Scattered Seeds: Acts 8 (1)
Pray Psalm 53.5, 6.
There they are in great fear
Where no fear was,
For God has scattered the bones of him who encamps against you;
You have put them to shame,
Because God has despised them.
Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!
When God brings back the captivity of His people,
Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad.
Sing Psalm 53.5, 6.
(Leoni: The God of Abraham Praise)
The wicked flee in shame; their ways our God rejects.
Renew Your people in Your Name with great effects!
Let great rejoicing sound once we renewed have been,
and let salvation’s Word resound from us again!
Read Acts 8.1-3.
1. What happened in Jerusalem following Stephen’s death?
2. To what did this lead?
Jesus promised His followers that they would experience persecution (Jn. 15.18-20), but it’s not likely the believers were expecting what they began to experience here. We have seen the pent-up anger of the religious leaders of Jerusalem building in chapters 4 through 7. Threats and warnings heated up to beating; and beating boiled over to murder. Having gone that far, those who opposed the faith of Christ felt no qualms about unleashing a broad-based, violent assault against the believing community.
This is the same Christian community whose witness had won many to Christ, and whose manifest love for one another and their neighbors had convinced a great company of the priests to believe. No matter. All it takes is one incident to unleash the forces of persecution. The fledgling Christian movement was forced out of the nest, and a new stage in the ongoing work of Christ began. Launched in chapters 1 and 2, and established in chapters 3-7, that ongoing work of Jesus now began to disperse outward from Jerusalem toward the uttermost parts of the earth, where it would be replicated far and wide.
The time had come for the Kingdom to break out of its nursery soil in Jerusalem. Our Lord has many ways of scattering the seeds of the Church to fulfill the Acts 1.8 vision of His ongoing work. We need to be ready and willing to follow as He leads, however He chooses.
Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
In the face of persecution, it is essential that the persecuted know their cause is true.
In our case, we can rest assured that everything about God is perfect and true:
“Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth.”
“You are near, O LORD and all Your commandments are truth.”
“The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”
“Every word of God is pure [flawless, true]; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.”
(Ps. 119.142, 151, 160; Prov. 30.5)
During the troubling times of the early Church’s persecution and dispersion, the testimony of Stephen bolstered their faith and confidence in the truth of Jesus. Stephen was a first-hand witness to the absolute truth of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, their Savior and ours.
Stephen knew Jesus. He had walked with Him and learned from Him. Fellowshipped with Him. And Stephen recognized Him. He saw Him with his own eyes! “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7.56)
That recognition and confirmation solidified their faith and determination to go forward in courage, no matter what. And our faith is solidified by these same words and bolsters us to “be ready and willing to follow as He leads, however He chooses.”
The truth of Gamaliel’s words continue to be proved: “…if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it” (Acts 5.39).
1. How should the example of saints and martyrs encourage us to persevere in our witness for the Lord?
2. What should we do day by day to remind ourselves that our cause is true? How can this help to prepare us for opposition and persecution?
3. Do you pray daily for God to revive His Church? For His salvation once again to come roaring out of Zion for the salvation of the world? Should you?
Though persecution must not drive us from our work, yet it may send us to work elsewhere. Wherever the established believer is driven, he carries the knowledge of the gospel, and makes known the preciousness of Christ in every place. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Acts 8.1-4
Pray Psalm 53.1-4.
Pray for the lost people of the world, for those who persecute Christians, and for those who oppose the Gospel by any means. Pray that God would strike fear in their hearts at knowing they are opposing and persecuting Him. And pray that He would revive His Church and send witnesses to lead many of the lost to salvation in Jesus Christ.
Sing Psalm 53.1-4.
(Leoni: The God of Abraham Praise)
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God at all!”
Corrupt are they in whole and part, unjust and small.
Not one of them does good; God sees their wicked ways.
None understands the Word of God or gives Him praise.
Have all these wicked men no knowledge of God’s grace?
The Church they hate with passion and seek not God’s face.
Lord, strike their hearts with fear, where fear was not before.
And scatter all who camp so near Your holy door.
T. M. and Susie Moore
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.