He Rejoiced

Acts 16:25-34

About midnight, as Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the (other) prisoners were listening to them, suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the very foundations of the prison were shaken; and at once all the doors were opened and everyone’s shackles were unfastened.  When the jailer, startled out of his sleep, saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was on the point of killing himself, because he supposed that the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul shouted, Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!  Then (the jailer) called for lights and rushed in, and trembling and terrified he fell down before Paul and Silas.  And he brought them out (of the dungeon) and said, Men, what is it necessary for me to do that I may be saved?  And they answered, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (give yourself up to Him, take yourself out of your own keeping and entrust yourself into His keeping) and you will be saved, (and this applies to both) you and your household as well.  And they declared the Word of the Lord (the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God) to him and to all who were in his house.  And he took them the same hour of the night and bathed (them because of their bloody) wounds, and he was baptized immediately and all (the members of) his (house-hold).  Then he took them up into his house and set food before them; and he leaped much for joy and exulted with all his family that he believed in God (accepting and joyously welcoming what He had made known through Christ).   The Amplified Version

HE REJOICED

  • He rejoiced.  He believed in God.
  • He rejoiced.  All his household believed in God.
  • He rejoiced.  His sins were gone.
  • He rejoiced.  No more condemnation.
  • He rejoiced.  His family was saved.
  • He rejoiced.  His name was written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
  • He rejoiced.  His family’s names were written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
  • He rejoiced.  There was a change in His life.
  • He rejoiced.  There was a change in the life of His family.
  • He rejoiced.  He opened His heart to receive the Word of God.
  • He rejoiced.  He received peace everlasting.
  • He rejoiced.  Peace had come to him.
  • He rejoiced.  Peace had come to his family. 
  • He rejoiced.  Peace had come to his home.
  • He rejoiced.  He had no more guilt.
  • He rejoiced.  He had no more sadness.
  • He rejoiced.  He had no more sorrowing for wrong doing.
  • He rejoiced.  He followed in obedience and was baptized.
  • He rejoiced.  His family followed in obedience and was baptized.

LET US REJOICE

  • Let us rejoice.  Our lives are changed.
  • Let us rejoice.  Our hearts are made anew.
  • Let us rejoice.  Our attitudes have been reprogrammed.
  • Let us rejoice.  Our family is different.
  • Let us rejoice.  Our job is different.
  • Let us rejoice.  Our walk is different.
  • Let us rejoice.  Our names are written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
  • Let us rejoice.  Our family’s names are written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life.   
  • Let us rejoice.  We are different.
  • Let us rejoice.  There has been a change.
  • Let us rejoice.  Let us rejoice.  Let us rejoice.

The Church at Philippi

Acts 16:6-40

Philippi was the gateway to Europe.  Named after Philip of Macedonia, Alexander the Great’s father, Philippi lay on the great Roman road, the Egnatian Way.  This road connected Europe from Asia, the West from the East. 

It was a proud Roman colony.  Veteran Roman soldiers ready to retire were granted citizenship if they would go out and settle colonies.  As these colonies proved loyal to Rome, they were granted the title of a Roman Colony.  Their citizens were Roman citizens.  They kept the Roman language, customs, and dress. 

Philippi’s strategic location on the Egnatian Way made it an excellent place for a church.  Travelers passed through the city from both Asia and Europe and from here the gospel could be carried throughout the known world. 

The church at Philippi was founded on Paul’s second missionary journey.  It was here that the gospel first entered Europe.  The church began with three important conversions:  (1) Lydia, an important and successful business woman, with her household; (2) a slave girl set free from a demon possession; (3) the jailer and his entire household. 

This church was made up primarily of Gentile believers.  They appear to have had a very close and loving relationship with Paul, and they were strong supporters of his ministry (see Introduction to Philippians).

Leadership of the Holy Spirit

  • The Holy Spirit forbid Paul to preach in Asia.  (This was not the continent of Asia, as we know it today.  This was the Roman province of Asia which is what is now known as Turkey.)
  • The Holy Spirit would not allow them to preach in Bithynia.  (Look at a map in your Bible.  God stopped Paul from proceeding directly west.  When he tried to go north, God said no.  The only direction left in that location was to go to the city of Troas.)
  • The Holy Spirit directed Paul through a dream.  John 14:16-17; John 14:26; John 16:13

How does the Spirit direct us? 

  • Through supernatural knowledge – Acts 5:1-11
  • Through angels – Acts 8:26
  • Through visions – Acts 9:1-8
  • Through dreams – Acts 9:9-16
  • Through prophecy – Acts 11:27-30
  • Through a word from the Holy Spirit – Acts 13:2
  • Through God’s Word – 2 Timothy 3:16

NOTE:  We must never let a closed door stop us from doing what God has called us to do.  God, who sees the future as if it were the past, knows what doors should be open, what doors should be closed.  Part of learning to trust Him is to accept the doors that are closed, and be obedient while you wait for Him to open the doors that He has for you.  Recognize that Paul was not given a reason why the doors were shut.  Perhaps he never knew.  It was enough that God had closed the doors.  Paul trusted Him to lead and direct him in the right way. 

Unity in Leadership

  • Paul shared this vision with his companions, Silas, Timothy and Luke.  (Note the use of the word “we” beginning here.  Luke, the doctor and writer of Acts, joined Paul at this point.  It appears he remained with Paul until Paul left Philippi (Acts 17:1).  Apparently Luke stayed in Philippi and reunited with Paul when Paul returned to Philippi (Acts 20:5).
  • They concluded that God had called the team to preach the gospel in Macedonia.

1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 – Test all things; hold fast what is good.

Worship on the Sabbath

  • There was no Jewish synagogue
  • There were only women present
  • NOTE: Jewish law required a minimum of ten men to have a service.  Obviously, there must have been a small Jewish population here.  The missionaries were not too good or too important to share the gospel with a group of Gentile women (the word used for “worshipped” in verse 10 is the word used for a Jewish proselyte).  Although there was no synagogue or church in the area, the men found a group of people praying and seeking God. 

Receiving the Gospel

  • Lydia worshipped God
  • God “opened” her heart.  Romans 12:2; Psalm 51:10; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-9
  • She led her household to the Lord.  Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 6:5-9; Deuteronomy 11:19;  Joshua 24:15; Luke 8:38-39; John 1:41; Ephesians 6:4
  • She opened her home for the ministry of God’s Word.   Romans 12:13; Titus 1:8; 1 Peter 4:9

Slave Girl with Spirit of  Divination Or ESP

  • Testimony of slave girl was a true testimony – these men were the servants of the most high God.  Satan always mixes a little truth with his deception. 
  • Her testimony was not one of true confession – a true confession is to acknowledge Jesus as “Lord” and to follow him.
  • ESP, Witchcraft, fortune-telling are not a part of God’s will for the Christian.  Galatians 5:19-21; Leviticus 19:31; 2 Kings 17:17; 1 Chronicles 10:13;  Matthew 24:24

Power of Jesus’ Name

  • Paul addressed the evil spirit in the girl – not the girl herself.
  • Paul relied on the power of Jesus’ name – not his own power.
  • The evil spirit had to obey – the power of Jesus’ name is greater than that of the devil. 

No one is too far gone into sin that God cannot redeem them.

Luke 19:10; Hebrews 7:25.

Greed and Love of Money

  • Owners lost their top money maker.
  • Money and greed corrupted the public officials.

The Forgiveness of Sins

Acts 13:38-39

Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.

  • The Message is preached unto you.

Acts 13:38-39 – Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.

  • The Source – Jesus, a Prince and Savior.

Acts 5:31 – Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

  • The Ground – for His name’s sake.

1 John 2:12 – I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.

  • The Means – through His blood

Ephesians 1:7 – In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.

  • The Condition – if we confess our sins.

1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

  • The Extent – all trespasses

Colossians 2:13 – And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.

  • The Measure – the riches of His grace

Ephesians 1:7 – In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.

A Changed Life

Acts 9:20-22

Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.  Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?”  But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

Paul

  • Immediately – Paul began immediately to preach about the Christ, “The Anointed One.”
  • Amazed – “What a change!”  Paul was changed because of his own experience in coming face to face with the Anointed One (Acts 9:1-6).
  • Increased – Paul was increased in spiritual strength.
  • Confounded – Paul perplexed the Jews in Damascus “for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 18:28). 

Us

  • Immediately – We must begin immediately to serve the Lord – testifying of what He has done in our life.
  • Amazed – “What a change!”  There should be a change in us – in our reactions, our behavior, our attitude – a change that others will notice and know that there has been a change in us.
  • Increased – Where did that knowledge of Paul come from?  The same Lord is available to us to increase our knowledge of His grace and His Word.
  • Confounded – God will also give us an understanding of His Word – of the message of salvation so that we can share with others.

The Tree of Life and Righteousness

Acts 5:30

The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.

Acts 10:39

The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.

1 Peter 2:24

who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed

Trees – used for fruit, lumber, warmth.  In the Bible there are 29 kinds of trees listed – hazel, chestnut, poplar, olive, palm, fig, pomegranate, cedar, fir, juniper, almond, apple, oak, pine, box thorn, brier, willow, sycamore, wild olive, bramble, mulberry, frankincense.  Besides these there is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life.

Tree of life

Genesis 3:24 – So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

Revelation 2:7 – He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”’

Revelation 22:1-2 – And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Tree of righteousness

Isaiah 61:3 – To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

Proverbs 11:30 – The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.

Matthew 5:13-16 – You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.  You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

We understand the light of the world, the salt of the earth, but why trees?  What is the significance of trees?  Trees have fruit, but besides this:  Trees have leaves which give off oxygen and take in carbon monoxide.  Oxygen means life for us.  Carbon monoxide means death to us, but not to trees. 

We are to give off life (oxygen) and absorb the death – the hurt, the pain the suffering (carbon monoxide).

Psalm 52:8 – Butt I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.
I will praise You forever, because You have done it; and in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good.

Good tree – young, pliable; symbol of Israel, symbol of righteousness.

Lying in God’s Presence

Acts 5:1-11

But a certain man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property.  And with his wife’s knowledge and connivance he kept back and wrongfully appropriated some of the proceeds, bringing only a part and putting it at the feet of the apostles.   But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart that you should lie to and attempt to deceive the Holy Spirit, and should (in violation of your promise) withdraw secretly and appropriate to your own use part of the price from the sale of the land?  As long as it remained unsold, was it not still your own?  And (even) after it was sold, was not (the money) at your disposal and under your control?  Why then, is it that you have proposed and purposed in your heart to do this thing?  (How could you have the heart to do such a deed?)  You have not (simply) lied to men (playing false and showing yourself utterly deceitful) but to God.  Upon hearing these words, Ananias fell down and died.  And great dread and terror took possession of all who heard of it.   And the young men arose and wrapped up (the body) and carried it out and buried it.  Now after an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not having learned of what had happened.  And Peter said to her, Tell me, did you sell the land for so much?  Yes, she said, for so much.  Then Peter said to her, How could you two have agreed and conspired together to try to deceive the Spirit of the Lord?  Listen!  The feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out (also).  And instantly she fell down at his feet and died; and the young men entering found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.  And the whole church and all others who heard of these things were appalled (great awe and strange terror and dread seized them).   The Amplified Bible

  • Questions to Answer
  • Is holding back from God sinful? 
  • In this passage of scripture, the subject matter is about money held back from the sale of property.   In what areas of life would holding back be wrong? 
  • Is partial commitment, halfhearted devotion, holding back?
  • Is deceiving and not telling the whole truth misleading and also sinful?
  • Lying in God’s Presence
  • Old Testament – The first sin in the Old Testament…the one that got us all in trouble was based on a lie.  See Genesis 3:4.  In this particular instance, it was Satan that lied.  The sin of Eve was that she believed him and also her husband, then they disobeyed by eating of the forbidden fruit.  As a result all mankind has had to suffer for their disobedience.   Disobedience caused by a lie.  Mankind has greatly feared death, the ultimate judgment because of this sin.
  • New Testament – In this situation several sins were committed.  Conspiring together to deceive, greed, selfishness, coveting, and lying.  The early church was alarmed and feared greatly as a result of this sin.   
  • Old Testament – Achan of Joshua 7 was another instance of deceiving and holding back because of greed and selfishness.  No outright lie was verbally told, but all had been told not to take anything of the spoils of war, and Achan coveted what his eyes saw and hid his sin.  By hiding it from all to see, he was living a lie giving the impression that he had been obedient.  No one knew except the eyes of God.  Achan held back on obedience.   All Israel feared greatly God’s judgment of sin.
  • New Testament – In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus was tempted by Satan as he tried to use Scripture to mislead Him.  Satan was deliberately misquoting and twisting the Scriptures in order to justify what he was doing.  Again, a lie is a sin. 
  • It does not matter how we try to justify our actions, it does not matter how we mince or parse words. 

Matthew 22:37 – Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 

  • Keeping Back is Severely Judged 
  • Withholding from God what is His is severely judged.  It does not matter if it is God’s tithes and our offerings.  It does not matter if it is our devotion or our worship.  It does not matter what part of our life, our commitment.  If we hold back from God, it is sin.
  • We may justify our holding back in the following ways:
  • I need part of God’s tithes and the offerings to take care of this or that.  I know God will understand.  What He understands – you sinned!                       
  • I don’t feel like going to church, but I can go or do just about anything else I want to do.  He understands – you sinned!
  • I’m too shy to be an effective witness, yet I claim to have the Holy Spirit who gives boldness within me.   He understands, you sinned.  You held back from doing what He has called you to do – that’s disobedience.
  • I justify my mouth saying all kinds of crude words when I get upset, when things go wrong, when I’m under pressure because I hold back on my obedience to God’s word. 
  • I try to justify my actions when I’m around people of influence or position, because I want to impress them or flatter them or someone else so I embellish the truth.  NO – I LIED! 
  • When I know the truth and don’t follow it, I am holding back and that is sin.  I may justify it.  I may convince myself that what I am doing is fine.  But, if God’s Word says it is sin and we keep on doing what we know is sin, we are holding back…it does not matter what area of life or what situation it may be, if it is contrary to God’s Word, then it is sin.
  • Withholding From God Those Things That Are His
  • HOLDING BACK IS PARTIAL COMMITMENT.       
  • HOLDING BACK IS DECEPTION.
  • HOLDING BACK IS ALLOWING SATAN TO FILL OUR LIFE INSTEAD OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. 
  • HOLDING BACK IS LYING TO THE HOLY SPIRIT.
  • HOLDING BACK IS ACTING AGAINST AND LYING TO GOD HIMSELF. 
  • God’s Judgments are Always Facing Us
  • The sin of Ananias seems to have been close to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (that is, saying the work of the Holy Spirit is of the devil).  The sin of Ananias, of holding back was saying…
  • The work of the Holy Spirit allows sin.
  • The work of the Holy Spirit in a life still allows a person to withhold from God a portion of his/her own life for himself.
  • The movement of the Holy Spirit in a life still allows the devil to fill a heart with some sin.
  • A person can be both righteous and worldly at the same time.
  • The Holy Spirit is less important in life than doing my own thing.

The First Martyr – Stephen

Chapter 7 of the Book of Acts

When Stephen was brought to trial before the Sanhedrin – the Jewish religious council – his life was hanging in the balance.  Yet, Stephen did not make excuses for his actions nor try to defend himself.  Rather, he used this opportunity to proclaim the mercy and grace of God to the Jewish nation.  In essence, he indicted his accusers.  He told them they were displaying the same spirit of unbelief that their ancestors had done in the past as they resisted the work of God in their nation.  He did this by illustrating God’s hand in the past history of Israel.

Abraham – the founding father of Israel.  To Abraham had been given the call to go to a land which God would show him – and someday give to his descendants.  Stephen shows that from the very beginning of their nation, God was the one in control. 

God (the God of Glory – ho theos tes doxes) – the God who possess and manifests glory.  God of the outward and visible glory.  It is the glory, radiance, brilliance of God’s Person which bursts forth from His Supreme Being.  The idea is that God appeared and revealed His glory to Abraham) appeared to Abraham – while he was still living in Mesopotamia.

God promised him a land – if he would “get out” of his present country and life.  The land was to be one of God’s choosing, not Abraham’s.  The land was to be an inheritance to his descendants.

Today, God has appeared to us while we were yet in sin (Romans 5:6-8; John 3:16), calling us to “get out” of our present country and life (Acts 2:40; 2 Corinthians 6:17-18; Ephesians 5:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 John 2:15-16). 

Romans 5:6-8 – For when we were still without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

2 Corinthians 6:17-18 – Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.  Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.  I will be a Father to you and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.

God has promised us a special relationship with Him now and a future home in heaven (John 14:19-21; John 15:9-11; John 14:1-4; Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 13:14). 

John 14:19-21 – A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me.  Because I live, you will live also.  At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.  He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.  And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.

John 14:1-4 – Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believer also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go t prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.  And where I go you know, and the way you know.

Our relationship with God is something we need to pass on to our children as an inheritance Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 6:1-9; 2 Timothy 2:2).

Ephesians 6:4 – And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and the admonition of the Lord.

Joseph – a type of Christ. 

Joseph was chosen by God, but rejected by his brothers (Genesis 37). 

Joseph suffered for years, but gained ultimate victory. 

God had a plan (Galatians 4:4-5).  Man may try to stop it because of envy, because of rebellion, but God will always work out His plan regardless of what man does to try to stop it. 

Galatians 4:4-5 – But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

Moses – the great deliverer.  The time came for God’s people to receive the promise made to Abraham (Genesis 15:1-7; Genesis 15:13-14).  But they had forgotten the promise – it was not the focus of their lives.  They had grown comfortable in Egypt.  God had to act to cause them to want deliverance and then to bring about that deliverance.  They were powerless to make the promise come true. 

Moses was stirred into action by God.  However, he apparently sought to do God’s will his way. 

Moses was originally rejected also. 

Again, it was God who appeared to Moses, it was God who called him to save the people, it was God who sent the miracles and brought Israel out of Egypt. 

Charges Against Israel

The people worshipped false gods rather than the One True God.    God turned away from them (Romans 1:21-28).

The people carried the tabernacle of false gods in their hearts.  Again, God turned away from them (2 Kings 17:5-18). (Molech was the sun god to whom children were often sacrificed.  The idol had the head of an ox and arms that stretched out.  There was a hollow place underneath the arms where a fire was built.  The fire consumed the sacrifices lying in the outstretched arms above.  Molech was the god of the Amorites.  Remphan was a god of the Egyptians, Arabs and Phoenician.  It is thought to have been the worship of the planet Saturn.)

The people had no excuse.  God had given them the tabernacle, great leaders, the temple.  Still they chose the world instead of God.

The people did not understand the temple.  They did not understand that God was not limited to one place (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 6:18; John 4:24).

The present generation of Israelites were rejecting God just as their fathers had done.  They were “stiff-necked” (sklerotracheloi) – hard necked, obstinate, stubborn.  They were “uncircumcised in heart” (aperitmetoi kardiais) – idolaters, false worshippers, ungodly.  They “resisted” – deliberately opposed or rushed against God, actively struggled and fought against God. 

The people persecuted all the prophets – the very ones who predicted the coming of the Messiah  (2 Chronicles 36:14-16).

Acts 7:54-60 (The Amplified Bible) – Now upon hearing these things, they [the Jews] were cut to the heart and infuriated, and they ground their teeth against [Stephen].  But he, full of the Holy Spirit and controlled by Him, gazed into heaven and saw the glory (the splendor and majesty) of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand; and he said, Look! I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at God’s right hand!  But they raised a great shout and put their hands over their ears and rushed together upon him.  Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him, and the witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.  And while they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, Lord Jesus, receive and accept and welcome my spirit!  And falling on his knees, he cried out loudly, Lord, fix not this sin upon them [lay it not to their charge]! And when he had said this, he fell asleep [in death]. 

Do I have the faith and courage of Stephen?

Is my testimony so great that I could possibly take some sort of physical torment by unbelievers?

Stephen was totally innocent of wrong doing in his life according to the Scriptures.  Could we fit that category – totally innocent?

Have we ever cried out in a loud voice about the goodness of God?  Is our testimony so great and persuasive that some might stop their ears?

When we are receiving verbal or possibly physical abuse for our stand for the Lord will we have the same forgiveness as Stephen?

Unlike Achan in the Old Testament who deserved punishment for his sin, Stephen did not deserve the treatment he received.  How do we respond to harsh treatment by others?  How do we respond to verbal abuse or criticism concerning our faith?

Arrested

Acts 4:1-22

Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”

So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

  • Arrested for Proclaiming the Truth
  • Arrested “as they were speaking.” 
  • Arrested by the religionist leaders.

The religious establishment was threatened by what the disciples were preaching.  If Jesus had arose from the dead, then He must have been what He claimed to be – the Son of God.  If that were true, they had murdered the Son of God.  If Jesus was really the Messiah, their very existence as priests and leaders in the Temple would be done away with. 

We should not be surprised if we are condemned, talked about, persecuted when we witness for Christ.  We should not be surprised if the very ones who cause us the most trouble are those who seem to be so righteous.

  • Their preaching bore results in spite of the persecution.

Man may hinder our witnessing, may make it more difficult, but he cannot stop the truth of God’s Word

NOTE:  The Sanhedrin was the ruling body of the Jews.  It had 72 members and was presided over by the High Priest.  The priests were made up of the male descendants of Aaron (Exodus 28:1, Numbers 3:1-3, Numbers 18:1-7).  By the time of Jesus there were over 20,000 priests.  Since there was only one temple, the priests were divided into groups.  Each group served in the temple for one week twice a year (1 Chronicles 24:1-6).  The High Priest was supposed to be a spiritual office appointed by the Jewish leaders, but by the time of Jesus, it had evolved into a political office and the Roman government appointed the high priest.  Caiaphas was the high priest appointed by the Romans.  However, Annas, who had been removed by the Romans, was apparently still the power behind the throne, and had tremendous influence among the Jewish leaders. 

  • Christ is Credited with the Power
  • Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

Matthew 10:18-20 – And you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.  But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak, for it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speaks, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

Mark 13:11 – But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.

Luke 21:12-15 – But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.

  • Peter and John took no personal credit
  • It was the name of Jesus Christ.  To the Jewish mind, a person’s name was the same thing as the person themselves.
  • To sign your name to a document was to pledge yourself.  The name of Jesus simply stands for the power, the might, the very being of Jesus Himself.  There is no magic in the words Jesus Christ.  The power is in the person behind the name.
  • Jesus had been crucified.  He had died.
  • Jesus had arose again.  He was alive.

NOTE:  Remember, we are reading this in the English translation of the Greek.  However, Peter would have been speaking in Aramaic.  What He would have said was Jesus the Messiah.  Christ is the Greek word for Messiah.  Peter was bolding telling the Jewish leaders that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, the promised Savior of their nation. 

  • Jesus Christ is the Source of Salvation.        
  • He is the Chief Cornerstone.  The main foundation. 

Psalm 118:22 – The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone…

Matthew 21:42 – Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.  This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’”

Ephesians 2:20 – having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.

1 Peter 2:6 – Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.

  • Jesus Christ alone saves.  There is no other name to call on. 

John 3:16-17 – For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.

1 Corinthians 2:2 – For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified.

1 Corinthians 3:11 – For no other foundation can man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

NOTE:  The words used here – salvation and whole – are the same Greek word – sesotai.  It means to be saved, to be made whole, to be safe and sound, to be healed.  It means that a person is made whole and continues to be whole.  It means that the man was made whole in both body and soul.  Salvation in the Biblical sense includes all of man – spirit, body, soul (mind, emotions and will).

  • Fellowship with Jesus Christ Changes Men
  • Boldness
  • Power
  • Knowledge

Here is a challenge to us.  Do we spend enough time with Jesus that the world notices our boldness, our power, our knowledge (knowledge that does not come by natural means)?  Jesus longs for our fellowship with Him.

Matthew 18:20 – For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.

John 14:23 – If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

John 17:20-24 – I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word (that’s you and me); that they all may be one, as You, Father are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us….I in them, and You in Me;….that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.  Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am….

Revelation 3:20 – Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

  • Refusal to Compromise the Message
  • Regardless of threats
  • God must be obeyed
  • We cannot help but share what God has done for us

Matthew 5:11 – Blessed (happy) are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

2 Timothy 3:12 -“And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

1 Peter 3:15 – …be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason for the hope that is in you….

1 Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Matthew 5:16; John 15:8; 1 Corinthians 6:20; Colossians 1:12; Psalm 9:11; Psalm 35:28

The prophet, Jeremiah suffered persecution for proclaiming the message of God to Israel.  Finally, he said, “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.”  He concluded that “But His word was in my heart like a burning fire (fire shut up in my bones); I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.”

How could someone find a cure for Aids or cancer and not tell it to the world?  How could someone find a solution to the violence in our schools and not tell it to the world?  How could someone find an answer for all our abused children and not tell it to the world?

Well, we have the answer! It is Jesus Christ, crucified and risen again. 

SHOUT IT OUT!!!! LET THE WORLD KNOW THAT JESUS SAVES (heals, makes whole, makes safe, complete, sound.)

NOTE:  After the disciples were released in today’s story, they reported back to the church all the threats that had been given to them.  Notice the church’s response.  They did not, as we would probably do, cry out for protection.  They did not question why God had permitted these threats?  They did not ask for God to rain down judgment on their accusers?  They did not ask God to please stop the threats or the persecution.

Rather, they asked for more boldness for themselves that they would continue to speak the Word and not be intimidated by the threats.  They asked for signs and wonders to be done through the name of Jesus.

Perhaps we need to change our prayers.

The Church Grows

And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.  So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

  • The Church Received the Word Gladly. 
  • Jesus is the “Word.”  We cannot separate Jesus and the Word.  To receive one is to receive the other.  Christianity is unique among all religions in that our religion is based on a person – not a philosophy or set of teachings.

John 1:1-4, 14 – In the beginning was the Word (logos – a transmission of thought, communication, divine revelation, instruction) and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word became flesh (refers to the substance of the body) and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory….

Jesus is the living logos (John 1:1), the Bible is the written logos (Heb. 4:12) and the Holy Spirit utters the spoken logos (1 Corinthians 2:13).

  • Not everyone received the Word. 
  • Baptism followed belief.
  • Joining the church followed belief.
  • The Church Continued Steadfastly.

Steadfastly (proskarterountes) to continue, persevere, endure, stick, persist.  A person who does not quit, back off, fade away or slip back. 

  • Apostles’ doctrine (didache – the teaching, instruction).  If a church is to grow and persevere, there must be teaching of the Word. 

Matthew 28:19-20 – Go therefore and make disciples….teaching them….

2 Timothy 2:2 – And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

  • Worship and the Lord’s Supper – “Breaking of bread” refers to the observance of communion.  They observed the Lord’s Supper often because it points to the cross and all that God has done for us.  It also points toward His return.  The Lord’s Supper was a part of their worship.  Worship together is essential to the church.

Luke 22:19 – And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

1 Corinthians 11:26 – For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he comes.

Hebrews 10:24-25 – And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,….and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

  • Prayers – The Early Church was a praying church.  Over and over you see them gathering for prayer – when facing decisions, when facing persecution.  Look for the emphasis on prayer as you study the Book of Acts.
  • The Church Experienced God’s Mighty Power – Awe and respect were given them by the people, and wonders and signs were done through their leaders.
  • The Church Experienced Unity and Ministered to the Needy
  • There was no one in their midst who had needs unmet. 
  • They visited from house to house.
  • Their lives were lived in joy and simplicity.

Matthew 19:21; Matthew 19:29; Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:31-34; John 13:35; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesus 4:28; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; Hebrews 13:5

  • The Church Experienced Worship
  • The Church Experienced Growth
  • God was the one who added to the church.  Only God can draw a person to Him and save Him.
  • The lives of the early church were used of God to draw people to Him.  God has chosen to use the church as the means to win souls. 

Acts 2:47 – praising God and having favor with all the people.

As you study Acts, note how people responded because of the lives and the actions of the church. 

Questions for us: 

  • Are we receiving the Word of God gladly?  Do we make every effort to meet regularly with fellow believers in community and Bible Study, to learn ourselves and to teach others?  Do we diligently study the Word at home?
  • Do we persevere, without slacking off, without slipping back, in study of God’s Word, in fellowship with other believers, in worship and observance of the Lord’s Supper, in prayer with other believers?
  • Are we experiencing God’s mighty power in our midst?  Are we experiencing unity among ourselves?  Are we sharing our lives together?  Are we ministering to the needy among us?  Do we even know what the needs are among us? 
  • Are we truly worshipping God as we gather each week?  Are we really allowing His presence to be among us?
  • Are we experiencing growth in our church – growth that comes as we live our lives in obedience to His Word and He draws people to Him as a result of our lives and actions?

The Day of Pentecost Experience

Acts 1:8

But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses (one who tells what he has seen or heard or knows – comes from the same root word as our word for martyr – one who bears witness by his death) to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Acts 2:1-4

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

  • The Pentecostal Experience
  • To be baptized with the Holy Spirit is to be filled with the Spirit of God.  It is described as an outpouring of the Spirit by which the believer is filled with the presence of the third Person of the Trinity, who serves the believer as Paraclete (advocate of intercessor).  This indwelling as Paraclete gives the believer the special endowment of the power of God. 
  • The Scriptures use the term “baptize” with the Holy Spirit when God poured out His spirit on the disciples on the day of Pentecost.  This term is also applicable to the other instances recorded in the book of Acts where believers received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. 

Acts 8:14-17 – Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit

Acts 10:44-48 – While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.  Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

Acts 19:1-6 – And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”  So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”  And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?”  So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”  Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”  When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

  • The special characteristic of this experience is that the believer is filled with the Spirit.  In Ephesians 5:18, this concept of being filled with the Spirit stands in contract to being “drunk with wine.”  To be filled with the Spirit is to be brought under the influence of the Spirit of God so that the Spirit governs the personal nature of the believer in mind, emotions and will.
  • The Holy Spirit is the personal agent for the revelation of God.

1 Corinthians 2;9-11 – But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.

  • His various titles in Scripture identify Him as the Spirit of God. 

Matthew 3:16 – When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.

See also Isaiah 11:2; 61:1 and Luke 4:18

  • In Romans 8:9 we see that He is called the Spirit of Christ.  In Galatians 4:6 we find Him called the Spirit of His (God’s) Son.  There are many other titles of the Holy Spirit and special characteristics of these titles are that they identify the Holy Spirit in His relationship in the holy Trinity, i.e., in His divine nature.
  • The experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is promised to those who believe on Jesus Christ for salvation.

John 14:15-17 – “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

  • After giving the promise of the Holy Spirit in John 14:16, Christ prayed for the sanctifying (cleansing, purifying) of the disciples in John 17. 
  • To be filled with the Spirit is to be freed from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:2-4 – For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

  • It is also to walk in the Spirit, manifesting the graces of Jesus Christ. 

Galatians 5:16-25 – say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.