Our reading this last week reflects both the seriousness of the Holy Spirit and the troubles the disciples would have trying to share the Good News.
Chapter 5 has the story of Ananias and Sapphira. In an attempt to look good in the eyes of the public [other disciples] they try to please on-lookers ad themselves. The plan of duping the disciples of their righteousness gets exposed. Husband and wife were in on the the scheme, so was the Holy Spirit. In the end two dead people for lying. We often think of the unpardonable sin – rejection of the Holy Spirit, but as believers we must know that our hearts and minds are in full view of the Holy Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit, we must reflect both attitude and action that reflect a pure conscience. The event does have its benefits, for the rest of the disciples took notice and were “fearful” – that means they understood the disciplining and “no tolerance’ from God.
The Sadducees [who don’t believe in the resurrection] try to do battle with the apostles and their resilience to preach even though they are threatened. Because the apostles and others were so vocal about what really happened on the day of Christ’s crucifixion Jerusalem was in an uproar. Many believed the truth of how the religious leaders/High Priest out of jealousy nailed Jesus to the cross. Even though there were threats, God told them to “Go, Stand, and Speak” in the Temple. If it were you and me we may have had some skepticism about “getting too visible” to the Temple Jews. I laugh when I read about how the Apostles were in prison, then the next morning out preaching. One can’t help but think of Houdini freeing himself in tough situations. Even though they were told to stop preaching, it seems that they actually grew in boldness and preached more.
It always seems that when God is blessing, Satan is messing! Chapter 6 gives us some insight into how to deal with church issues. The role of the Deacons then was vital in the ability for the Apostles to continue preaching. Nothing has changed. The deacon office is one of only two offices that God instituted. They were instituted for the Church. Ministers/Pastors do not have time to answer every need that arises, they must have lay leaders to care out those tasks. I really see this situation in the same light as Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law giving advice to set up levels of ministry others. Moses then could focus on the nation of Israel, rather than weary himself about trivial things.
The deacon Stephen is a remarkable man. His was considered uneducated by the religious rulers, but his ability to expound on the history of Israel says otherwise. We find that they religious leaders think they can do the same thing all over again as they had done with Jesus, with false accusations and all. But Stephen steps to the microphone and tells them the greater message of God’s dealing with Israel. Obviously they did take kindly to hearing this from some young upstart, so they stoned him. When we look at this, the scripture is true, if we are going to carry the Gospel, expect to be treated no better than Jesus. Today we are silent when opposition comes to the Message of Christ – we are afraid of Men more than we are of God! Stephen repeats Jesus’ words – forgive them.
Now this young educated, free man named Saul comes into the picture. Just for reference – Saul and Jesus were close to the same age. To think that Saul didn’t know of Jesus would be naive. Saul is zealous, but misguided. He will become the greatest apostle to the Gentiles, what a sense of humor God has!
I want to mention the Deacon Philip – what a man of God, his friend Stephen is stoned for preaching, so he goes out and preaches to the Samaritans! What boldness. Philip does not waiver in his preaching. Oh for men of God like Philip who will stand for the Lord regardless of what the world may do to them.
Back to Saul – killing and hauling believers off to jail, thinking he was protecting the Jewish faith and serving God. God has the last word in Saul/Paul’s life. I’ll come back to more of Paul next week!