We tend to think of “mighty moves of God” as times when large numbers of people came to a saving knowledge of Christ. Today, though, we look at an occasion where God called Philip away from a flourishing work, to a one-on-one opportunity with an Ethiopian eunuch who was trying to understand Isaiah. Through this, we see how God calls each of us to be witnesses for Him wherever we go.
Just before Jesus ascended, He told His disciples to go to Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth. However, years after His ascension, the church was still centered in Jerusalem. When Saul began persecuting the church, many of its members fled - but, as they went, they continued sharing the good news, and people were saved. It was only through the power of God, though, that they were able to do this.
Stephen provided a powerful witness to the truth of Christ, and how everything from Moses and the prophets pointed to Him. However, his words angered the religious leaders, who literally covered their ears and yelled while taking him out to be stoned. They did not want to obey the truth of Stephen’s testimony, they did not want to yield to God, and they worked to silence those from whom God brings conviction; sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Stephen was one of the first-ever deacons. He was not just someone who helped behind the scenes, though; he had a testimony of being a powerful witness for Christ, preaching and teaching with authority. Through looking at his trial, complete with hired false witnesses, we see the problems they had with him; these are the same problems the world has with us today.
The Apostle Paul stopped by to tell us about his life, and how he went from being someone who scoffed at and persecuted followers of the Way, to becoming Jesus’s emissary to the Gentiles. His testimony assures us that the resurrection is real, because a resurrected Christ appeared to him!
When Peter and the apostles appeared before the Sanhedrin (the council of Jewish leaders), they professed that they would continue to preach Jesus. While there was some seemingly wise counsel from one of their more learned members, a closer analysis shows that it was bad advice. The world’s wisdom often looks at God’s wisdom as foolishness, but Peter and the apostles stayed true to God’s wisdom; we should as well.
The apostles were arrested; but, before the Sanhedrin could covene a trial, God released them from prison and told them to go back where they had been and resume preaching. When the church authorities found them, they threatened them, and told them to stop preaching. Peter, speaking for the group, powerfully expressed that they were living in ultimate allegiance to God, not man.
Today’s passage is one of the more difficult passages in the book of Acts. However, it is not a story of a God overreacting to a little sin; rather, it expresses the seriousness with which God views hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the tool of the enemy, challenges our integrity, and can attack our very commitment to God.
After Peter and John got in trouble with the authorities, they were charged to stop preaching about Jesus. When they met back up with the other believers, though, they did not gather everyone up to tell them about their new clandestine gospel program; rather, they prayed that they would be even more bold in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ! They remembered what God had already done, and relied on His power to continue their ministry; 2,000 years later, we should do nothing less ourselves.
Peter and John continued preaching about Jesus, and people were listening - including the church leaders, who had Peter and John arrested. Their experience shows us that, when we are serving God, we will encounter opposition. However, that should not dissuade us, because we will also see God transform lives through His grace.