The apostles continued to perform miracles and preach the gospel. Out of jealousy, the high priest and his officials arrested them and put them in the public jail. An angel of the Lord opened the gates and brought them out telling them to go back to the Temple and give the people the message of life. Imagine the surprise of the high council the next day to find the jail empty and the apostles back in the Temple preaching.
The apostles were again arrested and questioned as to why they were doing exactly what the high priest had told them not to do. “We must obey God rather than human authority…” (Acts 5:29)
They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go. The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them WORTHY TO SUFFER disgrace for the name of Jesus. And every day, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.” – Acts 5:40-42
So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too. Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people… (Acts 6:7-8)
A plot against Stephen formed and he was soon arrested and brought before the high council. When questioned, Stephen preached with boldness. He spoke of Abraham and Joseph, Moses and King David. He ended his sermon with a strong accusation against the Jewish leaders.
“You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One – the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.”
The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of the young man named Saul.
As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” and with that he died. – Acts 7:51-60
The apostles were arrested and flogged and what did they do? They left rejoicing because they had the opportunity to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. Stephen is arrested and falsely accused and what does he do? He uses his arrest as an opportunity to preach and expose sin. When drug out of the city and while being stoned, Stephen prays. While dying, Stephen forgives those who are killing him.
How will I react to situations in my life this week? Will I complain or rejoice? Will I defend myself or defend Christ? Will I forgive those who wrong me? Will I look for opportunities to glorify God?
Lord, I give you my week. See my heart. See how much work is left to be done in my attitudes and in my perspectives and change me. Lord, do a work in my heart so that my reaction to every situation this week brings glory to YOU. Lord I pray for protection for those who speak out boldly against the demands of this world and for those who are persecuted for their faith. May your message of grace spread and the number of believers increase. Amen.