Read This Week: Acts 14
But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. – Acts 14:14-18 NIV
The famed American evangelist, Dwight L. Moody once said, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter.” When we look at the content of our lives and activities, are the things we care about temporal or important? What do we worship? Are we devoted to eternal things or the things that don’t really matter?
These are the questions that Paul answers at Lystra and Derbe. While visiting these cities with Barnabas, Paul heals a man with crippled feet. When he does, the people perceive him to be the Greek god, Hermes, and they even think that Barnabas is Zeus. The crowd then begins to gather bulls and flowers for sacrifice to the two apostles. This attempted pagan worship righteously angers Paul and he says to them:
Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.
Paul and Barnabas would not accept human praise or worship for something that God did. They opposed that thinking and practice by telling the people the truth about the one true God. Paul also took the opportunity to communicate that putting their faith in man and the creations of the world was putting their hope and confidence in worthless things. They were focused on and devoted to things that didn’t matter while missing the beauty, power, transcendence, and relationship with Jesus that would mean everything for their lives.
Paul makes it clear to them and us that there is only one thing worthy of our worship, time, energy, passion, and desire. It is the living God who is loving, forgiving, and good. It is the God of the Ages who has been patient, gracious, and faithful to us even when we forsake Him and run after the temporary things.
We have to be careful not to be like the mobs of people in this passage and constantly look for signs and wonders from worthless things that this world has to offer. We should avoid putting our trust in and worshipping unseen gods that make empty promises about meaning and purpose. We should not forsake the eternal for the momentary. We should live our lives for the One who created us for an eternal purpose instead of for the things that, at the end of our lives, don’t really matter.
Read This Week: Acts 13
“We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “’You are my son; today I have become your father.’” God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said, “’I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.” – Acts 13:32-34 NIV
The descriptor an oldie but goodie is often used to describe something that came about or originated long ago but is still relevant, useful, and excellent in the modern era. It can be a lesson, book, song, or event that happened or was created years previously but remains likable, reliable, and helpful to those who came long after it started. Things that are considered old but still good have staying power for all time.
The premise behind an oldie but a goodie was the crux of Paul’s sermon to the people of Pisidian Antioch in Acts 13. He gives them a history lesson about God’s providence for and covenant with Israel that culminates in the promise and fulfillment of Jesus Christ. He says in verse 23: From this man’s descendants, God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. He tells them about God’s plan for the redemption of mankind that originated in ages past and is the best news and truth they could ever receive in the present.
Sixteen times in verses 17-30, Paul emphasizes the eternality and supremacy of God throughout history. He wants his audience to know that the Lord is the central figure in all of history and his will for all predates even time and space, but is and will be relevant to the end of days. The Apostle then brings this section of his message to the communication of the gospel. He points to the arrival of David’s greater Son, Jesus, the promised Messiah, and Savior of the world. The reason for and fulfillment of it all.
The gospel of Jesus Christ and the salvation it holds for the world is the greatest oldie but goodie there is. It never wanes in its veracity or flickers in its illumination. It never becomes obsolete or outdated no matter how advanced or sophisticated we become as a people. It never loses its power or diminishes its effectiveness. It still changes lives, reshapes communities, transforms cities, and brings glory to God in the twenty-first century just as it did among the people listening to the sound of Paul’s voice when he said:
We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, by raising Jesus.
The gospel is the story that never gets old. It is one that a weary world should never be tired of hearing and one those who claim it should never be tired of sharing. It will never go away and will remain the transcendent message of this day and all those to come. It is an oldie but quite certainly an unparalleled goodie.
Read This Week: Acts 12
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches.” – Acts 12:6-7 & 11 NIV
We are all captivated by stories of escape. When we watch, read, or hear narratives involving people escaping from danger, oppression, and difficulty, it inspires and evokes in us an innate sense of freedom. Our hearts find exhilaration in miraculous stories of survival and perseverance.
Acts chapter 12 captures such a story of a great escape. Peter was in prison for the third time, waiting on a trial, and facing certain death for the proclamation of Jesus Christ. Then, in an unforeseen miracle, his cell is lit up by a heavenly light; an angel of the Lord appears to him, and the chains fall off of his wrists. Peter then gets up and walks out of the prison to freedom. He had made his great escape by the hand of God to continue his mission for the gospel.
This amazing story points to the assurances and promises of God for us in our daily lives. It shows that God acknowledges and see us in our trials. He saw the persecution of His church and intervened in His transcendent power to help and preserve them. It is good to know that no matter how difficult the challenges, disappointments, and suffering we encounter, the Lord sees us and has everything under control. He provides a way to escape for His children.
Peter’s account also demonstrates that God hears our cries and prayers in our time of deep need. While the Apostle sat in prison, the people of God were interceding on his behalf, and God heard their petitions and acted. Verse 5 says, So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
Right after this, the angel appears, and Peter is saved and makes his escape. He had confidence and peace because he believed Jesus’ promise that he would not be killed at this time. But, he also had many believers praying for him that God responded to with the provision of safety and preservation. That’s what he does for us. He cares and hears our cries for help, and in His power, delivers us.
At the beginning of Acts 12, the vile and brutal King Herod seemed to be in control of the church’s fate as he tormented and persecuted them. However, by the end of the chapter, Herod was dead and verse 24 tells us that the word of God continued to spread and flourish. The movement of God had made a great escape from the wrath of violent people who sought to destroy it. The same is still true today. The gospel will always persevere and God’s people will continue to walk out of the chains of oppression to proclaim it.
Read This Week: Acts 11
Men from Cyprus and Cyrene went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year, Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. – Acts 11:20-21 & 25-26 NIV
What’s in a name? The marker and power of a name and its value has long been significant in civilization, society, families, and social circles. Often the first piece of information we have about someone is their name because everyone (even groups of people) recognizes themselves by name. It is important in our identity and our understanding of who we are. It can even indicate our values, mission, and purpose.
Acts 11 is about a name. But, it is mostly about what that name represented to the first followers of Jesus and to all those who would come after them for generations. This chapter describes the coming together of the Jews and Gentiles under the banner of Christ and His gospel. The followers of The Way would come to be known as Christians. All believers now had a name. It would be inclusive to anyone who places their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord regardless of their heritage, background, race, or culture.
The name Christian would also be established as an indicator of the characteristics that God desires for His followers. Tradition said that the Gentiles had to become Jews to be accepted as God’s people, but now Jews and Gentiles were united through faith in Jesus. Verses 1 through 18 show us this acceptance that should be an earmark of Christians for all time:
When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Verses 19 through 26 tell us that encouragement was an early expression of the church as united people. There was rampant persecution and growing pains as the Jews and Gentiles began to do life and worship together. But when they heard that the gospel was being preached and spread among both people groups by God’s grace, they were greatly encouraged. This section communicates this:
News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord.
Lastly, the newly named Christians helped each other out of love. The needs among all the people were great, and the foundation of generosity in the Christian community was laid by the apostles in the early days. It set the tone for the desired movement of the church and what it should always be about. Verses 27-30 says:
During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
This name change was not just a label or a syllabic representation of a group of people. It came with the explicit identity of those who walked with God and served Jesus. The Church at Antioch is an amazing example and establishment that being a Christian is more than evoking a name. It is indicative of what is in the heart; of life-change and of Christ Himself. The name means that we are a people who accept others, encourage and build up, serve Jesus and people out of love, and help those in need. That is what is in this name Christian.
Read This Week: Luke 2
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no guest room available for them.” – Luke 2:4-7 NIV
In-cred-i-ble (in-ˈkre-də-bəl) function: adjective 1 : too extraordinary and improbable to be believed 2 : an amazing or fantastic claim
Language is so powerful and important. It shapes the way we see the world, ourselves, and other people. What we say possesses amazing abilities. It can be humble yet boastful. It can attract or repel. It can build up and tear down. Words bring peace, preserve history, communicate truth, reunite friends, and harmonize families. They’ve even been known to sink a few ships, save a few lives, and close a few deals. It is a compelling thing about us as human beings in how we choose and use words.
Particularly fascinating is our use of the word incredible. It seems to find its way into an everyday conversation and into any speech or remark that necessitates an adjective. But it begs the question: are all of these things actually incredible? Hyperbole is one thing but are they too extraordinary to be believed? Are these things we talk about so improbable that people would not trust their legitimacy? Was lunch so exceptional that it defied description? Maybe, but let’s consider something that is all of those things and more.
A young engaged woman, who would not consummate her relationship with her husband until after her child is born, is visited by an angel and told she will be impregnated by supernatural means and conceive a son who is to be named Jesus. Jesus will not be an ordinary child. Instead, he will be the transcendent Son of God, perform many miracles, attract a myriad of followers and enemies, die a cruel death on a cross, rise from the dead after three days and reign over a kingdom that has no end.
All of this would occur just as the Scriptures foretold many years before. God had promised that the Messiah would be human, and not an angelic being (Genesis 3:15). He would be of Jewish origin (Genesis 12:1-3; Numbers 24:17). He would be from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), and the family of David (2 Samuel 7:1-17). The Savior would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) in Bethlehem, the city of David (Micah 5:2). He would be the Lamb of God sacrificed for the sins of the world (John 1:29). And Luke 2 shows us that it all happened.
When Mary said in Luke 1:38, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled,” she knew her life experience would be part of the fulfillment of divine prophecy dating thousands of years. She knew her journey would be too extraordinary to believe at times. She knew that it would be so incredible that people would not trust its legitimacy. She knew but believed.
And because of the most significant moment of all time, it is always and shall ever be an amazing and fantastic claim for us to know and love Jesus. To have a relationship with the one true God who created us and sent His Son into this world to bring Himself eternal glory and redeem mankind. Knowing all of this, incredible is the appropriate word for the real story of Christmas.
Read This Week: Acts 10
Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil because God was with him. – Acts 10:34-38 NIV
Favoritism is human nature. From the time we are little, we learn to play favorites with things, people, places, and experiences. Having a favorite is not bad in and of itself, but favoritism regarding the value and worth of a human being over another is sinful, toxic, and does not reflect the heart of God. The Bible is clear that the Lord does not favor one individual over another when it comes to his love, grace, and desire for a relationship.
Acts 10 reinforces this truth about God and his acceptance of everyone no matter their background, culture, origin, or race. We see this in the practical yet powerful teaching of Peter. He had received a vision from God that he then communicated to the people. In his message, Peter makes it known that he does not consider the Gentiles to be unclean. For centuries, based on the law, the Jews had seen the Gentiles as lesser than, unworthy, and unclean. Some even referred to them only in derogatory ways. However, these walls were beginning to be torn down through the power of the gospel and the unifying message of Christ’s love for all.
Peter starts his sermon on the heels of his vision from God and from having fellowship with some Gentiles, most especially a man named Cornelius. He was ready to proclaim that he would no longer make any distinction or cast favorites between Jews and Gentiles. He says in verses 34-36:
Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.”
God is no respecter of persons. When it comes to sin and salvation, there is no difference between people. We all have the same Creator; we are all made in His image, and we all need the same Savior, Jesus Christ who loves us and died for us so that we may be made right with God. Peter re-emphasizes this again in verse 43:
“Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
“Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness” stands alone as the greatest promise and truth for all of mankind to lay hold to and experience. It is the gospel for all. We, as humans, in our flaws and frailty may play favorites but, we can rejoice in the fact that God, in His eternal goodness, does not. He has no favorites.
Read This Week: Acts 9
Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind and did not eat or drink anything. – Acts 1:1-9 NIV
Human beings are all seekers. We come into this life looking for something. For fulfillment, for happiness, for adventure, for love. However, as hard as we seek and look, we often fail to see. See the One thing that brings purpose and meaning to this life and encapsulates all that we desire in the first place.
The great poet, T.S. Eliot once wrote, “We shall not cease from exploring but at the end of our exploration, we will return to where we started and know the place for the first time.” Eliot was describing the beautiful contradiction that exists within the human soul. We are, by nature, explorers; curious beings with an appetite for the unknown and a craving to experience what is unfamiliar yet wanting to find answers in the familiar.
Life is a never-ending story of discovery and longing for where we started. That’s why we need guidance and precise direction from someone not limited by the human condition. Someone who transcends anything that may influence or manipulate. Someone with the ability to help us navigate the passage of discovery and truly see what’s in front of us.
Such is the case of Saul, later known as Paul. His conversion on the road to Damascus was one of the great events in the history of the church. Perhaps the greatest behind only the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He was a learned man studying under the greatest religious minds of that day. But he was also the chief persecutor of Christians and was good at it. Verse 1 of chapter 9 sums up both his zeal for persecution and his murderous intent toward followers of Jesus.
But one day, this hardened intellectual and facilitator of sadistic executions has a conversion experience on the road to carry out a hit in Damascus. The encounter leaves him eternally changed but temporarily blinded. Verses 3-9 tell us of this incredible moment:
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
Despite all his learning and knowledge and seeking answers, Saul was emotionally and spiritually blind. Everything he was looking for and needed was right in front of him but, he could not see it. He couldn’t see that the Old Testament that he knew so well was pointing to the Messiah that he had rejected. He missed the cross and relied on his religion and own righteousness in his search for truth and meaning. Illumination had escaped him. He was a seeker and an explorer looking for the wrong destination.
Now, in a powerful and ironic twist, he was able to see spiritually while being physically blind. He discovered that Jesus was alive and everything that He did, said, and accomplished was, in fact, the work of God and the provision of salvation to mankind. Saul had now heard, experienced, and received the Gospel. He realized he was a sinner and his need for a Savior. He was blind but now he could truly see and his mission would be clear. Verses 13-15 says:
“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.”
As natural seekers and explorers, may we not just look for truth and answers in what we think we know, but may we humble ourselves under the power of God to see His truth, understand, and act. May every day be an unceasing exploration of God’s heart and perfect will and may it be illuminating and revealing in such a manner that it feels as fresh as when we started.
Read This Week: Acts 8
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city. Acts 8:1-8 NIV
One of the great quotes of the last 50 years may very well come from the movie Rocky Balboa. In a passionate speech to his son about facing challenges and hard times in life and overcoming them with power, courage, and perseverance, Rocky says:
Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward.
This quote sums up the struggle and mission of the early church in Acts. The world was not all sunshine and rainbows for the 1st century Christians after Stephen’s death. Verse 1 of chapter 8 tells us that a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. The church was on the run but still on the move.
Furthermore, a skilled and ruthless persecutor of the church, a highly educated Pharisee named Saul (more on him to come in the following chapters) emerged, and this chapter tells us he began to destroy the church. This phrase in the original language means to “wreak havoc” and was often used to describe what a wild animal would do to its prey. But even with the brutal persecution in Jerusalem and Saul’s precise efforts to put an end to Christianity and the spread of the gospel, the church of God took their hits and kept on moving forward in the power of the Holy Spirit.
History has shown us that opposition to the church and the message of Jesus does not stop the kingdom, it serves as fuel to the fire and causes it to spread faster and with greater effectiveness. As the challenges arose, so did the believers to preach the truth, share their faith, serve the poor and marginalized, and be powerful witnesses to the salvation of Christ. One of the most prominent in that time was Philip, who was chosen as a deacon and grew in his ministry as a preacher and evangelist especially to the people of Samaria.
As Philip preached and performed miracles and the other believers shared the love and hope of Jesus, the people paid close attention to what they were saying and doing. The crippled were healed, the blind regained their sight, and the multitudes were coming to saving faith in Christ. After this, verse 8 says, “There was great joy in the city.”
Indeed the world can be a very mean and nasty place, and it doesn’t seem to care who we are. It will try to beat God’s people to their knees and keep them there permanently. But the various schemes of the enemy are no match for the grace, mercy, and love poured out on mankind through the person of Jesus Christ. The world is not strong enough and does not hit hard enough to stop God’s kingdom from moving forward and His people from sharing His message. At times the church may look down, but it is never out.
Read This Week: Acts 7
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city, and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. – Acts 7:55-59 NIV
When problems, challenges, and suffering arise in life, we can see them as an opportunity instead of a setback. When followers of Jesus and the church as a whole face resistance, persecution, and combative situations, we can use it as an opportunity to exercise our faith in the Lord and each other. We can trust God for His protection as we carry out His mission with boldness and confidence. We can examine our ministries and see if changes need to be made internally. We can also increase our passion and witness for Christ.
In Acts 6 and 7, we see the growing pains of the church and the persecution of it by those who opposed Jesus, the message, and the mission. Among the believers was a man named Stephen, who was filled with the Spirit and anointed to preach in Jerusalem, win those far from God, and even do miracles like the apostles. His life and testimony is the culmination of the church’s witness to the Jews. After Stephen, the gospel would go out to the Gentiles and the known world.
The Sanhedrin and religious leaders hated Stephen and tried desperately to defame and discredit him through public debate, accusation, and ridicule. However, the wisdom and power he received from God couldn’t be matched by any of the scholars that rose to take him on. Stephen’s final speech to the Sanhedrin ended with this bold, fearless rebuke and proclamation of the truth of Jesus Christ. He said in verses 51-53:
“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
The only alternative the enemy had to stop Stephen and the spread of the gospel was to eliminate him. So they dragged him out in the street and stoned him to death. Yet, even in death, the glory of God was on him and people standing by were impacted by what they saw. One of them was a man named Saul, who God would use at a greater level than the one he watched die. Verses 55-59 says:
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Stephen’s life and witness should serve as an inspiration and example of faith, commitment to God, and display of holy boldness in our mission. Even though the sufferings of the early church differ from ours today, we see an increase in Christian persecution worldwide and more opportunities for true followers of Jesus to step forward, lovingly communicate God’s truth, and let their light shine before all men.
God does not call everyone to be a martyr for the faith, but He does call us all to be His witnesses and make sacrifices for the gospel in our families, neighborhoods, workplaces, and the world. We never know how the Lord will use our witness to impact those around us. Perhaps another “Saul” or person that God will use for His glory is watching what we say and how we live. In light of that, we must aspire to all be witnesses like Stephen.
Read This Week: Acts 6
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. – Acts 6:2-5 NIV
The ministry of the Gospel, serving and loving people is a joy and privilege, but it is not without its difficulties and challenges. Because it is worthy work that can be hard, followers of Jesus need more than intelligence, skill, talent, and the resources available to us in the modern age. Ministering to others, being efficient in meeting their needs, and sharing the good news of Christ in a hostile world, requires the power of the Holy Spirit and supernatural wisdom that comes from God.
Acts chapter 6 shines a light on the foundational necessities to be effective in ministry. As the church grew and the needs and demands increased among the people, the disciples realized that things were being neglected, folks were not growing spiritually, and the spread of the gospel was impeded. They concluded that their busyness caused them to neglect prayer and the ministry of the word. They were trying to do too much in their own power and overlooked the sources that propelled their work in the first place – prayer and God’s word.
Seeking God and reading His word is what gives us the power and wisdom to do the hard and necessary things of ministry. The disciples realize this and in verses 3-5 say:
“It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
Intimacy with God through prayer and His word informs our service and allows it to be free of selfish ambition, religious strategy, and shallow conceit. When we become more attentive to God’s heart and His perfect will for us, we grow in our insight and spiritual awareness. This growth fuels our practical ministry and empowers us to love people more, meet their needs with compassion, and reach out to those who are far from God.
As we grow closer to God in spirit and wisdom vertically, we inevitably grow closer to other people horizontally. Fellowship and community are solidified when we pray for one another and study the Bible together. There is also a passion for the Gospel and its power to save, heal, and transform. Friends, neighbors, family members, and co-workers are impacted by our desire to see the message of Christ communicated and lived out.
This return to the vital life sources of ministry for greater impact is exactly what we see in this chapter. As the disciples sought the Spirit and God’s wisdom through prayer and minister of the word, the results spoke for themselves. The blessings of God continued and increased, the people united, the church multiplied, and Jesus was glorified in their work. Verse 7 sums it up:
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.