Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenaica, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated some men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” Acts 6:8-11
Stephen, one of the seven men chosen the the community for leadership (Acts 6:5), has the same power and wisdom as the apostles in speech, signs/miracles of Christ bestowed through him. He has spiritual understanding by the Holy Spirit’s grace. The community of Christ’s believers chooses him first. Then as he is speaking in the synagogue with the Good News of Jesus Christ Resurrected the sadducees hatred is directed toward him as they organize false witnesses.
The false witnesses accuse him with a half-truth. Our Lord Jesus did say that he would destroy this temple and He would raise it up on the third day. Jesus was speaking about His Body of course, and in v. 13 the liars say, “we have heard him (Stephen) say that Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed down to us.” Then, all who are sitting on the council look at Stephen and they see that his face is like the face of an angel.
Stephen responds; preaches Truth. Note that the false accusers are similar to Jesus our Lord’s accusers and Stephen will be martyred. His accusers twist what he is saying about the customs of Moses, for salvation in Moses day was by grace just as it is today. Remember that when accusers speak half-truths and gain momentum in drawing others to their podium our Christ is still on the Throne. Christ’s love still overcomes hate. Evil is still powerless in Christ’s Holy Presence. Christ within us always has the victory.
The Word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. Acts 6:7
The Word of God, the Living Presence of Christ including the Holy Spirit, is spreading throughout Jerusalem. His Presence is both mighty and tremendously personal, touching each believer who loves Him and filling them with the holy desire to serve Him and live for Him. Jesus’ Church at roughly 25,000 believers is multiplying rapidly and the Church hears concerns lifted up by the Greek Hellenists to care for the widows.
In response, the Lord leads His Church to choose seven men for Holy administrative/social-service purposes. His Church activates a program for poverty. The group of seven includes Stephen who is described in Scripture as filled with grace and power, doing great wonders and signs (Jesus’ miracles continue in the Church, as today) among the people. (v. 8). Stephen and the other six deacons have serving faith which is witnessing faith. They are chosen for thinking and acting with spiritual Truth, which is Christ Jesus, and for honesty through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The seven men are most-Holy administrators for God’s Kingdom and when the Apostles lay hands on them it is the sign of covenant partnership and the Spirit’s alignment of their souls. In Scripture the soul is a person’s vitality– activated by the Holy Spirit. We may also see our souls as the ethereal part of us which after our death continues on to heaven with Jesus. Believers who previously walked and lived in the darkness of their souls take in and love the Great Light of God in Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Risen Redeemer and Living Word of God.
“It is not right that we should neglect the Word of God in order to wait on tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the Word.” Acts 6:2-4
As we begin to study together this sixth chapter of Acts, by overview we see that there is a deviation now from the original communal sharing (we saw how Ananias and Sapphira earlier misrepresented their gift to the Church and God’s punishment) to a selection of seven men deacons and after that the persecution of Stephen which shows us his glorious witness for Christ. The Apostles here in this text help us to note that they are not vice-president managers of the Church but their duties in obedience to Christ calls them to prayer and study of the Scriptural Word by the Holy Spirit’s demand on their hearts.
Leadership in our Church today is foundational on the same study of Holy Scripture and great amounts of prayer time spent in the Lord Jesus Christ’s living Presence. When the Hellenistic Greek speaking Jews in Jesus’ Church speak up about the neglect of the widows the Spirit brings new understanding to the leaders that administrative management is not to be their focus but prayer and study is priority for them. Scholars estimate this early Church size was 25,000 believers.
A minister who is leading her arm of Christ’s Church draws believers together to study with her and into invitational prayers together for burdens and concerns, for the lost, lonely, and least who have need of Christ’s Light of Love to guide and heal within them. Evil has been conquered by Christ on the Cross and His Resurrected Power within us activates Christian vitality within our world as we are obedient to Him. Together, our decisions and righteous living is given to us in both Scriptural study and anointed prayer.
They were convinced by him [Gamaliel], and when they had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the Name of Jesus, and let them go. As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the Name. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. Acts 5:40-42
This flogging is thirty nine stripes, only one less than death. They ordered Jesus flogged too. Peter and John leave the council with heartfelt words of praise to Jesus Christ, for it is honor to suffer for the sake of Jesus. They go right back to teaching in the temple as God has assuredly directed them to witness.
At temple they tell others what Jesus does, what He says, of the miracles and His compassionate Love, how He shows us all of God through His perfect obedience to God. Each time they tell the truthful facts of Jesus then they tell of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and His appearances to them post-Resurrection. Christ’s Presence is alive.
People are hungry to hear about Him and to take Him as their Lord and Savior, desirous of Baptism. Folks are seeking Jesus Christ and immediately find Him and the joyous union of the fellowship of believers is contagious because now they are always with Jesus Christ’s alive Presence.
Christ is with you, within New Testament Scriptures. With Christ in your heart your eyes are opened to the activity of Christ in and around you by the power of the Holy Spirit. Speak boldly about Jesus Christ and be blessed. He will guard your life as you put your trust fully in Him. Yield yourself in long prayer time with Him and He will direct your paths in righteousness for His Name sake. Lean not on your own understanding but depend completely in Christ understanding.
So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or undertaking is of human origin it will fail; but if it is of God you will not be able to over throw them– in that case you may even be found fighting against God. Acts 5:38-39
These words are spoken by Gamiliel, a respected religious teacher of Jesus’ time who was also Paul’s teacher. Gamiliel moves forward to speak, not in defense of the apostles, but say if temple authorities leave these believers alone they will either flourish or flounder. This temple group does not have eyes to see Christ within John and Peter for it is Christ’s Good News that flourishes.
The Living Presence of Victorious Christ within believer’s hearts and minds has already taken Holy hold. This is not a movement of people joining a just cause but it is people, one by one, giving themselves in humble surrender to Jesus Christ as their lives are joyously and gloriously locked into Him.
Jesus Christ’s victory was at Resurrection! His Victory frees you. Just as the Angel freed Peter and John from jail so we are freed by Christ from sin’s bonds holding us captive. The tempter has no power over you. You belong to Christ. Christ in your heart frees you to stand firm for Him, take action in His Name, and uphold His Love in this world as primary and foremost in all you say, do, and are.
The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging Him on a tree. God exalted Him at His right Hand as Leader and Savior that He might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Acts 5:27-32
Jesus had said that the Gospel would go out first to Jerusalem and it is affirmed here. Gospel is God’s mercy and grace given to us, unmerited, as salvation in Christ is offered at all times to ones whose sins put Jesus on the tree. Jesus Christ Savior Resurrected is the true way to God. Christ opened the direct way to God for anyone who will humbly repent of their sins and take Him as Savior for life.
Peter speaks that Jesus was hung on a tree. This is correct for it was not nice straight timbers with a crossbar, it was a tree. From this tree of salvation God has exhaled Him at His right Hand. Positioned Him in authority and action, as Christ has always been and will always be perfect in Love– proven to you as He’s given His life on this tree willingly. You are to do all things with and in Christ. Jesus Christ our Lord is everything.
Jesus Christ completes the I AM … sentence spoken to Moses at the burning bush. I AM the RESURRECTION is your Savior and Lord. He breathes into you the Holy Spirit as you obey Him. Spirit is your strength, helper, and guide. Christ is alive forevermore and we cannot help but live for Him, speak up about Him, and rejoice together that we are His loved ones used by Him humbly in His service.
Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees), being filled with jealousy, arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an Angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and said, “Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this Life.” When they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching. Acts 5:17-21
Jealousy in the Sadducees leads the persecution of Christians now. (Formerly, the Pharisees led the persecution of Jesus.) The Good News of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection must get to the hearts of those in all walks of life and Peter preaches the Resurrection as disciple John confirms believer’s into Jesus. Our Heavenly Father sends an Angel to free them from prison and instructs them to go back to His people (the Gentiles, the Jews, the seekers) and affirms the Holy Spirit will fill new believer’s hearts.
The new believers learn of the everlasting Life in Jesus which begins the moment one accepts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Those in the temple are there waiting with expectation, hope, and the need for Jesus. Expectation and the Spirit’s outpouring comes to every gathering of believers who expectantly worship and adore Jesus Christ. To learn about and use Jesus Christ’s Life giving words and Presence cause the believers to rejoice as He permanently enters their lives.
The Apostles go on with their Resurrection teaching as the Spirit strengthens and assures them, entering the temple at daybreak. Daybreak speaks to their discovery that the tomb was empty and Jesus Christ Resurrected defeated death, stomped on evil’s head, and gloriously sparks up the Light of His Presence in believer’s hearts. Be assured by the Spirit that Christ’s Presence is yours to guard you from jealousy and evil as you are instructed here to stand and tell of Life in Christ’s compassionate Love.
Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. Acts 5:14-15
Seekers of Christ come also from nearby towns bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits to be healed as they are cured by Jesus Christ our Lord. Through separate records we know that by 300 A.D. there are over a million Christians in the Roman Empire (Peter dies 64 A.D.). Peter has the Spirit Gifts in their fullness and Christ uses him to show His glorious Love. As the original disciples taught new disciples, these have been handed down to us generationally.
Peter, James, and John were in the inner circle of Jesus and have firsthand spiritual experiences with Jesus to witness to and share with new believers. New believers listen intently and pass exact stories on to one another. Men and women come to believe in Resurrected Christ through Peter’s sharing and healing prayers. The Presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit is so pure that even Peter’s shadow passing over a sick person prompts the Spirit to gift Christ’s healing.
Peter has abundant zest for being true to the Savior Jesus! He has already experienced the surge of spirituality from amazing Grace– Jesus forgave him three times for his thrice denial during Jesus’ unjust arrest and trial. So we ask, what is Peter doing that you and other believers can do in service for Christ? Fit people for heaven (like Peter does), on earth and hereafter, by zestfully bringing all into the Love of Christ Jesus’ Holy Presence.
How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God. Acts 4:4
I read yesterday that between the ages of six and ten years old a child forms their platform for telling lies. The child will lie and see if they get away with it and proceed from there to learn to lie better or learn to stop lying. Believers know that they can never get away with a lie because God always knows. Acts 4 shows us that the majority of help from the Holy Spirit is to bond heart of the believer to Jesus Christ the Truth, thus believers are not to tell lies.
You tell the truth and live in Truth (Jesus Christ) by relying on the advocacy of the Holy Spirit to give your heart and mind instant correction.
This is a matter of your heart. Any lie, small or large, is wrong. Best example is given in Scripture today. Ananias and Sapphira sell a piece of land to give to their community of believers and yet they hold back a portion of the land’s proceeds for themselves. When Peter asks them if they are giving the entire proceeds of the land to Jesus’ community of believers they both lie and say that they are giving all, then God strikes them dead for lying.
We previously studied the book of John where Jesus says, “… there is no truth in him (the devil). When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) Jesus speaks to hard-hearted folks who wholeheartedly reject him and are obeying their father the devil. The lie you tell is the red flag of your hard-heartedness. Any lie can align you to the devil. This is why it is wrong to lie. You are lying to God when you tell a lie.
There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles feet. Acts 4:36-37
The Holy Spirit guides you with confidence, encouragement, and is your Advocate. Joseph of Cyprus has been filled with the Holy Spirit and the apostles rename him Barnabas due to the fact that his personality has been transformed by the Holy Spirit into encouragement toward others. He is Spirit led to sell a piece of land which belonged to him and then his hands lay all the money before the apostles. This is Barnabas’ hands and heart responding to the needs of others in their believer’s community, and also it is his way of encouraging others to stand fast in the faith in Christ Resurrected.
To us, the most significant fact about Jesus is His happy, radiant, loving personality. The apostles have first-hand experience of Jesus. The apostles pattern their outreach from Jesus’ own ways. They are filled with joy and love that seeks to benefit others with our Resurrected Christ within the power of the Holy Spirit. Barnabascatches The Spirit through giving, joy of living, and free expression of his faith. The apostles are teaching this community of believers to share everything– goods, money, and faith.
Giving is a hand out and a hand up. When your hands and heart are sharing with generosity and encouragement you are doing more than meeting others needs. You are actively showing others that you have an intentional interest in their faith life because you are mirroring Christ’s light of compassionate love which is grounded in your being through the Holy Spirit. Your hands and heart reach out to help, to bless, and to heal.