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Acts 6-9

Sunday (Acts 6:1-7)

The Appointment of the First Seven Deacons

6:1 Now in those days, when the disciples were growing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Greek-speaking Jews against the native Hebraic Jews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.

6:2 So the twelve called the whole group of the disciples together and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to wait on tables.

6:3 But carefully select from among you, brothers, seven men who are well-attested, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this necessary task.

6:4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

6:5 The proposal pleased the entire group, so they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a Gentile convert to Judaism from Antioch.

6:6 They stood these men before the apostles, who prayed and placed their hands on them.

6:7 The word of God continued to spread, the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith.

Prayer

Lord, Your desire was for the early Church members to be a true family, to care for one-another without regard for those worldly things which You specifically excluded “Neither male nor female, old nor young, Greek nor Hebrew”. May I love my fellow believer and treat no one differently because of a worldly-priority that is not a Godly-priority.

Summary & Commentary

The early Biblical Christian community was in agreement with the Lord God that the care of all of their members was a high priority. Because of Biblical history, and the current socio-economic challenges of believers in an unfriendly society, widows were of special concern.

Within the population of Jewish converts to Christianity were two large sub-groups, the more traditional Hebrew-speaking (and overwhelmingly Jewish descended), and the newer Greek-speaking and culturally less-traditional (generally non-Jewish) group.

The Greek-speaking group complained that their widows were being unfairly under-served by the majority Hebrew-speaking leaders. This represented a significant challenge to trust within the early believing community.

The twelve Apostles called together all of the disciples. [Note: This would have been a large number of people as all believers are disciples and the Church had been growing rapidly. It may have referred to a leadership group of some sort rather than every believer.] They declared that their first obligation to Jesus was to preach and to teach; therefore, there was a need for some others to be recruited. These were to be prayerfully and reflectively identified ed as called by the Lord God to manage food and other physical care-giving resources.

The first seven "deacons" were to be "... men who are well-attested [respected by their peer-believers], full of the Spirit [saved], and (full of) of wisdom. [There was no stated Biblical reason to select only men but to have selected women at this time may have created an avoidable cultural rift in the early Biblical Christian community. There are no grounds in this immediate text to extrapolate a male-only mandate for a deacon, nor does this preclude such a male-only mandate elsewhere in the Biblical text, this text is neutral on the matter of Deacon-gender.]

Interaction
Consider

Could your worship and study and prayer and fellowship group identify seven who would meet the qualification for a "deacon" who are "... well-attested [respected by their peer-believers], full of the Spirit [saved], and (full of) of wisdom?

Discuss

Have you observed cultural sub-groups, cliques, within groups identified as "Christian"?

Have you observed favoritism, intentional or unintentional, among the sub-groups?

Reflect

Reflecting on the dedication of the early Church to the care of the needs of their "members" then contemplate how our modern building-centric, program-centric churches prioritize the same level of commitment to care. When so many resources and so much time are diverted to buildings and to programs is it reasonable to expect awareness of true needs among all of the "members", not to mention actually meeting those needs?

Share

When have you observed an effort to use ACTS 6:3-8 as justification to exclude women from a deacon-like role? [Note: There may be other NT texts that restrain a woman from serving in a deacon-like role, the point here is that this is not intended to do so and should not be misused as proof-text or otherwise misrepresented.]

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to pray that the gathering of believers with which you are associated (be it a traditional organization, a "house church", or some other format), will emulate the early Church in their Biblical priorities.

Action:

Today I will pray in agreement with an individual or organization standing for Christ (based on a Biblical principle, not misusing the name Christ to justify a personal crusade) despite attacks from individuals and/or organizations (perhaps even the government).

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Monday (Acts 6:8-7:16)

Stephen is Arrested

6:8 Now Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 6:9 But some men from the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, as well as some from Cilicia and the province of Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. 6:10 Yet they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. 6:11 Then they secretly instigated some men to say, “We have heard this man speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 6:12 They incited the people, the elders, and the experts in the law; then they approached Stephen, seized him, and brought him before the council. 6:13 They brought forward false witnesses who said, “This man does not stop saying things against this holy place and the law. 6:14 For we have heard him saying that Jesus the Nazarene will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.” 6:15 All who were sitting in the council looked intently at Stephen and saw his face was like the face of an angel.

Stephen’s Defense Before the Council

7:1 Then the high priest said, “Are these things true?” 7:2 So he replied, “Brothers and fathers, listen to me. The God of glory appeared to our forefather Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he settled in Haran, 7:3 and said to him, ‘Go out from your country and from your relatives, and come to the land I will show you.’ 7:4 Then he went out from the country of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After his father died, God made him move to this country where you now live. 7:5 He did not give any of it to him for an inheritance, not even a foot of ground, yet God promised to give it to him as his possession, and to his descendants after him, even though Abraham as yet had no child. 7:6 But God spoke as follows: ‘Your descendants will be foreigners in a foreign country, whose citizens will enslave them and mistreat them for four hundred years. 7:7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ said God, ‘and after these things they will come out of there and worship me in this place.’ 7:8 Then God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision, and so he became the father of Isaac and circumcised him when he was eight days old, and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. 7:9 The patriarchs, because they were jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt. But God was with him, 7:10 and rescued him from all his troubles, and granted him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. 7:11 Then a famine occurred throughout Egypt and Canaan, causing great suffering, and our ancestors could not find food. 7:12 So when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there the first time. 7:13 On their second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers again, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. 7:14 So Joseph sent a message and invited his father Jacob and all his relatives to come, seventy-five people in all. 7:15 So Jacob went down to Egypt and died there, along with our ancestors, 7:16 and their bones were later moved to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a certain sum of money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.

Prayer

Lord, You called Stephen to Your service and You guided him as he reminded them of Your story. May I be more concerned about telling Your story than trying to defend or to promote my own.

Summary & Commentary

Stephen, one of the first seven Deacons, is performing “... great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.” [From the NET Translator’s Notes: Although during the ministry of Jesus there were some who mimicked the casting-out of demons and other acts of power, about whom Jesus said if they did so in His name they’d be unable to criticize Him for a while, Stephen is the first non-Apostle described in the same terms “great wonders and miraculous signs” as the Apostles.]

Members (and perhaps descendants of) former slaves who had formed a religious organization known as the ““Freedmen” disliked Stephen’s Christian ministry work. As other religious leaders had done before them with Jesus they had Stephen arrested on deliberately falsified charges.

Stephen begins his defense before the Council - as did Jesus and Peter and John before him - with a review of history.

God appeared to Abraham, our ancestor, and instructed him to leave Mesopotamia - trusting God to show the way to an unknown new homeland.

God led Abraham to Haran then after his father died moved him again to “the Promised Land”, but at this time did not give it to him as an “inheritance” but only as a “possession”. This “possession” was for Abraham and “his descendants”, though he had no children yet. [The language here is awkward in English but vss 7:4-5 appears to recognize a right for Abraham and his people to live there but to not treat it as their permanent and exclusive property, at least not yet based on this text.]

Abraham’s descendant’s were to become slaves in a foreign land [Egypt] but God would punish Egypt and bring them back to the Promised Land. [Note: This is a prophesy re. Egypt - observe that this text is out of chronological order since Stephen then describes the events leading up to the Egyptian captivity.]

God gave Abraham the “covenant of circumcision” then a son, Isaac, who had Jacob, who then had ten of the twelve “Patriarchs” from whom came the twelve tribes of Israel. [Ten of the Patriarchs of Israel were from the twelve sons of Jacob, excluding Levi and Joseph. Levi’s descendants were cut-off and it was Joseph’s two sons who occupied the other two of the Twelve Patriarchical positions. Asher, Benjamin, Dan, Ephraim, Gad, Issachar, Judah, Manasseh, Naphtali, Reuben, Simeon, Zebulun.]

Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers then rescued by God Whose plan it was to bring him into the favor of Pharaoh so as to provide food for Egypt and for Jacob’s family who would come to buy grain and discover Joseph alive.

Jacob and the extended family of seventy-five moved to Egypt and multiplied rapidly there.

Interaction
Consider

The Lord God God entrusted Stephen with power because his character and faithfulness to God made him trustworthy.

Discuss

The evidence of Abraham's trust in God may be seen in his attitude and his actions, what that might look like in your life?

Reflect

The text says some important things about Stephen which gives us guidance as to the qualifications for a Deacon and for the expectations of a maturing-believer.

Share

When have you contemplated the faithfulness of God in converting Joseph's predicament into provision?

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to compare the character of Stephen to your own character, on a regular basis, as a Biblical source of accountability and a Biblical source of reference for your growing maturity.

Action:

Today I will celebrate a time in my life when the world set me up for failure and God intervened and transformed it to good.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Tuesday (Acts 7:17-50)

7:17 “But as the time drew near for God to fulfill the promise he had declared to Abraham, the people increased greatly in number in Egypt, 7:18 until another king who did not know about Joseph ruled over Egypt. 7:19 This was the one who exploited our people and was cruel to our ancestors, forcing them to abandon their infants so they would die. 7:20 At that time Moses was born, and he was beautiful to God. For three months he was brought up in his father’s house, 7:21 and when he had been abandoned, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 7:22 So Moses was trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds. 7:23 But when he was about forty years old, it entered his mind to visit his fellow countrymen the Israelites. 7:24 When he saw one of them being hurt unfairly, Moses came to his defense and avenged the person who was mistreated by striking down the Egyptian. 7:25 He thought his own people would understand that God was delivering them through him, but they did not understand. 7:26 The next day Moses saw two men fighting, and tried to make peace between them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why are you hurting one another?’ 7:27 But the man who was unfairly hurting his neighbor pushed Moses aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us? 7:28 You don’t want to kill me the way you killed the Egyptian yesterday, do you?’ 7:29 When the man said this, Moses fled and became a foreigner in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.

7:30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the desert of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. 7:31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and when he approached to investigate, there came the voice of the Lord, 7:32 ‘I am the God of your forefathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look more closely. 7:33 But the Lord said to him,Take the sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 7:34 I have certainly seen the suffering of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to rescue them. Now come, I will send you to Egypt.’ 7:35 This same Moses they had rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge?’ God sent as both ruler and deliverer through the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 7:36 This man led them out, performing wonders and miraculous signs in the land of Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years. 7:37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers.’ 7:38 This is the man who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors, and he received living oracles to give to you. 7:39 Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him, but pushed him aside and turned back to Egypt in their hearts, 7:40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go in front of us, for this Moses, who led us out of the land of Egyptwe do not know what has happened to him!’ 7:41 At that time they made an idol in the form of a calf, brought a sacrifice to the idol, and began rejoicing in the works of their hands. 7:42 But God turned away from them and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: ‘It was not to me that you offered slain animals and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, was it, house of Israel? 7:43 But you took along the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Rephan, the images you made to worship, but I will deport you beyond Babylon.’ 7:44 Our ancestors had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as God who spoke to Moses ordered him to make it according to the design he had seen. 7:45 Our ancestors received possession of it and brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our ancestors, until the time of David. 7:46 He found favor with God and asked that he could find a dwelling place for the house of Jacob. 7:47 But Solomon built a house for him. 7:48 Yet the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands, as the prophet says,

7:49 ‘Heaven is my throne,
and earth is the footstool for my feet.
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
or what is my resting place?
7:50 Did my hand not make all these things?

Prayer

Lord, You worked around the choices of humankind but were never surprised, and when You dwelt among them You were never controlled or “contained” by them. May I be constantly aware of Your presence in me through Your Holy Spirit and that You do not indwell to serve my desires but to equip me to serve You.

Summary & Commentary

Stephen continued his review of the Lord God’s working in the history of Israel.

Over time a new Pharaoh had assumed power and he had no knowledge of the honor due Joseph and his descendants but rather viewed them as free slave labor.

Moses was born just as the new Pharaoh, fearful of the size of the Jewish population, initiated a population control protocol. God arranged for the infant Moses to be set adrift and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. He was raised an Egyptian, but was aware of his heritage. As an adult he visited the work site of the Jews, where he was confronted with an abusive situation, he killed the slave-supervisor. When he later confronted two Jews fighting they asked if he intended to kill them as he had the slave-supervisor, so fearing retribution from the Egyptians, he fled Egypt.

After forty years God called Moses to lead His people out of bondage. [Note: This is a “type” or symbolic representation of Jesus.] The people resisted the leadership of Moses and even longed to return to slavery in Egypt rather than deal with the challenging unknown of the wilderness.

God gave them the “tabernacle of testimony”, a traveling altar containing His presence, which was central to the leadership of Joshua and later David.

Stephen was careful to note that God does not dwell in [is not contained by] “houses made by human hands”.

Interaction
Consider

The Pharaoh forgot the history of Joseph’s value to Egypt.

Discuss

What has been the consequence in modern civilizations or nations that forget the value of God’s centrality when they were created, in bring them prosperity, and in their protection?

Reflect

Some people who refuse to follow healthy leadership and instead return to old things they rightly discarded of fads of the moment.

Share

When have you observed believers following a leader or participating in a ministry because he or it was popular rather than because it honored the Lord God?

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a place of bondage from which your He rescued you.

Action:

Today I will celebrate my freedom from bondage with another believer. I also commit to prayerfully consider under whose authority I voluntarily submit myself and ask if they are God-honoring according to the Biblical qualifications for a “Shepherd” or “Deacon” or if I tend to drift back into religious and social practices of the past and/or chasing after fads of the present, and if so I will repent (turn away) and seek-out where God would take me.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Wednesday (Acts 7:51 - 8:3)

7:51 “You stubborn people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, like your ancestors did! 7:52 Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold long ago the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become! 7:53 You received the law by decrees given by angels, but you did not obey it.”

Stephen is Killed

7:54 When they heard these things, they became furious and ground their teeth at him. 7:55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked intently toward heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 7:56 “Look!” he said. “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 7:57 But they covered their ears, shouting out with a loud voice, and rushed at him with one intent. 7:58 When they had driven him out of the city, they began to stone him, and the witnesses laid their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. 7:59 They continued to stone Stephen while he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 7:60 Then he fell to his knees and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” When he had said this, he died.

8:1 And Saul agreed completely with killing him.

Saul Begins to Persecute the Church

Now on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were forced to scatter throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. 8:2 Some devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. 8:3 But Saul was trying to destroy the church; entering one house after another, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

Prayer

Lord, You blessed Stephen with clarity and purpose, and You also gave him courage and certainty of salvation. May I also find clarity and purpose and courage in the certainty of my salvation and in the perfect righteousness of the Lord God Whom I serve.

Summary & Commentary

Stephen concludes his defense with a powerful challenge to the religious leaders, much the same as those previously given by Jesus and Peter and John and is murdered for it - Stephen becomes the first Christian martyr.

Immediately prior to his death Stephen is given a vision of Jesus standing next to God the Father, then as he dies Stephen reprises the words of Jesus on the Cross for His killers "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." [Note: Those who murdered Stephen carried enough sin to condemn them endlessly, Stephen perhaps did not want his martyrdom to add to that but instead still longed for them to accept and submit to the saving truth of Jesus.]

Saul, who oversaw and approved the stoning of Stephen, initiated a "great persecution" which drove all but the Apostles into hiding. He hunted and imprisoned many in the Church (believers), doing great harm to their fellowship.

Interaction
Consider

The Bible says that all believers will face persecution and that the forces in power and at work in the world today are overwhelmingly aligned against God.

Discuss

Begin with the context of the historic persecutions of the Church in China, most Muslim nations, and elsewhere - in both the past and in the present. Imagine for the moment that you lived there, how do you think your faith would serve you then?

Reflect

Stephen demonstrated courage, knowing that the truth would likely cost him his freedom and as-likely his life, he remained undeterred.

Share

When have you known men and women of truth, not noisy self-important or immaturely noisy people, but humble and mature and thoughtful people who valued truth above all else and spoke it boldly when asked without regard to personal consequence?

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you someone who fearlessly shares God's truth whom He wants you encourage with a note or a call or a visit. It may be a missionary, a community or political leader, a religious leader, a student, a co-worker, or someone else who steps out in faith.

Action:

Today I will pray that political and religious leaders will listen to God and turn away from paths that lead to the repression and persecution of Christians and devastation to everything that they value in this temporary world.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Thursday (Acts 8:4-40)

Philip Preaches in Samaria

8:4 Now those who had been forced to scatter went around proclaiming the good news of the word. 8:5 Philip went down to the main city of Samaria and began proclaiming the Christ to them. 8:6 The crowds were paying attention with one mind to what Philip said, as they heard and saw the miraculous signs he was performing. 8:7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, were coming out of many who were possessed, and many paralyzed and lame people were healed. 8:8 So there was great joy in that city.

8:9 Now in that city was a man named Simon, who had been practicing magic and amazing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great. 8:10 All the people, from the least to the greatest, paid close attention to him, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called ‘Great.’” 8:11 And they paid close attention to him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. 8:12 But when they believed Philip as he was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they began to be baptized, both men and women. 8:13 Even Simon himself believed, and after he was baptized, he stayed close to Philip constantly, and when he saw the signs and great miracles that were occurring, he was amazed.

8:14 Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 8:15 These two went down and prayed for them so that they would receive the Holy Spirit. 8:16 (For the Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 8:17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on the Samaritans, and they received the Holy Spirit.

8:18 Now Simon, when he saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, offered them money, 8:19 saying, “Give me this power too, so that everyone I place my hands on may receive the Holy Spirit.” 8:20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could acquire God’s gift with money! 8:21 You have no share or part in this matter because your heart is not right before God! 8:22 Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that he may perhaps forgive you for the intent of your heart. 8:23 For I see that you are bitterly envious and in bondage to sin.” 8:24 But Simon replied, “You pray to the Lord for me so that nothing of what you have said may happen to me.”

8:25 So after Peter and John had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, proclaiming the good news to many Samaritan villages as they went.

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

8:26 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) 8:27 So he got up and went. There he met an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship, 8:28 and was returning home, sitting in his chariot, reading the prophet Isaiah. 8:29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 8:30 So Philip ran up to it and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. He asked him, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” 8:31 The man replied, “How in the world can I, unless someone guides me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 8:32 Now the passage of scripture the man was reading was this:

“He was led like a sheep to slaughter,
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

8:33 In humiliation justice was taken from him.
Who can describe his posterity?
For his life was taken away from the earth.”

8:34 Then the eunuch said to Philip, “Please tell me, who is the prophet saying this about — himself or someone else?” 8:35 So Philip started speaking, and beginning with this scripture proclaimed the good news about Jesus to him. 8:36 Now as they were going along the road, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look, there is water! What is to stop me from being baptized?” 8:37 [[EMPTY]] 8:38 So he ordered the chariot to stop, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 8:39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him any more, but went on his way rejoicing. 8:40 Philip, however, found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through the area, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Prayer

Lord, You empowered those whom You called, and You redeemed good from Saul's evil intent by using the flight of disciples to spread Your Word even further. May I trust You to provide whatever I need to do whatever You ask me to do.

Summary & Commentary

As the disciples fled Jerusalem in the face of Saul's persecution they were dispersed in Samaria and beyond. The unintended, by Saul, consequence was that the Word was also dispersed.

Philip preached Christ in Samaria and performed "miraculous signs" of healing and the casting-out of demons. [Note: This was the second non-Apostle, Stephen was the other (Acts 6:8) reported as exercising this sort of power.]

A "magician" called Simon had claimed greatness to himself through acts of "magic" yet as the people around him heard Philip and were baptized, even Simon believed and was baptized. Simon then followed Philip closely in awe of the power flowing through him.

Peter and John came to Samaria to pray that the Holy Spirit would come upon the people there. They had been baptized, similar to those baptized by John the Baptist, but they had not yet received the Holy Spirit. [Note: The Apostles were among the few who had not fled in the face of Saul's persecution in Jerusalem.]

Simon remains confused and still trapped in his desire to be the focus of attention and the conduit of power, thus he asks the Apostles to sell him the ability to lay-on hands for the delivery of the Holy Spirit to people. Their discernment tells them that his heart is filled with envy, not a desire to serve others, so they rebuke him sternly and instruct him to pray that the Lord may forgive him. They then returned to Jerusalem, proclaiming Christ along the way.

An angel directed Philip to leave Samaria and follow the desert/wilderness road that connected Jerusalem to Gaza. Along the way he observed an Ethiopian eunuch, a high official to Queen Candace of the Ethiopians. After visiting the Pentecost celebrations in Jerusalem he was reading Isaiah as he traveled. The Holy Spirit prompted Philip to approach him and ask if he understood what he was reading - he invited Philip to explain Isaiah 53:7-8, which he did.

Philip explained how this OT verse prophesied Jesus. The Ethiopian Eunuch immediately asked to be baptized, which Philip did, then the Holy Spirit immediately relocated Philip to Azotus (a city on the southern coast of Palestine). The Eunuch went away rejoicing.

Philip proclaimed the good news of Jesus the Christ from Azotus to Caesarea.

Interaction
Consider

Observe the sequence of faithful obedience which resulted in the baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch; Philip travels where directed, Philip approaches the Eunuch, the Eunuch requests discipleship, Philip shares what God has taught him, the Eunuch requests baptism.

Discuss

When have you observed someone claiming to be a follower of Biblical Christianity, and even assumed a role in leadership based on a charismatic personality, but then was exposed as a charlatan whose focus was really on their own popularity, power, and profit.?

Reflect

The Ethiopian Eunuch was so teachable that the moment he understood what the Lord God wanted him to do he humbled himself and did so.

Share

When have you observed that the enemy/the world had successfully attacked a Biblically-faithful ministry then God redeemed it to an even greater effectiveness?

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to pray for greater patience and discernment within the family of believers as they select and submit to spiritual shepherds at any level.

Action:

Today I commit to be available and teachable as the Holy Spirit leads and directs so that He may use me as effectively as He did Philip. I surrender that place of resistance to change and/or risk that I have allowed to be an impediment to Him.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Friday (Acts 9:1-22)

The Conversion of Saul

9:1 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing out threats to murder the Lord’s disciples, went to the high priest 9:2 and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, either men or women, he could bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 9:3 As he was going along, approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 9:4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 9:5 So he said, “Who are you, Lord?” He replied, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting! 9:6 But stand up and enter the city and you will be told what you must do.” 9:7 (Now the men who were traveling with him stood there speechless, because they heard the voice but saw no one.) 9:8 So Saul got up from the ground, but although his eyes were open, he could see nothing. Leading him by the hand, his companions brought him into Damascus. 9:9 For three days he could not see, and he neither ate nor drank anything.

9:10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias,” and he replied, “Here I am, Lord.” 9:11 Then the Lord told him, “Get up and go to the street called ‘Straight,’ and at Judas’ house look for a man from Tarsus named Saul. For he is praying, 9:12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and place his hands on him so that he may see again.” 9:13 But Ananias replied, “Lord, I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem, 9:14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call on your name!” 9:15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, because this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel. 9:16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 9:17 So Ananias departed and entered the house, placed his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came here, has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 9:18 Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 9:19 and after taking some food, his strength returned.

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 9:20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “This man is the Son of God.” 9:21 All who heard him were amazed and were saying, “Is this not the man who in Jerusalem was ravaging those who call on this name, and who had come here to bring them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 9:22 But Saul became more and more capable, and was causing consternation among the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.

Prayer

Lord, You made the attacks upon Christians by Saul — at the behest of the religious leaders — personal. May I always remember that an attack on Biblical Christian faith, and faithfulness, is always an attack upon You.

Summary & Commentary

Saul received letters of authority to persecute Christians in Damascus then set off on his evil mission. Jesus appeared to him as "a light from heaven" Saul "fell to the ground".

The voice, heard also by those accompanying Saul, challenged him "Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" to which Saul replied "Who are you Lord?" and received "I am Jesus Whom you are persecuting!"

Jesus instructed Saul to go to Damascus. Saul was blinded and fasted for three days.

Jesus appeared to Ananias in a vision instructing him to overcome his fears and to fulfill the vision given Saul that he would lay hands on him to restore his vision. Jesus informs Ananias that Saul will now be a friend of Christ. Ananias faithfully does as instructed and Saul is baptized.

Saul spent several days [Note: The precise length of time is unclear from this text.] and then this former enemy of Christ became an active and effective emissary of Christ in the synagogues of Damascus.

Interaction
Consider

It was the obedient, rather than rebellious, responses which allowed God to use these men for His great plan.

Discuss

Why did Jesus make it personal and what does that mean to us today?

Reflect

Even Saul recognized the presence of God and responded with humility.

Share

When did you, and perhaps also someone whom you know well, transform from an enemy of Christ to a valuable servant of His? How was that transformation obvious to others?

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you those places in your life where you have been resistant and/or rebellious, and distracted, and/or procrastinating.

Action:

Today I will pray that the Lord God will find me obedient where I have been resistant - perhaps even rebellious, and cooperative where I have been distracted or procrastinating.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Saturday (Acts 9:23-43)

Saul’s Escape from Damascus

9:23 Now after some days had passed, the Jews plotted together to kill him, 9:24 but Saul learned of their plot against him. They were also watching the city gates day and night so that they could kill him. 9:25 But his disciples took him at night and let him down through an opening in the wall by lowering him in a basket.

Saul Returns to Jerusalem

9:26 When he arrived in Jerusalem, he attempted to associate with the disciples, and they were all afraid of him, because they did not believe that he was a disciple. 9:27 But Barnabas took Saul, brought him to the apostles, and related to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. 9:28 So he was staying with them, associating openly with them in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. 9:29 He was speaking and debating with the Greek-speaking Jews, but they were trying to kill him. 9:30 When the brothers found out about this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus.

9:31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria experienced peace and thus was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, the church increased in numbers.

Peter Heals Aeneas

9:32 Now as Peter was traveling around from place to place, he also came down to the saints who lived in Lydda. 9:33 He found there a man named Aeneas who had been confined to a mattress for eight years because he was paralyzed. 9:34 Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Get up and make your own bed!” And immediately he got up. 9:35 All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

Peter Raises Dorcas

9:36 Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which in translation means Dorcas). She was continually doing good deeds and acts of charity. 9:37 At that time she became sick and died. When they had washed her body, they placed it in an upstairs room. 9:38 Because Lydda was near Joppa, when the disciples heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Come to us without delay.” 9:39 So Peter got up and went with them, and when he arrived they brought him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him, crying and showing him the tunics and other clothing Dorcas used to make while she was with them. 9:40 But Peter sent them all outside, knelt down, and prayed. Turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. 9:41 He gave her his hand and helped her get up. Then he called the saints and widows and presented her alive. 9:42 This became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 9:43 So Peter stayed many days in Joppa with a man named Simon, a tanner.

Prayer

Lord, You called Saul — renamed Paul — but then he now faced the same deadly persecution that he had directed toward believers. May I serve You faithful without regard to personal sacrifice.

Summary & Commentary

Paul/Saul had to escape from Damascus because the religious leaders, as had become their pattern, sought to murder him for preaching Christ.

Paul/Saul returned to Jerusalem and attempted to fellowship with the disciples there but they still feared and mistrusted him. Barnabas "son of encouragement" brought him to the

Apostles with the report of his "Damascus Road experience". They accepted him. Paul/Saul then preached Christ to the Greek-speaking Jews which prompted the murderous religious leaders to conspire against him - leading to Paul/Saul's relocation to Caesarea and then Tarsus.

Meanwhile Peter healed Aeneus in Lyddia then raised Dorcas from the dead in Joppa which led to many new believers.

Interaction
Consider

The are many countries in the world where there are restrictions on evangelism (even Israel) and where it is illegal to the point of imprisonment and death.

Discuss

Does the degree of fear and hatred toward Jesus make it clear what evil power is behind such persecution of and resistance to truth.?

Reflect

Reflect on the pattern of reaction by those who are rebellious against proclamation of Christ, first they try to suppress the message, then failing they they violently attack the messenger.

Share

When have you, or someone you know well, had to change their job, their neighborhood, their school, or other place of association due to persecution for their faith?

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you someone who has suffered for their faith for whom He wants you to pray and to seek some other way to encourage.

Action:

Today I will pray that leaders throughout the world will recognize the truth of Christ and at least cease their persecution of the Church, and perhaps even lead their people to faith.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

 

All Bible text is from the NET unless otherwise indicated - http://bible.org

Note 1: These Studies often rely upon the guidance of the NET Translators from their associated notes. Careful attention has been given to cite that source where it has been quoted directly or closely paraphrased. Feedback is encouraged where credit has not been sufficiently assigned.

Note 2: When NET text is quoted in commentary and discussion all pronouns referring to God are capitalized, though they are lower-case in the original NET text.

Commentary text is from David M. Colburn, D.Min. unless otherwise noted.

Copyright © 2011 by David M. Colburn. This is a BibleSeven Study— “Acts” — prepared by David M. Colburn and edited for bible.org in December of 2011. This text may be used for non-profit educational purposes only, with credit; all other usage requires prior written consent of the author.