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The Persecution

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We are picking up the story........

Immediately after the execution of Stephen by stoning
Show video clip?
Now, I showed you that for two reasons.
1. The persecution that the believers are facing for their belief in Jesus Christ is real. It’s severe. It’s not made up. We sometimes read of this persecution and then automatically try to make it no big deal.
Or we turn it to ourselves and liken it to the persecution we face when someone calls us a name
2. But secondly, it’s important in what we are going to see tonight, in the believers response to this persecution that they saw Stephen face, and are now threatened with themselves.
And in , we see that Saul approved of his execution.
This is the first time Saul has come onto the scene, as an approver of the execution. This is Saul/Paul, not Saul/Saul
The rising star in the Sanhedrin if you will, he’s destined to do great things it seems in the religious court
Denny, I don’t want to hear it....he hadn’t made it yet

Let’s read the text though and then we’ll get into it

The Persecution

Luke tells us that on that very same day that Stephen was martyred for his faith, that Saul began his persecution against the church in Jerusalem.
We know a couple things:
This wasn’t only Saul doing this....he had help
And they weren’t attacking the physical church, because there was no physical building. They were attacking the people. The believers in Jesus Christ
They were the church
We are the church....the church isn’t Cornerstone, the church is believers in Jesus Christ.
Now, notice the end of verse 1, what did it say?
“and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”
Does this remind you of anything? Anyone? Maybe something we’ve talked about EXTENSIVELY since I came in to become your youth pastor?
The Great Commission |
Go into all nations. Jesus commanded the apostles to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, to the ends of the earth
Do you see God at work here? He’s moving his people, albeit by way of persecution, but he’s moving them
Creatures of habit
Anyone in here have a habit that they do every single day?
“Habits are like comfortable beds. You know, the ones you get into and you kind of sink into them and you feel like you’re experiencing a really long hug? They’re easy to get into, but hard to get out of”
We are creatures of habit, naturally, and God knew that it would be asking a lot of his apostles, and the other believers to:
Leave family
Leave friends
Leave jobs
Leave everything they knew
And on and on and on
God was working through this for His good. Like Joseph telling his brothers, what you meant for evil God meant for good.
And we’re going to see that tonight
says this, “ 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness.”
God uses persecution to further His kingdom. I mean, He used persecution of Jesus to start it!
It’s not the only way he furthers it, but it is often the main way
See, the comfort, prosperity, safety, and freedom we have today, right now, is often the very thing that holds us back from boldly proclaiming Christ
Do you agree with me?
So the believers are fleeing because Saul is ravaging the church, and Saul is ravaging the church because he thinks that killing people like Stephen will shut them up.
Ravaging there means he’s literally setting out to destroy it. He’s trying to destroy the believers of Jesus Christ
Their lives are at stake, or at the very least, they are going to be commited to prison
The ironic thing, if you look at verse 2, is the people weren’t angry at Stephen.
“Oh Stephen, why’d you have to say what you said? Why couldn’t you have just remained silent and none of this would have happened! All this land we sold and gave to the church was for nothing! Now I’ve got to go to Samaria of all places!!!!!”
They honored him, they understood the calling on his life was to proclaim Christ, as was theirs.
And he stuck to it!
Remember earlier in our Acts study we talked about what the Holy Spirit provides us.
Boldness was one of those things.
And so the believers are running for their lives
They are getting out of Jerusalem as fast as they can, but notice verse 4 with me.
“Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”
The preaching of the Word was got them in trouble in the first place!!! The common sense thing to do would be to what?
But they can’t. Christ has changed them. The Holy Spirit has empowered and emboldened them.
See, our calling to proclaim is not just for the good times, but for all times.
And the believers were taking Jesus Christ with Judea and Samaria
How comfortable are you in your faith? Seriously, think about it. When was the last time you were uncomfortable in even the slightest way for your faith? Now answer this, when was the last time you proclaimed Christ? These things correlate.
And I’m just as guilty as you are here tonight.
Oh, that I would have the boldness to stand up for my faith against the rampant unbelief around me!!!!!!
I pray that for you too

The Bitterness

Now, as we continue through the passage, we come to a man named Philip.
We don’t know much about him, but he was one of the seven enlisted to help distribute the money, alongside Stephen.
So they probably knew each other, they worked together at church!!!!
But notice what it says Philip did, he fled Jerusalem, and went down to the city of Samaria.
This is a big deal......does anybody know why?
Think of somebody, in your head, let’s not say this out loud in case they might be in the room. And before I tell you who to think of, I in no way condone this behavior. That’s my disclaimer
Think of someone who you’ve known for a long time, who you just really, really dislike. Got someone, everyone got someone?
Okay, now again, without answering out loud. Why don’t you like them? Do you have reasons? You most likely do....and some of those reasons may even be very valid you would probably say as well.
Do they know you don’t like them? Like, if you both walk into the room at the same time you go all Mean Girls on them? You make it as clear as possible that you want nothing to do with them.
You all got someone? How dare you! No I’m just kidding…but seriously.
Back to Samaria
This was the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans.
They absolutely, positively, undeniably hated each other. I mean hated each other
With a hatred that stretched waaaaayyyyyyy back to the Old Testament
We just talked about Solomon in Multiply, well, right after Solomon, the kingdom of Israel, you know, God’s chosen people, they split into two kingdoms.
The Northern and the Southern
The capital of the Southern Kingdom was Jerusalem
Anyone want to take a stab at what the capital of the Northern Kingdom was?
And long story short, The northern kingdom set up two golden calves where the people could worship so they didn’t have to go to Jerusalem
And when the Northern Kingdom got taken over by the Assyrians, they took on the Assyrian gods, and intermarried with the Assyrians…which was a no no
Pair that up with the fact that when Nehemiah was trying to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem, the people of Samaria openly defied and tried to stop them
And you get this extreme hatred for each other, with some viable reasonings
And you get this idea that the Samaritans aren’t “Jews” at all. They’re half breeds if you will
Now we went through all of that to paint a picture that what Philip is about to do is no small feat.
Not only is he going to “the Samaritans”, but he’s taking the gospel to them. He’s taking the promise of eternal life to people who don’t deserve it!
He’s not allowing his pre-conceived notions, or those of the Jews around him to negate his responsibility to carry the message of Jesus Christ to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
Imagine your Philip, packing your things quickly, and they’re heading out the door and are like, “We’re heading to this part of Judea, we’ll see you there!”
And Philip responds, “I’m going to Samaria”
Hold up!
They don’t deserve Christ
Why would you go there. Jesus didn’t say Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. He said Jerusalem, Judea and the Sahara!
Philip didn’t give in to the politics of the day, to the social expectations. He went where God told him to go.
Don’t go to that part of the city!!!!
IMB family example
None of us are worthy are we?
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