Holy Spirit, started to share the Gospel. The Holy Spirit then confirmed the message by healing and delivering many. It was obvious to all and sundry that this was something far superior to the conjuring up power that Simon had been doing, and many people believed and came to Christ Simon himself realised the difference and he also came to Christ.
The real always exposes the imitation! When the power of God is genuinely moving, it exposes dead tradition and false imitation. It is GOD moving and exercising His sovereign will as He works out His plans and purposes, and he cannot be manipulated or controlled. He is the Lord and He will not put up with challengers (see 1 Sam 5)
1. Do we accept dead, lifeless orthodoxy. Do we need to cry out to the Lord
to come in transforming power?
2. Do we know the living presence of God among us that exposes the
deception of New Age for what it is!
A. Find Out:
1. Who sent who, from where to where? v.14
2. Why did they pray for the new disciples? v.15,16
3. What happened when they prayed? v.17
4. What did Simon d when he saw this? v.18,19
5. What was Peter's response? v.20-23
6. What did Peter & John do afterwards? v.25
The word of what was happening in Samaria filtered back to Jerusalem and so the apostles who were still there decided to send Peter and John to go and check out that all was well. This was really the first time that the Gospel was recorded as having been preached away from Jerusalem and they obviously felt they ought to check to see that the whole truth was being preached. When the arrived they found that the word had been right and the fruit of salvation had been good but yet the Holy Spirit did not seem to have been imparted in power.
So Peter and John lay hands on the new believers and impart the powerful presence of God as they pray. Now the impartation was something that was quite obvious, by Simon's reaction; it was quite obvious that something was happening, although in this case we are not told what. When Simon saw what was happening he wanted the ability to pass on this power but felt that he could buy it and he had to realise that that is not how it happens!
The main thing that we should note here is that there was a power impartation from the Spirit that came subsequent to a person becoming a believer, subsequent to people being baptised in water. It was “given” (v.18) when prayed for with laying on of hands by those in authority, and it was quite obvious.
1. Is our understanding of the “salvation package” deficient?
2. Have we received the power of the Spirit in our lives, obviously?
A. Find Out:
1. Who spoke to Philip? v.26a
2. What did he tell him to do? v.26b
3. What are we told about the man he met? v.27
4. What was he doing now? v.28
5. Who told Philip to do what? v.29
6. What did he hear when he did that? v.30a
Note first the FORMS of Guidance here: first Philip is guided by an angel and then by the Holy Spirit. Why an angel? Well it is sometimes said that angels turn up to guide us when little else will move us. Philip had been involved in an exciting time when the Spirit of God was saving, delivering and healing many. To leave all this and go south to the desert seems crazy, and so the Lord sends an angel to communicate with Philip so there is no doubt in his mind. When the Lord needs to take us in a completely different direction, He will make it quite clear to us. Rest in that! He understands our uncertainties and will meet us in them.
Note second, the NATURE of the guidance: it is just sufficient for the moment. The Lord doesn't tell him why to go down on the desert road, and He doesn't tell him what he'll find when he arrives at the chariot; He simply gives him sufficient instruction to move ahead. We need to remember that we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).
Finally note the OUTCOME of this guidance: he comes to a prepared situation. The man has been to worship, and is now reading Scripture; he is a prepared man. The Lord sends us to situations He knows all about and has been working in already. Trust Him, it is so!
1. The form of guidance matches the importance of the need.
2. The guidance will be sufficient for the moment. Just obey it.
A. Find Out:
1. What had the man been doing? v.30,32,33
2. What did Philip ask and what reply did he receive? v.30b,31a
3. What happened and what did the man ask? v.31b,34
4. So what did Philip do? v.35
5. With what result? v.36-38
6. What happened afterwards? v.39,40
Philip, in obedience to the leading from the angel and the Holy Spirit, arrives alongside the chariot, presumably travelling slowly or possibly having stopped for a break, only to hear Scripture being read out loud. He boldly enquires if the man understands what he is reading and when the influential Ethiopian invites him to join him, Philip shares the Gospel with him. The man obviously receives what he is told as he soon wants to be baptised, part of the package for new believers! As soon as that is done the Lord takes Philip off to a nearby town and eventually on to Caesarea where, twenty years later on, he appears settled and with a family.
We have at the end of this chapter a remarkable account of a “divine appointment”, an encounter set up by the Lord. We see a spiritually hungry man, met by a divinely sent evangelist, and a particularly appropriate moment. The outcome is then salvation! The challenge to us must be to ask the Lord of the harvest to send us, His workers, out with a sensitivity to His leading that will result in divine appointments where prepared and hungry people can meet with willing messengers.
1. The Lord looks for those who will willingly obey the prompting of His
Spirit, to go wherever He sends.
2. When we go under His leading, He will take us to prepared people who
are hungry for the Gospel.
In this last group of 7 studies we have seen :
When God allows one of His sons to come home early through very unpleasant means, there is a tendency to think this is a disaster. Especially when it provokes mass persecution against all the Christians. However God works for good in all things with his children (Rom 8:28 ) and so he simply uses the persecution to spread the Gospel. His power goes with His sons as they are scattered, and the result? Many more are saved and added to the kingdom!
1. Sin needs confronting
2. God works in some mysterious ways, even involving death
3. Persecution only strengthens and spreads the Gospel
4. The Gospel opens the way for the power of the Spirit to come
5. The Gospel brings salvation
Thank the Lord that whatever happens and whoever opposes you, the Lord will not be stopped; the Gospel will spread. Thank Him that it is the power of God for salvation
Using the structure we introduced at the beginning of these studies, we can see that we have seen:
The Church under starter's orders (Ch.1)
The Church bursting into being (Ch.2 & 3)
The Church Opposed but Triumphant (Ch.4 - 6)
The Church Witnessing, and Expanding (Ch.7 & 8)
The title of this set of Studies is “How to Build a Church” and these chapters show us how God started to build His church. The following are, therefore, some guidelines for church building:
1. Listen to Jesus' Strategy
Jesus was very clear: don't do anything until you have received the power of the Holy Spirit. Pray and wait on God to start with.
2. Receive God's Power
Evangelism is not to be done by clever tactics but by the enabling of the Spirit. When the Spirit enables the preaching of the Gospel, then signs follow and crowds come and are saved.
3. Be Ready for Opposition
When the power of God raises the standard of the kingdom, the enemy will seek to lash back at the citizens of the kingdom.
4. Deal with the Opposition
The apostles give us good examples to follow:
5. Attend to the church
6. Keep Going