TODAY’S READING: ACTS 5-7
Internal and external opposition (chapters 5,6); the final offer of the kingdom of heaven rejected by the Nation of Israel (chapter 7).
HIGHLIGHTS & INSIGHTS:
Acts 3 – 6 reveals for us two forms of Satanic opposition: external and internal. External opposition occurs in the form of persecution. There are two cycles of persecution meted out on Peter and John by the Jewish leaders (4:1-22; 5:17-40). Though Peter and John appear to be the objects of wrath, and though the Jewish religious leaders seem to be the persecutors, the fact is that, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). The real object of wrath is Jesus (4:17, 18; 5:28,40), and the real persecutor is Satan. Maybe you’ve noticed that you can comfortably talk about Buddhism, Zen, Feng Shui, the Occult, etc. with any group of people in any public place, but as soon as you mention the name Jesus, an uproar is sure to follow. The devil hates the name of Jesus. Please notice what angered the Jewish religious leaders (!
and the devil) the most: the teaching and preaching of the gospel (4:2, 18; 5:28). The obvious application: if the devil hates it, then it must be effective and we should do it all the more! Teaching and preaching is the primary action of the Great Commission: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations … Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you . . .” (Matthew 28:19, 20). Teaching and preaching is the primary function of a pastor (see Acts 2:14,42; 3:12; 4:31; 5:20,42; 6:1-4; Colossians 1:28; II Timothy 4:17; Titus 1:3; I Corinthians 1:21; I Timothy 4:11-16; II Timothy 4:1,2; I Timothy 5:17; Galatians 6:6). Satan will do anything he can to stop the preaching and teaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If he can’t stop the gospel with external opposition, he’ll walk right in the front doors of the church and try internal opposition. Ananias and Sapphira were held in esteem by the believers because they vowed to sell their property and give ALL of the proceeds to the church. But in an effort to “have their cake and eat it too,” they both told Peter that they had sold the land for less than what they actually received for it, thereby keeping a little nest egg for themselves. They must have thought, “What a great plan! The church will think we’re really spiritual for sacrificing so much, and we’ll still be rich! No one will ever know.” You can fool man, but you can’t fool an omniscient God. Peter defines their offense clearly, “thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God” (Acts 5:4) and they both dropped dead (5:5, 10). The issue wasn’t that they didn’t give it all, it was that they lied to God. I wonder if this is the event that the Apostle John had in mind when he wr!
ote I John 5:16, 17? If you’re like me, you’re thinking, “I bet Sunday attendance dropped after that!” Yep, you’re right. And that was God’s plan (5:11-14)! Notice, however, that souls were still saved. Mark it down: no matter how “holy” the church, no matter how “holy” the leaders, God still purges and purifies His people in preparation for new fruit.
Another form of internal opposition comes from envy, strife and complaining among believers (Acts 6:1). Keep in mind that the Grecians’ complaint was legitimate and it certainly needed to be addressed, but consider also that the devil is more than happy to keep us busy with “legitimate needs” and even “good things” as long as it keeps us from the best thing: prayer and the Word of God. Remember Jesus’ instruction to Martha when she was so busy working to serve Him while Mary sat at His feet, communing with Him? “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41, 42). The Apostles’ deemed it necessary to continue in their primary function: prayer and the Word (6:2, 4), so they delegated the “legitimate need” to elected “deacons” (6:3, 5-7). It is significant to note that God holds even those who carry out the simplest forms of service to a sta!
ndard of “honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” (6:3).
Finally, in chapter 7, we have come to the first key event or turning point in the book of Acts. Acts 7 is the answer to the question of Acts 1:6 and marks the beginning of five of the seven transitions. Acts 7 is the third and final offer of the King and His kingdom to the nation of Israel. Stephen preaches an incredible sermon with three significant points: first, God promised us (Israel) a land (7:2-7); second, God promised us a Prophet like Moses (7:20, 37); third, but you leaders always kill God’s prophets and fail to respond properly to God’s message (7:51-53). Needless to say, the council was enraged and they stoned Stephen while a young zealous Jew named Saul held the stoners’ coats. To understand the significance of this event we need to pay close attention to verse 56: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Stephen saw two things: “the heavens opened” and “the Son of man standing”. Immediately following His !
ascension in Acts 1:9-11, Jesus SAT down at the right hand of the Father as Hebrews 10:12 tells us: “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God”. Colossians 3:1 tells us that even today in the Church Age, Jesus is SEATED at the Father’s right hand: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God”. So the fact that Jesus is STANDING is incredibly significant, but add to that, the fact that the heavens are opened. The next time we find Jesus standing and the heavens opened is Revelation 4:1-3 and 5:1, 5 where Jesus rises to take the book with seven seals from the Father’s hand which marks the beginning of the Tribulation period. Jesus is standing because He is awaiting the nation of Israel’s response. If it’s repentance and water baptism, then Jesus opens the first seal of the Tribulation and Daniel’s seventieth week begins. If it’s rejection, then!
Jesus sits back down, Israel is “blinded in part” (Romans 11!
the Church Age begins. Clearly, the stoning of Stephen is a rejection of God’s offer, and as expected, we find Jesus seated for the duration of the Church Age (Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1). Consequently, God turns His attention to the gospel of the kingdom of God (the spiritual internal kingdom) and to all nations under heaven as we will see in Acts 8.