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Acts 7

DAILY DEVOTION

FOR

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 4

SCRIPTURE: Acts 7

This chapter is a direct continuation of the previous chapter.  Yesterday we met Stephen who was one of the seven set aside and ordained for serving the church.  We also discovered that God equipped him with a passion for sharing the Gospel and then accompanied that sharing with miracles and signs.  Stephen was subsequently arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin.  He was wrongly accused.

As chapter seven opens, the high priest actually gave Stephen an opportunity to speak.  And boy did he speak.  This is the longest address in Acts and one of the most important.  Stephen is going to provide a quick but accurate history of the nation of Israel.  And as he does that he points out the history of Jewish religious leaders taking a stand against the plans of the Lord and the people He called to implement those plans.

This chapter is sandwiched between two important phrases.  In verse 2, as Stephen begins his speech, he speaks of “the God of glory”.  In verse 55, the Bible says Stephen saw “the glory of God”.  Much of the sad story of Israel has to do with their missing God’s glory and God’s glory departing from them.  That is even true about Jesus.  John 1:14 says that God’s glory had come in His Son, Jesus.  When the nation of Israel rejected Him, the glory of God departed from them one more time.

As Stephen came to the end of his speech, he was pretty direct in his accusation. The men that he was speaking to were guilty of betraying and killing Jesus. 

Stephen was given a magnificent vision before he died.  The heavens opened and there was Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. Jesus stood no doubt in honor of Stephen who was about to be martyred for the faith.  But Jesus also stood to receive one of His own.

Although Stephen died in a different way than Jesus, there is much in common between those two events.  One, it was the same religious body that was responsible for both.  Two, beginning in verse 59, the last two recorded statements of Stephen were very similar to some of the last things Jesus said. 

There are two more things that I want to call your attention to in this chapter.  One, we first meet Saul here.  Although he didn’t participate in the stoning of Stephen, he consented to it by standing there and watching over the garments of those who were stoning Stephen.  He would never forget this.  (Acts 22:17-21)

The other thing is the statement about Stephen falling asleep.  This is not a literal sleep.  When believers die, their souls are immediately in the presence of God.  The Bible says to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  But the body that is left behind looks like it is asleep.  And there is a day in the future when the souls of those believers who have died will reenter those bodies and those bodies will get up (be resurrected) as someone rising from sleep. 

So, the death of a believer is much more than sleep.  But we should be comforted by the fact that it can legitimately be compared to sleep.  We should be encouraged that our physical death is certainly not the end of our existence.

Posted by Joe Ligon with

Acts 6

DAILY DEVOTION

FOR

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 3

SCRIPTURE: Acts 6

This chapter marks a turning point in the narrative.  The church was continuing to grow but it was also settling in.  It is then that we find the first recorded problem in the early church.

The complaint is that certain groups in the church were being treated better than other groups.  That means certain groups in the church were necessarily being treated worse than the other groups.  Interestingly enough, the apostles did not challenge the complaint which means there must have been at least some truth in it.

The root of the problem is the apostles were trying to do too much.  When the church started, the apostles were able to take care of things.  But as the church continued to grow, the needs of the church outstripped the apostles’ ability to minister.  You might imagine that they were very busy trying to meet the needs of thousands of people and were still responsible to pray and preach.

So, they changed the organization of the church.  Seven men were set aside and ordained to serve which was intended to free the apostles to do the other things they needed to do.  Many people believe these seven men were the original deacons and they may very well have been.  They are not actually called that in this chapter.  But their title is not as important as their responsibilities. 

Verse 7 makes an interesting statement.  After the church reorganized for better ministry, God continued to bring more people into the church including a great number of priests.

There are a couple of important lessons here.  One, as the church grows, the leaders have to change how they are leading.  Otherwise their leadership will always bottleneck the future growth and it will stop.  Two, one of the ways that leadership has to change is it has to be broadened so that more people have more responsibility.  When that is done well, growth results.

At that point in the chapter, our attention is turned to one of the seven, a man named Stephen.  Stephen was not just a servant.  He was an evangelist.  And he went out with great grace and power and did great things.

Some of the folks in Jerusalem just couldn’t stand that.  So, they hauled him in front of the Sanhedrin which by the way was the very same group of men that Jesus stood in front of.  Stephen was accused of blasphemy against Moses and God.  By the way that’s the order in the Scripture which is telling in itself.

As the false accusations were made against Stephen the Bible says his face was like the face of an angel.  I don’t think that meant Stephen was cute.  I think it means there was a particular, other worldly glow about him.  By the way, Moses had a similar glow about his face and would have to cover his face with a veil when he spoke with people.  But somehow the Sanhedrin sort of missed that comparison.

Although the chapter ends kind of abruptly at this point, the story of Stephen continues on into the next chapter.  We will tackle that tomorrow.

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