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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.
The Scriptorium

Know Where You Stand

Stand with Stephen and Philip. Acts 8

Scattered Seeds: Acts 8 (7)

Pray Psalm 69.13-15.
But as for me, my prayer is to You,
O LORD, in the acceptable time;
O God, in the multitude of Your mercy,
Hear me in the truth of Your salvation.
Deliver me out of the mire,
And let me not sink;
Let me be delivered from those who hate me,
And out of the deep waters.
Let not the floodwater overflow me,
Nor let the deep swallow me up;
And let not the pit shut its mouth on me.

Sing Psalm 69.13-15.
(Greensleeves: What Child Is This?)
O Lord, we make our prayer to You; receive our words, O Savior!
Let lovingkindness see us through, and answer us with favor!
Lord, lift us above the mire; deliv’rance is our one desire!
Let not the floods conspire to swallow us forever!

Read Acts 8.1-40; meditate on verses 1-4.

Preparation
1. What changes came to the Church in this chapter?

2. Which parts of Acts 1.8 are being fulfilled here?

Meditation
The book of Acts can serve as a kind of template for the Christian life, as the ongoing work of Christ takes root in souls and communities, and within peoples and nations.

Acts 1-7 shows us the first phase of the ongoing work of Christ, in which the Kingdom launches in the power of the Holy Spirit, believers are gathered out of the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1.13), and a new life of faith and Kingdom community becomes established. We saw how the evidence of the Kingdom – that not-of-this-world realm where King Jesus is bringing righteousness, peace, and joy to light (Jn. 18.36; Rom. 14.17, 18) – became so compelling that multitudes were drawn to Christ and His new community, precisely as the prophets had foretold (Mic. 4.1-8; Is. 2.1-4).

Chapter 8 begins the next phase of that ongoing work, in which the Kingdom – launched and established – begins to be dispersed according to the strategy and outline Christ announced in Acts 1.8. Every believer has a place in this template, through a multitude of callings, gifts, and skills, so that the Kingdom is dispersed by each of us individually in our Personal Mission Fields (Act 8.4) and by the work of gifted evangelists and missionaries like Philip. This dispersing of the good seed of the Kingdom will lead to the replication of the ongoing work in people and places unto the uttermost parts of the earth.

Nothing can stop this ongoing work of King Jesus. However, many would obstruct, divert, interfere with, or otherwise delay it. But the work goes on as the Kingdom is launched in new people and places, and becomes established through Scripture, prayer, worship, and oneness. Where the faith becomes firmly rooted and established, the dispersing of Kingdom seed takes place, as believers work their mission fields and churches collaborate to reach the lost in their communities and beyond.

We’re either participating in and contributing to this process, or, like Saul of Tarsus, we’re hindering it by our disobedience, or like Simon the magician, we’re trying to milk it for our own petty interests and thus are more of an obstruction than a help. Make sure you know where you stand in the stream of Christ’s ongoing work, and that you’re swimming with, and not against, the current of the Lord.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Affliction” aptly describes the situation in which our early brothers and sisters in Christ found themselves.

They were afflicted by Saul and others who threatened them for their faith.
They were afflicted in grief for their dear brother Stephen.
They were afflicted through separation and dispersion into unfamiliar places and lands.
And they were afflicted by the havoc and confusion within the church through persecution.
All this contained in three short verses in Acts (8.1-3).

It is enough mayhem and sadness to fill an entire book.

I cherish the thought, that in the midst of all these trials, “devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him” (Acts 8.2). These courageous men were not afraid to show respect and deep sorrow because of the death of Stephen. Paul wrote, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (1 Thess. 4.13, 14).
And as was recorded in Acts 7.60, their dear brother Stephen “fell asleep”.

But Paul does not tell us that we shouldn’t sorrow; he merely points out that our sorrow is not without hope.
So these men were sorrowing greatly for their loss. They were sad. They would miss this man who brought them so much joy and encouragement. And who showed them how to live kindly and courageously.

Even to this day, Stephen is a man we revere for his faithful work in the Kingdom of God. Let’s remember that he was first chosen for his good character, “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6.5), to serve the Hellenist widows their daily distribution. He was also called to be full of power, and he did great wonders and signs among the people. And all these callings led to his final calling of martyr. Which he did as well as he did all his other callings.

Stephen knew and read the Psalms. Here is one that reminds me of him and his faithful work.

Afflicted, I believe His Word, though lying men would undo me.
What shall I render to the Lord for all His blessings to me?
Salvation’s cup I lift above and call upon the God of love
and pay my vows most truly.

How sweet to Him when saints depart—save me, Your servant, Savior!
From sin You loosed my wand’ring heart; I praise Your Name forever!
On You I call, my vows to pay; here in Your Presence I would stay
Your paise to offer ever.
(Psalm 116.10-19 The Ailbe Psalter)

Stephen knew where he stood. And his stance was clear to everyone who observed him. And those who observed him followed his example in bold witness, gossiping the Gospel wherever they went.

For reflection
1. What do we learn about our calling to be witnesses (Acts 1.8) from Acts 8?

2. What would “gossiping the Gospel” look like in your Personal Mission Field?

3. How can Christians encourage one another to be more consistent in sharing the Good News of Jesus?

Wherever the established believer is driven, he carries the knowledge of the gospel, and makes known the preciousness of Christ in every place. Where a simple desire of doing good influences the heart, it will be found impossible to shut a man out from all opportunities of usefulness. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Acts 8.1-4

Pray Psalm 69.34-36.
Pray for yourself and your church, that you will praise God more consistently and be used of Him to bring many to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sing Psalm 69.34-36.
(Greensleeves: What Child Is This?)
Let heav’n and earth now praise You, Lord, the seas and all their creatures,
for You will save us by Your Word and build Your City’s features.
There we will with Jesus dwell and know His blessings full and well.
His glorious Name we’ll tell to every man and creature!

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website, www.ailbe.org, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all of the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

Have you mapped out your Personal Mission Field? Watch this brief video, then download the worksheet and get started. Our monthly Personal Mission Field Workshop is chock-full of helpful suggestions for doing the ongoing work of Christ day by day.

If you find Scriptorium helpful in your walk with the Lord, please seek the Lord, asking Him whether you should contribute to the support of this daily ministry with your financial gifts. As the Lord leads, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card or through PayPal or Anedot, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

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.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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