Welcome to Week 5 of the Higher Hope Church 2018 New Testament Reading Plan! If you haven’t already, go pick up your 5x5x5 Reading Plan and join our private Facebook group for daily interaction and discussion. In today’s post, I will share a brief recap of of our week where we dug into chapters five through nine of the Book of Acts.
Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, told a lie to the Holy Spirit about the sale of their property. In separate instances, they both immediately fell down and died.
The apostles were arrested and put in jail and subsequently released by an angel of the Lord. They were brought back before the Sanhedrin who demanded to know why they continued to preach in the name of Jesus when they were under strict orders not to do so. Peter and the apostles replied that “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (v. 29). The members of the Sanhedrin were furious and wanted to kill them. However, Gamaliel, a Pharisee and teacher of the law, advised them to leave the men alone.
For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.
Persuaded by Gamaliel, they had the apostles flogged and released, instructing them to not teach in the name of Jesus again.
41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courtsand from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.
The disciples chose seven men to oversee the daily distribution of food so that they could focus on prayer and ministry of the Word. Because of this delegation of leadership, the apostles were able to continue their calling to preach the Word of God.
Some from the synagogue disputed with Stephen. They persuaded others to lie about Stephen so that he could be taken before the council.
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Stephen provides a history of the nation of Israel, from Abraham to Moses to David. He accuses the Sanhedrin of being just like their ancestors and resisting the Holy Spirit as well as betraying and murdering the Righteous One. He tells them that they have not obeyed the law given to them through the angels. After Stephen looks to Heaven and declares that he sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God, the members of the Sanhedrin rushed at Stephen and stoned him to death.
On the day of Stephen’s killing, the church began to be persecuted in Jerusalem. All except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Saul began to destroy the church, dragging men and women off to prison.
Philip preached the gospel of Christ in Samaria. Simon the sorcerer was fascinated by the signs and miracles that he saw Philip performing and believed and was baptized. Peter and John were sent to Samaria once they heard that the people were accepting the gospel. They laid their hands on the new believers and they all received the Holy Spirit. Simon the sorcerer, however, wanted to buy the gift of the Spirit. He thought the gift of God could be bought. Peter instantly rebuked him, telling him to repent and get his heart right before the Lord.
At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, Philip traveled south where he met an Ethiopian eunuch who was reading from the Book of Isaiah. Philip engaged the eunuch in conversation and helped the Ethiopian to understand the scripture he was reading and the good news about Jesus. When they came upon some water, Philip baptized the official.
On his way to Damascus to arrest the believers there and take them back to Jerusalem, Saul encountered Jesus. Jesus asked, “Why do you persecute me?” Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” Jesus responds, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
Saul gets up but is now blinded so his traveling companions help him into Damascus. Ananias responds to the Lord’s call, albeit it hesitantly at first, to go to Saul and remove his blindness. The scales were then removed from Saul’s eyes. He got up and was baptized. He spent several days with the disciples and at once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God. After learning of a plot by the Jews to kill him, Saul escaped to Jerusalem. The disciples there were not eager to take him in as they were not convinced he was truly a disciple. However, Barnabas took him in, brought him to the apostles and told his story to them.
In Joppa, Peter raised Tabitha (Dorcas) from the dead.
Questions for Reflection
- What is the purpose of the story of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira? Why did God choose to include this in the Bible?
- Do you have trouble delegating tasks or saying NO to other people so that you can focus on what God is specifically calling YOU to do?
- Why did Peter and John have to lay their hands on the new believers in Samaria before they received the Holy Spirit?
- Do you truly feel that God can save ANYONE – that his salvation is available for all and He has a plan for every single person on earth?
- What step of faith is the Holy Spirit asking you to take this week? What fears do you need to lay aside to step in faith?