Well, things are beginning to happen. The apostles have a lot to take care of now. The number of believers is growing rapidly, needs are arising in the community and there are not enough leaders to handle the teachings, preaching and all of the needs. Stress is building.
Crowds of people are flocking the apostles and carrying the sick to just be near to them with the hopes of being healed. It sounds like mayhem! The Sadducees and the High Priest were angry and jealous of all the attention the apostles were getting. They decided to arrest them and put them in jail. However, God had a different plan. While the apostles were locked up in jail, He sent an angel to free them. The jail guards never even knew they were gone! God told them to return to the temple and continue preaching! To the very place where they had gotten in trouble for preaching!
The next day, the the high priest called for the apostles. The guards went to unlock them and realized they were gone! They were perplexed to say the least. Someone told them they were back in the temple preaching, so they once again went and arrested them. They wanted to kill them. Here is where it gets really interesting. One member of the council names Gamaliel, who happened to be an expert on religious law, addressed the council. He basically said to leave them be. “If they are teaching and doing things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is of God, you will not be able to stop them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39)
I can’t help but wonder if this highly esteemed, very popular member of the council was beginning to believe! He stopped the Sadducees from killing the apostles and gave more opportunities to spread the news of Jesus. Did he realize what he was doing? Did he think it would fizzle out like some false prophets in the past or was he recognizing the real deal and was afraid to mess with God? Makes you wonder a bit, doesn’t it?
Chapter Six shares with us how the apostles decided to appoint 7 men to serve the immediate needs of the group of followers. This would give them the opportunity to focus more on praying, teaching and preaching. The people chose the 7 men and they were prayed over by the apostles.
One of these men, Stephen, was full of God’s grace and power. He performed miracles and signs among the people he served. He was soon arrested for all of this. As they started questioning Stephen, accusing him of blasphemy and such, he face became bright like that of an angel. He had complete peace over him despite what was going on. He was accused of speaking against the temple and speaking against Moses.
Stephen replied with a long narration of the Old Testament. He proved to them he was a man of God and knew the law. He knew the ancestry and he understood the chain of events that had taken place in the past to bring him to this very point in time. At the end of his narration and retelling, he told them that they are doing the exact same as their ancestors did to every other prophet before, persecuting those following God’s Word. He told them they were deliberately disobeying God’s law.
Needless to say, the leaders of the church were furious. As they raged, Stephen looked up and saw Jesus standing at God’s right hand! He announced his vision which only made things worse for him. They dragged him outside and stoned him to death. The official witness of this stoning was a man named Saul.
Stephen was the first martyr to die for Jesus Christ. He wasn’t afraid. He even declared in his last breath, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” (Acts 7:60)
I wonder if I am that faithful. Can I be that strong in the face of adversity and persecution. We live in a country where we are blessed with the freedom to worship and pray. We do not need to hide or fear for our lives. There are many in this world that do suffer persecution for being Christians still today.
I’d like to ask you to say a prayer of Thanksgiving. Don’t take for granted the freedom you have to worship and pray. Thank God for it and dig deep. Share your feelings with him and also pray for those in the world who face torture and death because they love Jesus.
God bless you all. Have a wonderful week.
Wednesday – Acts 5
Thursday – Acts 6
Friday – Acts 7
Saturday – Acts 8
Sunday – Acts 9
Monday – Reflection
Tuesday – Praises & Petitions