Every so often, someone preaches a sermon that changes the course of history; Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” kicked off the first Great Awakening in the United States, and Dr. R. G. Lee’s “Payday Someday” saw massive results wherever he preached it. In today’s passage, we read about the first sermon preached directly to the Gentiles, and it had massive results as well.
(At the end of the message, there was a snippet from Dr. S. M. Lockridge’s “He’s My King” message that is not in this recording.)
In today’s passage, Luke pivots from Saul/Paul to Peter and Cornelius; the former is “the rock” who followed Christ while He was on the earth, and the latter is a Roman centurion. These two me would seem to have little to nothing in common with one another; however, through the power of God, the wall separating these two men is torn down, and they are both better off because of it.
When Saul was converted, the members of the church did not trust that his conversion was real. Barnabas stepped up, though, and vouched for him and his teaching. Through their story, we can see how friends can help us maintain hope, keep strength in the face of opposition, and accomplish more together for the Kingdom of God than we could have accomplished alone.
God had a plan to turn Saul into Paul, and that plan involved training from a devoted follower of Jesus named Ananias. Ananias knew Saul’s reputation, though, and was quite surprised when God’s call came. Through his story, though, we see that even though God may call us to difficult circumstances, but result in more good than we expect, and even healings we wouldn’t have imagined.
There’s no way to sugar-coat it - Saul was a bad guy. He meant well, but he was persecuting followers of the very God he thought he was defending. As he traveled to Damascus, God miraculously appeared, extending Saul His grace, and demonstrating that no one is too far gone for God to rescue.
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!