Daily Devotion Text

May 10, 2022

Acts 9:1-19(ESV)

Journal

Please use one of the prompts below to get your journaling started.

  • Explore your fears and what’s behind them.
  • Write about a relational conflict you are experiencing.
  • List out all that you are grateful for.
  • Recall a significant reaction, conversation or event.

Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ACTS

CHAPTER 1 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 2 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 3 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 4 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 5 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 6 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 7 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 8 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 9 COMMENTARY

“CONVERSION.  The English word “conversion” comes from the Latin convertere, meaning “to turn around.”  The equivalent Greek word, epistrophe, appears only once in the New Testament (Acts 15:3), though the NIV translates as “convert” words that literally mean “proselyte,” “neophyte,” and “firstfruits.”  Related verbs like “to turn” (epistrepho) and synonyms such as “repentance,” “regeneration,” and being “born again” appear often.

Paul’s conversion is sometimes described as a typical biblical conversion.  But it has many atypical features.  It was triggered by a post-resurrection appearance of Christ.  It was a sudden turnaround in direction with no evidence that he had been moving toward Christianity (as is the case with most converts).  His was a conversion like that of C.S. Lewis, who said, “I gave in and admitted that God was God and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”  The last thing Saul ever intended to do was to become a Christian.  But he was, in his own words, “grasped by Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:12).  In the features given below, however, his conversion is typical of biblical conversions.” [1]

“Features typical of biblical conversions:

(1) Conversion comes as a result of a divine initiative. […]

(2) There is a personal encounter with Christ (vv. 4-6).  We all meet Jesus in different ways; but if we are converted, we have met him and entered into a personal relationship with him.  Jesus said that eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ (John 17:3).  D.A. Carson comments on this verse, “Eternal life is not so much everlasting life as personal knowledge of the Everlasting One.”

(3) Paul surrendered to the Lordship of Christ.  While the word kyrios in verse 5 can mean either “Lord” or “sir,” there is no doubt that what we have here is a deep surrender of Saul’s life to Christ.  This is evidenced by his total fast for three days, indicating that until he completed the process that began on the road, he was not going to cease from his intense quest for God.  Such surrender is indeed the norm for all followers of Jesus.  Paul’s later radical calls to discipleship imply nothing short of total surrender to the Lordship of Christ.  Roy Clements says he does not “use the phrases “decided for Christ’ or ‘committed to Christ,’ though decision and commitment are certainly involved…. Conversion is at root not a decision, nor a commitment, but a surrender to the supreme authority of Jesus.”

(4) We see the important place of the body of Christ in the conversion process.  While Paul was eager to show that the gospel he received had not been taught to him by any human but was given by the Lord himself (Gal. 1), others in the body of Christ played an important role in his conversion and early Christian life.  Through baptism he was incorporated to this body (Acts 9:18).  Then he “spent several days with the disciples in Damascus” (v. 19).  The thing that stands out in our passage is the role of the two encouragers, Ananias and Barnabas.  Probably the first words Saul heard from a Christian after his conversion were, “Brother Saul” (v. 17).  Stott says, “It must have been music to his ears.”  The archenemy of the church was welcomed as a brother; the dreaded fanatic was received as a member of the family.  Lloyd Ogilvie muses, “Imagine laying your hands on someone who you know had been on his way to arrest you!”  There you see the love of the encourager reaching out to a new believer in spite of his past. […]

(5) Though Saul’s conversion is individual, it is not individualistic.” […]  [2]

“vv.3-9: …To ascribe Saul’s conversion to God’s initiative can easily be misunderstood, however, and needs to be qualified in two ways, namely that the sovereign grace which captured Saul was neither sudden (in the sense that there had been no previous preparation) nor compulsive (in the sense that he needed to make no response).

First, Saul’s conversion was not at all the ‘sudden conversion’ it is often said to have been.  To be sure, the final intervention of Christ was sudden: ‘Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him’ (3), and a voice addressed him.  But this was by no means the first time Jesus Christ had spoken to him.  According to Paul’s own later narrative, Jesus said to him: ‘It is hard for you to kick against the goads’ (26:14).  By this proverb (which seems to have been fairly common in both Greek and Latin literature) Jesus likened Saul to a lively and recalcitrant young bullock, and himself to a farmer using goads to break him in.  The implication is that Jesus was pursuing Saul, prodding and pricking him, which it was ‘hard’ (painful, even futile) for him to resist.  What were these goads, with which Jesus had been pricking him, and against which Saul had been kicking?  We are not specifically told what they were, but the New Testament gives us a number of hints.

One goad was surely his doubts.  With his conscious mind he repudiated Jesus as an imposter, who had been rejected by his own people and had died on a cross under the curse of God. […] Even if they did not meet, Saul will have heard reports of Jesus’ teaching and miracles, character and claims, together with the persistent rumor from many witnesses that he had been raised from death and seen.

Another goad will have been Stephen.  This was no hearsay, for Saul had been present at his trial and his execution.  He had seen with his own eyes both Stephen’s face shining like an angel’s (6:15), and his courageous non-resistance while being stoned to death (7:58-60).  He had also heard with his own ears Stephen’s eloquent speech before the Sanhedrin, as well perhaps as his wisdom in the synagogue (6:9-10), his prayer for the forgiveness of his executioners, and his extraordinary claim to see Jesus as the Son of Man standing at God’s right hand (7:56).  It is in these ways that ‘Stephen and not Gamaliel was the real master of St Paul’.  For Saul could not suppress the witness of Stephen. […]

But the goads of Jesus were moral as well as intellectual.  Saul’s bad conscience probably caused him more inner turmoil even than his nagging doubts.  For although he could claim to have been ‘faultless’ in external righteousness, he knew that his thoughts, motives and desires were not clean in God’s sight. […]

If God’s grace was not sudden, it was not compulsive either.  That is, the Christ who appeared to him and spoke to him did not crush him.  He humbled him, so that he fell to the ground, but he did not violate his personality.  He did not demean Saul into a robot or compel him to perform certain actions in a kind of hypnotic trance.  On the contrary, Jesus put to him a probing question, ‘why do you persecute me?’  He thus appealed to his reason and conscience, in order to bring into his consciousness the folly and evil of what he was doing.  Jesus then told him to get up and go into the city, where he would be told what to do next.  And Saul was not so overwhelmed by the vision and the voice as to be deprived of speech and unable to reply.  No, he answered Christ’s question with two counter-questions: first, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ (5) and secondly, “What shall I do, Lord?’ (22:10).  His response was rational, conscientious and free. […]

To sum up, the cause of Saul’s conversion was grace, the sovereign grace of God.  But sovereign grace is gradual grace and gentle grace.  Gradually, and without violence, Jesus pricked Saul’s mind and conscience with his goads.  Then he revealed himself to him by the light and the voice, not in order to overwhelm him, but in such a way as to enable him to make a free response.  Divine grace does not trample on human personality.  Rather the reverse, for it enables human beings to be truly human.  It is sin which imprisons; it is grace which liberates.  The grace of God so frees us from the bondage of our pride, prejudice and self-centredness, as to enable us to repent and believe. […]

vv.26-31: It is not an accident that the Greek word for witness (martys) came to be associated with martyrdom.  ‘Suffering, then, is the badge of true discipleship’, wrote Bonhoeffer.

Yet the world’s opposition did not impede the spread of the gospel or the growth of the church.  On the contrary, Luke ends his narrative of Saul’s conversion, which culminated in his providential escape from danger, with another of his summary verses (31).  He described the church, which has now spread throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria, as having five characteristics – peace (free from external interference), strength (consolidating its position), encouragement (enjoying paraklesis, the special ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete), growth (multiplying numerically) and godliness (living in the fear of the Lord).” [3]

Bible Text

Acts 9:1-19 (ESV)

1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.

Go Deeper

Acts 9:1-19

  • Describe all that Saul must have been thinking and feeling as he encountered Jesus, heard these words, and was without sight for three days.
  • What can I learn about God through this passage? Consider what Saul was doing, Ananias’s initial response to God, and the way God chose to restore Saul’s sight. (Consider especially his view of you.)
  • Does this passage help me understand my own story, or challenge or commission me in some way?

[1] Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series, p.302

[2]  Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series, p.302-4.

[3] John Stott, The Spirit, the Church, and the World, (Intervarsity Press, 1990) 178-9.


Prayer

May 9, 2022

Prayer

Our church is going through a new devotional format, to devote Mondays and Fridays to prayer. We will continue our study through the Book of Acts on Tuesdays through Thursdays.

“God shapes the world by prayer. Prayers are deathless. They outlive the lives of those who uttered them.”

– E.M. Bounds


Prayer of Gratitude

Prayer of Supplication


May 6, 2022

Prayer

Our church is going through a new devotional format, to devote Mondays and Fridays to prayer. We will continue our study through the Book of Acts on Tuesdays through Thursdays.

“What wings are to a bird and sails to a ship, so is prayer to the soul.” – Corrie Ten Boom


Prayer of Gratitude

Prayer of Supplication


May 5, 2022

Acts 8:26-40(ESV)

Journal

Please use one of the prompts below to get your journaling started.

  • Explore your fears and what’s behind them.
  • Write about a relational conflict you are experiencing.
  • List out all that you are grateful for.
  • Recall a significant reaction, conversation or event.

Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ACTS

CHAPTER 1 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 2 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 3 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 4 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 5 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 6 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 7 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 8 COMMENTARY

Acts 8:26-40 (ESV)

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter

    and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,

    so he opens not his mouth.

33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.

    Who can describe his generation?

For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Go Deeper

Acts 8:26-40

  • What lessons can be learned from the Ethiopian eunuch?
  • How did the scriptures, an obedient and equipped disciple, and the Holy Spirit all play a part in ushering in this one man’s salvation?
  • Are there elements of my journey to Christ that resonate with this story?
  • What is involved in being a Philip to someone? How can I become someone like Philip to a spiritual seeker?

Prayer

May 4, 2022

Acts 8:1-25 (ESV)

Journal

Please use one of the prompts below to get your journaling started.

  • Explore your fears and what’s behind them.
  • Write about a relational conflict you are experiencing.
  • List out all that you are grateful for.
  • Recall a significant reaction, conversation or event.

Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ACTS

CHAPTER 1 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 2 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 3 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 4 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 5 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 6 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 7 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 8 COMMENTARY

v.4: “The fact that a program of religious repression fails to stop the word from spreading says something about both the character of those faithful witnesses who are scattered and the intention of a faithful God whose commitment to humanity’s salvation cannot be subverted.” [1]

vv.4-5: “The content of the preaching is variously described in this passage.  In v.4 it is ‘the word’; in v.5 ‘the Christ’; and in v.12, ‘the kingdom of God’ and ‘the name of Jesus Christ.’ All refer to the same reality, the salvation that is in no other name (4:12).” [2]

v.5: “This is not the apostle Philip (see John 1:43, 44), but a Greek-speaking Jew, ‘full of the Spirit and wisdom’ (6:3), who was one of the seven deacons chosen to help with the food distribution program in the church (6:5).” [3]

“Israel had been divided into three main regions – Galilee in the north, Samaria in the middle, and Judea in the south.  The city of Samaria (in the region of Samaria) had been the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel in the days of the divided kingdom, before it was conquered by Assyria in 722 B.C.  During that war, the Assyrian king took many captives, leaving only the poorest people in the land and resettling it with foreigners.  These foreigners intermarried with the Jews who were left, and the mixed race became known as Samaritans.  The Samaritans were considered half-breeds by the ‘pure’ Jews in the southern kingdom of Judah and there was intense hatred between the two groups. But Jesus himself went into Samaria (John 4), and he commanded his followers to spread the gospel there (1:8).” [4]

“In preaching to them [Samaritans], Philip was taking a major new step in the fulfillment of Christ’s commission.  To this point the church’s witness had been exclusively to Jews (though Jesus himself had ministered in this area; cf. John 4).” [5]

vv.9-11: “Did Simon possess actual power? Sorcerers in the first century included a wide array of spiritualists, con artists, magicians, astrologers and showmen who earned a living with their abilities.  Whether Simon’s powers were occultic or natural illusions, they were clearly inferior to the power of the Holy Spirit.  Simon, however, confused the power of the Spirit with a stronger version of his own kind of powers.” [6]

v.14: “apostles in Jerusalem … sent Peter and John.  The Jerusalem church assumed the responsibility of inspecting new evangelistic efforts and the communities of believers they produced (see 11:22).” [7]

vv.15-17: “Many scholars believe that God chose to have a dramatic filling of his Spirit as a sign at this special moment in history – the spread of the gospel into Samaria through the powerful, effective preaching of believers.  Normally, the Holy Spirit enters a person’s life at conversion.  This was a special event.  The pouring out of the Spirit would happen again with Cornelius and his family (10:44-47), a sign that the uncircumcised Gentiles could receive the gospel.” [8]

“It is not too difficult to imagine what would have happened had the apostles at Jerusalem first been the missionaries to Samaria. Probably they would have been rebuffed, just as they were rebuffed earlier in their travels with Jesus when the Samaritans associated them with the city of Jerusalem (cf. Luke 9:51-56). But God in his providence used as their evangelist the Hellenist Philip, who shared their fate (though for different reasons) of being rejected at Jerusalem; and the Samaritans received him and accepted his message. But what if the Spirit had come upon them at their baptism when administrated by Philip? Undoubtedly what feelings there were against Philip and the Hellenists would have carried over to them, and they would have been doubly under suspicion. But God in his providence withheld the gift of the Holy Spirit till Peter and John laid their hands on the Samaritans–Peter and John, two leading apostles who were highly thought of in the mother church at Jerusalem and who would have been accepted at that time as brothers in Christ by the new converts in Samaria. In effect, therefore, in this first advance of the gospel outside the confines of Jerusalem, God worked in ways that were conducive not only to the reception of the Good News in Samaria but also to the acceptance of these new converts by believers at Jerusalem. […] What [Luke] does tell us, however, is that in such a manner as this vignette shows, God was working in ways that promoted both the outreach of the gospel and the unity of the church.” [9]

vv.21-23: “Peter’s confrontation with Simon was particularly harsh (v.21).  In the Old Testament ‘part or share’ refers to the privileges of belonging to God’s people and sharing the inheritance he has granted.  To be denied this share is a virtual formula of excommunication, exclusion from God’s people. In Simon’s instance the words may imply more of a statement of nonmembership.  His behavior betrayed that he had no real portion in God’s people.  Luke spoke of Simon’s not having a share ‘in this ministry.’  The word translated ‘ministry’ is logos, a word used throughout Acts for the gospel (cf. 8:4).  Simon had not responded to the gospel; he had responded to greed.  He lacked the contrition and inner conviction that accompany a true response to the gospel.  His heart was ‘not right before God.’  Peter did not merely pronounce a curse on Simon.  He offered him the chance to repent (v.22).  God can forgive even such a thought as Simon’s greedy desire to manipulate the divine Spirit.  Apart from his repentance, Simon’s state would remain one filled with the ‘gall of bitterness’ and captivity to the ‘bonds of sin’ (v.23).” [10]

“Having established the mission to the Samaritans, Philip then became involved in an even more far-reaching missionary breakthrough, as he was led to witness to an Ethiopian.  Indeed, Philip’s witness to the eunuch may be considered the first conversion of a Gentile and in many ways parallels the story of Cornelius in chap. 10.  Ethiopia was considered ‘the end of the earth’ by the Greeks and Romans, and Philip’s witness to the Samaritans and the Ethiopian comprises a ‘foretaste’ of the completion of Christ’s commission (1:8) by the whole church in the subsequent chapters of Acts.” [11]

vv.30-31: “Philip’s question to the eunuch contains a play on words that is not reproducible in English: ‘Do you understand [ginoskeis] what you are reading [anaginoskeis]?’ ‘How can I… unless someone explains it to me?’ replied the eunuch (v.31).  His response enunciates a basic principle that runs throughout Luke-Acts concerning the interpretation of the Old Testament prophetic texts – the need for a Christian interpreter.  The disciples themselves had needed such guidance, and Christ had ‘opened… the Scriptures’ for them (Luke 24:45).  They in turn sought to explain the Scripture in light of Christ to the Jews in Jerusalem.  How indeed would this Gentile pilgrim from a distant land understand the real meaning of Isaiah’s psalms without a guide?” [12]

vv.32-33: But whatever got him into Isaiah’s prophecy, the interpretation of the Servant passage of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 troubled him.” [13]

Bible Text

Acts 8:1-25 (ESV)
1
And Saul approved of his execution.

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him.3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was much joy in that city.

9 But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.     13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.

14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” 24 And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”

25 Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.

Go Deeper

Acts 8:1-4

  • How did God’s people respond to the “great persecution against the church”? What lessons can I learn about how God works?

Acts 8:9-25

  • What lessons can I draw from a character study of Simon the Magician?

[1] Robert W. Wall, New Interpreter’s Bible Vol. X: The Acts of the Apostles (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press 2002) 140.

[2] Pohill, The New American Commentary: Acts. vol.26, 216-217.

[3] Life Application Study Bible, study notes  (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers and Zondervan, 1991) 1960.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Pohill, The New American Commentary: Acts. vol.26, 214.

[6] Quest Study Bible, study notes  (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1994) 1517.

[7] NIV Study Bible, study notes (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985) 1659.

[8] Life Application Study Bible, study notes, 1962.

[9] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for vv.15-17.

[10] Pohill, The New American Commentary: Acts. vol.26, 220.

[11] Pohill, The New American Commentary: Acts. vol.26, 222.

[12] Pohill, The New American Commentary: Acts. vol.26, 224-225

[13] Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, notes for vv.26-40.     


Prayer

May 3, 2022

Acts 7:51-60 (ESV)

Journal

Please use one of the prompts below to get your journaling started.

  • Explore your fears and what’s behind them.
  • Write about a relational conflict you are experiencing.
  • List out all that you are grateful for.
  • Recall a significant reaction, conversation or event.

Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ACTS

CHAPTER 1 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 2 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 3 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 4 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 5 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 6 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 7 COMMENTARY

Bible Text: Acts 7:51-60 (ESV)

51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Go Deeper

Acts 7:51-60

•       In vv. 51-53, Stephen finally confronts the council with strong words based on his Scriptural understanding of Israel’s response to God. Consider if Stephen’s message simply ended with Acts 7:50. What is the role of direct application of God’s Word and confrontation in Christian proclamation?

•       How does Stephen’s response to the council—his countenance (6:15) and his sermon—challenge me?


Prayer

May 2, 2022

Prayer

Our church is going through a new devotional format, to devote Mondays and Fridays to prayer. We will continue our study through the Book of Acts on Tuesdays through Thursdays.

“Each time, before you intercede, be quiet first, and worship God in his glory. Think of what he can do, “As well could you expect a plant to grow without air and water as to expect your heart to grow without prayer and faith.” – Charles Spurgeon


Prayer of Gratitude

Prayer of Supplication


April 29, 2022

Prayer

Our church is going through a new devotional format, to devote Mondays and Fridays to prayer. We will continue our study through the Book of Acts on Tuesdays through Thursdays.

“Each time, before you intercede, be quiet first, and worship God in his glory. Think of what he can do, and how he delights to hear the prayers of his redeemed people. Think of your place and privilege in Christ, and expect great things!” – Andrew Murray


Prayer of Gratitude

Prayer of Supplication


April 28, 2022

Acts 7:1-50 (ESV)

Journal

Please use one of the prompts below to get your journaling started.

  • Explore your fears and what’s behind them.
  • Write about a relational conflict you are experiencing.
  • List out all that you are grateful for.
  • Recall a significant reaction, conversation or event.

Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ACTS

CHAPTER 1 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 2 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 3 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 4 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 5 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 6 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 7 COMMENTARY

What is the function of the historical survey in vv.2-46, the lion’s share of the speech? A careful reading of the survey, with attention to the Old Testament traditions Stephen chose and the linkages between his treatment and the earlier speeches of Acts, shows a definite “slant” in Stephen’s interpretation of Jewish history… Two recurring themes stand out:

1.      God can never be tied down to one land or place and correspondingly that his people are closest to him when they are a “pilgrim people,” a people on the move. 

2.      Israel’s pattern of constantly resisting and rejecting its God-appointed leaders.  The second theme has accompanying it a subtle Christological emphasis, which is ultimately the main goal of the speech.  Israel’s past points to the present.  The pattern of rejection in the past foreshadows the ultimate rejection of God’s appointed Messiah in the present.

3.      Other themes: Fulfillment of Israel’s true worship is in the Messiah.

4.      Worship acceptable to God is not confined to the Jerusalem temple.” [1] 

v.12-13: “What Stephen did emphasize…was the seemingly insignificant detail that the brothers made two visits and only recognized Joseph on the second.  Why this emphasis? The same would be true of Moses later on in Stephen’s speech.  His fellow Israelites did not recognize him either on his first visit but rejected him (vv.27-28).  Only on his second visit did they recognize him as the one God had sent to deliver them from Egypt (vv.35-36).  One is strongly tempted to see here a reference to the two “visits” of Christ.  The Jews had rejected him on his first coming.  Would they now accept him when confronted by Christ through Stephen’s preaching?” [2]

v.23-29: “Both of Stephen’s central themes are emphasized – Israel’s rejection of its divinely appointed leader and the “pilgrim” motif.  The theme of rejection is given the major treatment and is developed in vv.23-28, which relates the story of how two quarreling Israelites refused Moses’ intercession in their dispute.  Stephen’s version follows fairly closely the account given in Exod 2:11-15 and quotes Exod 2:14 directly in vv.27b-28.

 …Just as clearly as Stephen established the role of Moses as God’s emissary he depicted also the flat rejection of his leadership by the Israelites.  This began with Stephen’s interpretive comment in v.25.  The Israelites did not recognize Moses as their God-appointed deliverer and leader.” [3]

v.35-36: “With the emphasis on Moses himself, his relation to Christ was more explicitly drawn.  Stephen reminded his hearers of the Israelites’ rejection of his role as “ruler and judge” over them.  They denied Moses, but God “sent” him (v.35).  It is a familiar pattern that already has appeared frequently in Peter’s speeches with reference to Christ – Israel rejected him, but God affirmed him.  The comparison to Christ becomes even stronger in the reference to Moses as “deliverer/ redeemer” of Israel.  It is the only occurrence in Luke-Acts of the noun “redeemer”; but the verbal from, “the one who was going to redeem Israel,” is applied to Christ in Luke 24:21.  The word “redeemer” is virtually equivalent to “Savior” (cf. 5:31), and the comparison to Christ is unmistakable.  Moses was a type of Christ.  Both were sent by God to deliver Israel.  Both were denied, rejected by those they were sent to save…Moses performed “wonders and miraculous signs” in Egypt, the Red Sea, and in the wilderness (v.36)…but one cannot fail to remember how Jesus also performed signs and wonders and that he had granted the same power to his apostles through his name.” [4]


[1] Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series,  246.

[2] Pohill, The New American Commentary: Acts. vol.26, 192.

[3] Pohill, The New American Commentary: Acts. vol.26, 196.

[4] Pohill, The New American Commentary: Acts. vol.26, 199.

Bible Text: Acts 7:1-50 (ESV)

1 And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” 2 And Stephen said:

“Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’4 Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living. 5 Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child. 6 And God spoke to this effect—that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years. 7 ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ 8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day, and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.

9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him 10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. 11 Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers on their first visit.

13 And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh.

14 And Joseph sent and summoned Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. 15 And Jacob went down into Egypt, and he died, he and our fathers, 16 and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.

17 “But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt 18 until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. 19 He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive.20 At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house, 21 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.

23 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.

26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ 27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’

29 At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.

30 “Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord:

32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. 33 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.34 I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.’

35 “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’ 38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:

“‘Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices,

   during the forty years in the wilderness, O house

   of Israel?

43 You took up the tent of Moloch

    and the star of your god Rephan,

    the images that you made to worship;

and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.’

44 “Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. 45 Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, 46 who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him.

48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says,

49 “‘Heaven is my throne,

    and the earth is my footstool.

    What kind of house will you build for me, says the

        Lord,

    or what is the place of my rest?

50 Did not my hand make all these things?’

Go Deeper

Acts 7:1-50

•       When finally given a chance to protect himself against these false accusations, Stephen delivers a sermon that highlights the work of God. Reading his sermon closely up to v. 50, what are the parts that would have offended the members of the council? [See the commentary section for additional information.]

•       Notice that Stephen’s sermon follows the typical pattern of the apostolic preaching that we’ve seen in Acts thus far: Christ is Israel’s true Messiah spoken of through Moses and the Prophets. What can I learn from the fact that this was more threatening to the council than if the disciples had been espousing a foreign religion?


Prayer

April 27, 2022

Acts 6:1-15 (ESV)

Journal

Please use one of the prompts below to get your journaling started.

  • Explore your fears and what’s behind them.
  • Write about a relational conflict you are experiencing.
  • List out all that you are grateful for.
  • Recall a significant reaction, conversation or event.

Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ACTS

CHAPTER 1 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 2 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 3 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 4 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 5 COMMENTARY

CHAPTER 6 COMMENTARY

v.1: “Conflict between these two groups was likely fueled by raw emotions.  The Grecian Jews spoke a different language and had a different cultural background than the Hebraic Jews.” [1]

“Widows naturally formed a considerable proportion of the poorer members of the church, and the Hellenistic widows were said to be at a disadvantage in comparison with the Hebrew widows, perhaps because the distribution of charity was in the hands of the “Hebrews’.” [2]

v.3-4: “The procedure adopted in choosing the Seven is instructive (We see here the beginnings of church leaders laying hands on believers and commissioning them for specific tasks.  The church has developed various orders of worship for such functions and given them names such as commissioning, ordination, and induction services). [3] 

v.8: “The narrative of Stephen constitutes a major turning point in Acts…To this point a growing opposition toward the Christians from the Jewish leaders had been thwarted by the favor of the people toward the young movement.  Then the picture changed.  The people joined in the resistance to Stephen.  With the death of Stephen and the dispersal of his fellow Hellenists, the focus would no longer be on Jerusalem but on Samaria and all of Palestine and, finally, with Paul on the further reaches of the Roman Empire.  Stephen is thus a key figure in the narrative of the wider Christian mission, and the lengthy treatment of his martyrdom is no coincidence.” [4]  

Bible Text

Acts 6:1-15 (ESV)

1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Go Deeper

Acts 6:1-7

•       What problem arose in the church, and what lessons can we draw from these realities of church life?

•       Note the parallels in v. 1 and v. 7, as well as what comes in between. Reflect on the things that can derail a church, and what this passage has to say about them.

•       What can we learn from how the apostles handle the problem? Play out what might have happened had they not appointed the seven men to take care of the administration of “tables”.

•       How does this passage challenge my thinking regarding human realities and the achieving of an ideal?

Acts 6:8-15

•       What was Stephen like and what was he doing?

•       What happened to Stephen?

•       How does this challenge my notion of discipleship and following Jesus?


[1] The Quest Study Bible, Study Question for Acts 6:1.

[2] Bruce, The Book of the Acts, 120.

[3] Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series, 246.

[4] Pohill, The New American Commentary: Acts. vol.26, 183-184.


Prayer

Scroll to top