At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. Acts 11:27-28
The Holy Spirit will lay prophecies on a believer’s hearts and we are to pay attention and ready ourselves. Agabus comes to the Gentile Church at Antioch, where Barnabas and Paul are Pastoring, to give the prophecy of the famine.
In other words, Antioch is not the one to choose the mission focus at Antioch Church, it is given to them by the Lord. The Lord says that believers in the Judah area will need to rely on Antioch Church for their very lives. Believers arise to meet the challenge.
The Church pools together their resources, they sacrifice at mealtimes and with their spending, they work hard to send monies to believers in the area of Judea. There are believers who need your help today. Alpha Church needs your financial help. Churches in your community need your help. Together, we are to live so that the ‘over and above’ from what we absolutely need goes out to those whom the Lord directs us to.
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the Word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenistic also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The Hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. Acts 11:19-24
Barnabas’ hometown is Cyprus and there are believers (who were accustomed to speaking with Gentiles) from Cyprus in Antioch. Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire. And because of Stephen’s stoning and death the persecution of the believers was heightened, Spirit led leaders strategically spread out, and Christ’s Church takes hold by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is in Antioch that believers were first called Christians and this was known as the Antioch Gentile Church. The Gentiles here were idol worshippers until they receive repentance unto life in Christ our Lord. The Holy Spirit falls into their hearts. The power of God’s Spirit, the Hand of the Lord, is with believers in this Church in Antioch. Barnabas is Pastor, preaching and teaching Christ Alive.
He arrives at the Church and sees the Grace of God. Grace — Christ alive, transforming hearts to be more like Him and Barnabas enthusiastically encourages them, prays constantly for them, and he loves this flock. So do I for we are one in Christ Jesus.
While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the Word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for Baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” Acts 10:44-47
When the Peace of the Holy Spirit falls on these Gentiles they begin to speak in tongues just like it happened in Acts 2:4-11. The Peace of the Holy Spirit falls as Peter is preaching the Word of Christ Risen. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for what Christ has done for us on the Cross.
Scriptural reference to the believers of the circumcision refer to the believing Jews. And Peter indicates that combined with the falling and filling of the Peace of the Holy Spirit there is cleansing Baptism, so he orders the Gentiles to Water Baptism. Note with me that either the Holy Spirit falls before Baptism or falls during Baptism — as Christ deems.
Just as in a wedding where Pastor asks if anyone has any reason why these two shall not be married, so Peter asks if anyone opposes the Gentiles being Baptized. The are Baptized. It is another glorious day for Christ’s Church. This is how Jesus orchestrates Jesus’ Way as He is open to each when your heart has faith in Him. Spirit falls readily. Alleluia.
The next day he got up and went with them, and some of the believers from Joppa accompanied him. The following day they came to Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. On Peter’s arrival Cornelius met him, and falling at his feet, worshiped him. But Peter made him get up, saying, “Stand up; I am only a mortal.” Acts 10:23-26
Some believers accompany Peter from Joppa to Caesarea where a large gathering awaits him. These believers have been readied by prayer and the Word, and on this journey they befriend the messengers of Cornelius and continue prayers privately and together. The Holy Spirit is working in the lives of the travelers and at Cornelius’ gathering.
The Spirit has orchestrated this blessed gathering where Peter will speak. Since an angel came to God-fearing Cornelius, when Cornelius meets Peter he falls down to worship Peter. Peter knows the Lord’s words. In Matthew 4:10 Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6 and 13, “Worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.”
Peter says to Cornelius, “Stand up, I am only a mortal.” John Wesley cautions, ‘Have all his pretended successors attend to this.’
You and I are not to worship people nor worship angels (Rev. 19:10). Servants of Christ are representatives of our Heavenly Father and we direct those in the fold of believers in Christ to stand up, lift up their hearts to Christ, and to see Christ in others. Together on bender knees we worship Truth in Christ our Light of the World. The Holy Spirit works it so.
But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, Who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the Name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them to Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the Name of the Lord. Acts 27-28
Barnabas the encourager takes Saul to the apostles, Peter and James (Gal. 1:18-19) and declares he or she who has been an enemy to the Truth ought not to be trusted until he or she gives proof that they are changed. They have their proof that Saul is a converted soul by witness Ananias, three years of preaching Christ Resurrected in Damascus, and countless souls saved, Baptized, and integrated into Christian community.
The believers remain under tremendous persecution from the Roman government and Saul continues to be targeted for death by the Romans. The apostles take in Saul, accepting the introduction of Barnabas and affirmation of witnesses. Peter is not yet convinced that Christ is to be offered to the Gentile world but Saul has been given that clear intent by Jesus.
Saul is living with conviction in obedience to Christ our Lord. Unwavering. Unrelenting. The Holy Spirit is motivating him and the Holy Spirit motivates you. Holy Spirit makes you strong when you are weak, clear minded within our Lord’s purpose, and gives you words to speak when you open your mouth to witness in Christ’s love to save souls.
After some time had passed, the Jews plotted to kill I’m, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night so that they might kill him; but His disciples too him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples, and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. Acts 9:23-26
Saul leaves Damascus by the believer’s putting him into a merchandise basket and lowering him down the walls to avoid the plotting Jews wanting to catch him and kill him. Three years later he comes to Jerusalem for a first visit (Gal. 1:15) so Saul’s time with the Christians in Damascus has entailed solidifying friendships in Christ, fueled by the Holy Spirit preaching in the synagogue, listening and learning from Jesus, and heartfelt conviction to his purpose to preach to the Gentiles the victory of Christ’s love.
Were you to set a three year goal to prepare for the purpose in Christ what would you choose? Immersion and learning of the Scriptures, forming Christian oneness in community with Christ’s loving acceptance as foundation, discovering the depth of trusting our Lord to strengthen you in faith to go forward each day, or would it be all of these and added to these the practice of solitary and community prayer that is like the rudder on a boat. Trust in Christ as you are readied for something next.
Now after Peter and John had testified and spoken the Word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, proclaiming the Good News to many villages of the Samaritans. Acts 8:25
The first Samaritan convert was the woman at the well with Jesus https://atmyfathersdesk.com/2017/05/04/come-and-see-the-man/ Now after Jesus’ Resurrection the work of the Holy Spirit converts the Samaritans village by village and town by town. This event is marvelous. Let us rejoice in this view of the sweeping fire of the Holy Spirit and also take a forward look together at something excellent next in Acts.
In chapters 8, 9, and 10 three conversions are given to us. In chapter 8 is the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch, the son of Ham. In chapter 9 is the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, the son of Shem. In chapter 10 is the conversion of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, the son of Japheth. Remember that the entire human family comes from these three divisions of people after the flood.
Ham, Shem, and Japheth were the sons of Noah. Thus we see that the Holy Spirit is reaching out to all of humanity; available. Also, in each of these three conversions there are three factors: 1.) the guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead a person to witness so that the conversion opportunity is opened (go where the Holy Spirit is moving you in your prayer life for another individual), and 2.) the Holy Spirit uses things of Christ the Word of God through a person (use the Scriptures of Christ to witness), and 3.) a person is needed to speak what the Holy Spirit places on their heart for the other’s conversion.
But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money! You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness.” Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may happen to me.” Acts 8:20-24
The Holy Spirit usually comes at Baptism (Acts 2:38, 19:5-6) and here the Baptized Samaritans receive the Holy Spirit through apostolic anointing by Peter and John. After this, Simon the magician orders Peter to give him anointing Power, offering money to pay. The Scripture today shows how Peter rebukes him.
Peter’s instructions will lead him to New Birth in Christ. Simon the magician can choose to humble his heart and repent allowing the Holy Spirit to transform him yet he chooses self involvement instead of Christ involvement. New Birth occurs when we give ourselves wholly and completely to Christ and then we turn our back firmly on anything that is not of Christ. The New Birth continually enables Christ to transform us to be like Him.
Your heart softens and conforms to Christ’s love and you bow humbled because you are His dear one. You choose selflessness compassionate friends and together look outward to others needs instead of inward to just your needs. As you are growing in Christ-like love joy is found through immersing yourself in the Scriptures. You speak to affirm and encourage the Promises of Jesus into other’s lives and hold fast to them.
And Saul approved of their killing Stephen. That day a severe persecution began against the Church in Jerusalem, and all except the Apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the Church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison. Acts 8:1-3
Viscous persecution of the Christian believers begins that day. Christians are singled out because of the revolution of the Holy Spirit’s Power — Spirit Wind blowing within hearts of new believers like a hot brushfire on open dry grassland. All who speak to Him discover Him and love Him. The Holy Spirit’s Power today is just as fiery, Spirit strengthens you to do faith, do forgive, and do forge ahead in Christ.
Early believers and we today memorize and do what Jesus says: This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. John 15:12-14 Go ahead and bear fruit my friend, bring others to Him. He assures you that ‘My Heavenly Father will give you whatever you ask in My Name.’ John 15:16 Fruit bearing and prayer are both dependent on obeying His commands to love.
You fan the fire of the Holy Spirit fueled to burn brighter as you love others like Christ. Love within you frees you to prayerfully enter into the Holy Presence of our loving Almighty God. As the Holy Spirit’s Fire burns brightly within them these early Christians firmly love even their enemies and are imprisoned, tortured, injured, and martyred for our faith. These dear ones show you that nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. Romans 8:31-39
Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice. “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died. Acts 7:58-60
Stoned unjustly for his Spirit filled words about the Israelites turning away from God and rejection of God’s only begotten Son Jesus Christ, the witnesses who were legally required to cast the first stones at the offender (Deut. 17:7) murder Stephen. Our hearts are filled with sadness as the first martyred believer is treated so cruelly. We may blame this on mob mentality or closed minds yet the Scripture alerts us that the stoning is a direct result of uncircumcised hearts and ears, rejection of the Holy Spirit.
Those on the council would not bow their necks to God’s yoke nor draw near to the Word of God. The miracle of extreme extraordinary assistance, like Ezekiel 8:1-4, lifts Stephen’s suffering to the throne of God as both Christ and God stand ready to receive him. Before any sentence is passed they rush at Stephen, laying their cloaks at the feet of Saul– Saul who Jesus would later knock off his high horse and speak redeeming Grace, this Saul who cannot guess right now that he too would be stoned for the same cause of Christ.
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” as Stephen prays aloud, worshipping Christ in the very manner in which Christ worshipped our Heavenly Father on the Cross. “Lord, do not hold this sin against them,” as Stephen like Christ requests that our Heavenly Father continue to pursue the hearts of unbelievers even in the midst of their unrighteous unspeakable evil ways. Look to the Cross then also use, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them,” as the blessed Holy Spirit enables us to draw the lost ones to Christ in all ways we can and at all times we can.
When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into Heaven and saw the Glory of God and Jesus standing at the right Hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the Heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right Hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Acts 7:54-57
Stephen is completely filled with the Holy Spirit as he speaks to the council, so much so that when he looks up into Heaven he sees the Glory of God and Christ. This was not his imagination nor a emotional event prompted by the tense situation he was in for this is the fullness of his witness in Truth. In reaction, the men on the council cover their ears not wanting to hear about Resurrected Jesus standing at the right Hand of God. They cover their ears as their hearts are vacant of all faith, causing them to grind their teeth in anger.
Some may think ‘poor Stephen, he is about to be murdered because he was just one person standing against so many angry men.’ Yet Stephen would say, “Not poor me; please rejoice with me for I stood fast in faith in our Resurrected Christ and witnessed to these unbelievers and murders of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit was and is victorious!” Even if you are just one person speaking the right things for our Resurrected Christ stand fast and strong in the Holy Spirit and fear nothing of this world that may hurt you.
Each witness for Christ receives the victory! We do not fear death. Our fear is that our witness will shrink us into background-people because when we are put to the test-of-our-faith by anyone in this world we choose to be afraid to stand firm in our faith and rise to the challenge set before us. Take Stephen as your template to witness for Jesus and speak boldly about Jesus Christ. “Be not afraid,” Jesus says, “I have overcome this world.” He has and this world cannot harm our faith in Him anywhere, anytime, or any believer.
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the Prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become His betrayers and murders. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.” Acts 7:51-53
These men were physically circumcised but not circumcised in their hearts and ears. In other words, they would not listen to God nor to the Son of God. They missed much of what God gave them because of their stiff-necked self serving ways even though the Prophets had given them every opportunity to expect Jesus Messiah Savior. Empowered by the Spirit, Stephen speaks before this cold hearted council and they hear not by their own choices.
Choice can lead to you Jesus or lead away from Jesus. What choices are you making my friend? By that I mean is your heart stayed in the Holy Spirit and your ears filled with Jesus Christ’s words from Scriptures? Is prayer to Him your first thought when you listen to others tell you of their struggles. Prompted by the Spirit of Truth (John 14:15-17) do you take action to do what Spirit prompts you to do to help, to answer with support and encouragement, and to give of yourself to the lost, lonely, and the ‘least of these’ children?
To be circumcised in heart and ears is to experience New Birth in Christ (John 3:1-21) and become a Holy Spirit Baptized Christian. This is the glorious beginning for then the Spirit of Truth will guide you in all things as you yield yourself to Spirit. Filled with the Spirit, Jesus Christ has come to fulfill the law, show us God Almighty, and and give us Spirit. Filled with the Spirit, Jesus allowed evil to put Him to death and then burst evil’s grip of destruction on our hearts and ears by His Resurrection as the angels rejoiced. Spirit shows the one way to God through Jesus Christ is open and stays open.