Monday, May 23, 2022

2022.05.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 8:1–8

Read Acts 8:1–8

Questions from the Scripture text: Who was doing what in Acts 8:1a? What now arose? Against which church? What happened to them (verse 1b)? Throughout which two regions? Except whom? Who carried whom (Acts 8:2)? What did they do for him? What did Saul do (Acts 8:3)? Entering where? Dragging off whom? Handing them over (“committing”) where? What did the scattered ones do (Acts 8:4)? Where? Who went where in Acts 8:5? What did he preach to them? Who responded in what manner (Acts 8:6)? What did they do, in addition to hearing? What two types of signs particularly attended him (Acts 8:7)? How does Acts 8:8 sum up the outcome?

How should Christians deal with persecution? At the time of this devotional’s writing, this is a question on the minds of many believers. Ultimately, this passage answers that they should rejoice in the ongoing victory of the gospel.

Where Persecution Comes From: God’s purpose to save
Thus far, great multitudes in Jerusalem have been converted—even from among the priests (Acts 6:7). But then the first martyr is murdered for his witness to Christ (Acts 7:58–60), and it’s as if the sharks finally get the taste of the blood. Saul the clothes-keeper (Acts 7:58) and consenter (Acts 8:1) is important. But he’s by no means the only one. “A great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered.” In one sense, persecution came from the fact that not everyone gets converted; and, once they figure out what the gospel really says about them, they hate it with murderous rage. But, in another and more important sense, persecution comes from the providence of God.

Where Persecution Sends the Gospel: wherever the Lord is saving next
When Acts 8:1 says, “throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria,” we remember Acts 1:8, “you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Suddenly, we see this persecution not as phase 1 of Satan’s counterattack but as phase 2 of Jesus’s evangelism plan. His gospel is never stationary or dormant. Often, He humiliates His enemies by making them the driving force by which He takes it to the place of its next success.

What Persecution Sends There: apostolic message, power, and joy
The apostles didn’t go along. We know that Philip the deacon is about to become quite the evangelist (Acts 8:4–13, Acts 8:26–40). But it seems likely that it is at this point that elders, too, were ordained. When this persecution brings the gospel to Antioch (Acts 11:19–20), there are already elders in Jerusalem to receive the gift in Acts 11:30

It seems likely that with the apostles staying with the believers in Jerusalem (end of Acts 8:1), other elders were ordained for the ministry of the Word throughout Judea and Samaria. And what a ministry it was! “Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word” (Acts 8:4). Persecution didn’t silence the gospel. It multiplied where it was preached. And of course, what is preached in “the Word” (end of verse 4) is Christ Himself (end of Acts 8:5). 

The apostles didn’t go, but the apostolic message did. And God attested to this by apostolic signs (Acts 8:6–7, cf. Acts 6:8), and especially by apostolic joy (Acts 8:8). 

When persecution arrives, it is not so much the end of one era of God’s saving as it is the beginning of the next one!

Whom/how do you tell about Jesus wherever you go? Where might persecution force you/other believers to go? What will you be praying to happen there? How might you serve its happening?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us for when we lose heart at the prospect of persecution. Thank You for Your patience and wisdom in this age in which You are causing Your salvation to flourish to the ends of the earth! Grant unto us courage and zeal for the gospel, and attend new evangelism by the powerful working of Your Spirit, so that new cities would be filled with the joy of the salvation of Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH424 “All Authority and Power”

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