Persecution: Quit Trying to Have Power Absent Persecution

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament spiritual account of the body of Christ—the book of Acts—as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically today’s passage is found in verses twenty-six through forty of the eighth chapter. “And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? For his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea” (Acts 8:26-40.

 

            [“And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made a great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havocs of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud v lice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also; and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given he offered them money,s saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me. And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans” (Acts 8:1-25)]

 

            FROM PERSECUTION TO PHILIP! FROM PERSECUTION TO SAMARIA! When you come to this portion of Scripture you will find the continued narrative of Philip and the movement and activity of the Holy Spirit within his life. If there is one thing that makes the words and language found in this passage of Scripture so incredibly unique and powerful when you take the time to think about it it’s how it would transition from the persecution of the early church which would break out in the city of Jerusalem to the movement and ministry of Philip. As you begin reading the words which are found in the opening verses of this chapter you will find some incredibly challenging and powerful words—namely, “And Saul was consenting unto his death.” This is incredibly unique and telling when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible truth surrounding the connection between how the eighth chapter begins and how the seventh chapter concludes. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the final verses of the seventh chapter you will find that after Stephen’s defense before the Sanhedrin after being falsely and wrongly accused they were all pricked in both heart and conscience at the words he spoke. What’s more is that instead of asking what they needed to do to be saved and what they needed to do in response to the words Stephen spoke they all rushed with one accord and dragged him out of that place where they would take up stones against him. The seventh chapter of this New Testament book concludes with those who had accused as well as heard the accusations against Stephen taking up stones against him that they might destroy and put him to death. That which we find in the final verses of the seventh chapter provide us with the account of the first martyr of the early church as there would be many within the city of Jerusalem who would indeed take up stones and stone Stephen to death. What’s more and what makes the words found in this passage of Scripture so incredibly unique when you think about it is when you consider the fact that even while Stephen was being stoned he would have a revelation of the person of Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father and would even exhibit the character and nature of Christ as he would ask the living God to not lay this sin to the charge of those who were putting him to death.

 

            There is a great need for us to recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to the incredible truth surrounding the first martyr and death of the early church. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for how the seventh chapter ends and concludes is directly linked and connected to the words which we find in the beginning and opening of the eighth chapter. We must needs pay close attention to the words which are found here in the final verses of the seventh chapter as they call and draw our attention to the persecution which would begin in the city of Jerusalem and which would ultimately lead to the scattering of the early church. What makes this all the more astonishing and intriguing when you take the time to think about it is when you consider that while the days of the early church were indeed days of the movement and activity of the Holy they would also be days of tremendous persecution toward and against the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have previously written that the single greatest offense which was present during the days of the early church was the name of Jesus. The apostles would emphatically declare that those who called upon the name of the Lord would be saved and it would be the apostles who would declare that there is none other name given in heaven and upon the earth whereby men must be saved. Moreover the apostles would also emphatically declare that it was the name and faith in the name of Jesus of Nazareth which led to the healing and wholeness of the man who was lame from his mother’s womb.

 

            As you read the words which are found within this New Testament book you will find that not only had Jesus been raised from death to life but He had also ascended unto the right hand of the Father. The religious and political leaders which were present during those days might very well have thought they had destroyed and put Jesus to death and yet what we find here is incredibly powerful language surrounding the apostles making a bold claim—and not only a bold claim but a bold statement. The apostles themselves would declare that yes, Jesus had suffered in the flesh, that yes Jesus had been killed and crucified and He was indeed buried in the earth. With that being said, however, the apostles would also declare that Jesus had been raised from death to life. The apostles would lay the sin of the death of the Lord Jesus upon the feet of the religious and political leaders—this despite the fact they would also declare that they did so through ignorance. In order to understand the words which are found within the New Testament book of Acts you must needs recognize and understand that while it is indeed a tremendous and powerful narrative of the movement, the activity, the person, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit it is also a book about the resistance and opposition that would rise up toward and against the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for if you want to understand the death of Stephen who was the church’s first martyr, if you want to understand the persecution of the early church in Jerusalem, if you want to understand the scattering of the early church throughout all Judaea and Samaria, and if you want to understand the ministry of Philip as set forth in the eighth chapter you must needs recognize and understand the course of events which led to this taking place within and among the early church.

 

            I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention first and foremost to the words which are found in the opening verses of the first chapter of this New Testament book. It is in the first and opening chapter where we encounter the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and how on the first day of the week He would be raised from death to life just as He said and promised He would. What’s more is that Jesus would show Himself alive with many infallible proofs over a period of forty days while also instructing and commanding His disciples and followers preparing them for His ascension unto the right hand of the Father which was in heaven. This is necessary for us to recognize and understand as it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely awesome and wonderful truth surrounding and regarding the days after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus leading up to that time when He would ascend unto the right hand of the Father which was in heaven. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the first chapter of this book beginning to read with and from the first verse:

 

            “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: to whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water: but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the Son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:1-14).

 

            It is absolutely necessary for us to recognize and understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for what we find in the first chapter of this New Testament book opens us up—not only to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and not only to the revelation of the resurrected Jesus but also to the ascension of the Lord Jesus. What’s more is the words and language we find in this passage of Scripture calls and draws our attention to the mystery surrounding the return and coming again of the Lord Jesus. The words which we find in this passage of Scripture paints a clear and powerful picture surrounding the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and how it would be as a direct result of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth that He would ascend unto the right hand of the Father. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful reality of the ascension of the Lord Jesus and how it would not only be a promise of the abiding presence and fellowship of the Father and the Son in the earth but also the promise of dwelling together with the Father and the Son in heaven where the Father and the Son would be and where they had been since before time began. There is something absolutely incredible when you take the time to think about and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for if you want to truly understand the language that is found in the New Testament book of Acts you must needs recognize and it’s important to begin with and at the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from death to life and how He would not only show and demonstrate Himself alive over a period of forty days but He would ascend unto the right hand of the Father. It would be because He ascended unto the right hand of the Father that the promise of the Father which was the person and presence of the Holy Spirit would be manifested within and upon the earth. Consider now if you will the following words which are found in the second chapter of this New Testament book beginning with the first and opening verse:

 

            “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another. What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine” (Acts 2:1-13).

            That which we find here in this passage of Scripture is absolutely incredible when you take the time to think about and consider it for it calls and draws our focus to the day of Pentecost—and not only to the day of Pentecost but also that time when the day of Pentecost had fully come. It would be in the second chapter of this New Testament book where we find the narrative and account of the coming and manifestation of the Holy Spirit who would come on the day of Pentecost. It would be on the day of Pentecost Jesus would fulfill that which He had promised unto His disciples and followers—not only that He would send the Comforter but that He would send the promise of the Father. It would be on the day of Pentecost when Jesus would indeed fulfill the words which He had spoken unto them concerning their remaining and abiding in the midst of the city of Jerusalem until they be endued with power from on high. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely wonderful and incredible this truly is for it brings us face to face with the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the Lord Jesus Christ and how ten days after He would ascend unto the right hand of the Father which was in heaven He would indeed send the promise of the Father which was in heaven. When the day of Pentecost had fully come the Lord Jesus would indeed fulfill and keep the promise He made as he would send the promise of the Father which was the person, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit. It would be on this particular day when the sound as of a mighty rushing wind would fill the room where they were all with one accord in prayer and cloven tongues of fire would rest upon them. Moreover it would be on this particular day when all those which were present in the upper room would speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. On the day of Pentecost the tongues of the nations would be manifested in the midst of the city of Jerusalem as all those Jews which were present in Jerusalem and had come from the nations of the earth would hear the wonderful works of the living God spoken and declared unto them in their own native tongue and language.

 

            We must needs understand and recognize the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for what we begin witnessing and beholding within the New Testament book of Acts is an incredibly unique and powerful picture of the boldness, the confidence, the authority and the power of the Holy Spirit. The more you read the words which are found within this New Testament book of Acts the more you will find that which the person, presence and power of the Holy Spirit brought unto the church and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. As you read the words found in this New Testament book you will encounter the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the preaching of the name of the Lord Jesus. It is absolutely impossible to read the words found in this New Testament book and not encounter and come face to face with the preaching of the name of the Lord Jesus. If you want to truly understand the words and language found within this New Testament book it is absolutely necessary for you to recognize the preaching of the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Not only this but there is also a great need to recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in this New Testament book and how in addition to the preaching of the name of Jesus of Nazareth there was also the preaching of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from death to life on the third day just as He said and promised He would do. As early as the second chapter of this New Testament book we find the preaching of the name of Jesus of Nazareth—a name which I am sure the religious and political leaders which were present in the midst of Judaea and Jerusalem were anxious to forget and dismiss from their memory and remembrance altogether. What I so absolutely love about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture is that even though Jesus was crucified, even though He was buried, and even through He would be raised from death to life and would ascend unto the right hand of the Father His name and His words would remain in the midst of the earth.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts and I am absolutely captivated with the tremendous and incredible truth surrounding the preaching of the name of Jesus of Nazareth. That name which the religious and political leaders of that day would just as surely assumed to forget and strike from the conscience and psyche of the people within Jerusalem and Judaea would indeed continue to be preached. What’s more is that as we will see in the third chapter this name would be more than simply that which was taught and preached by the apostles in Jerusalem but it would also be preached unto the Samaritans which you will find and read in the eighth chapter. What’s more is that in the third chapter we find that the name of Jesus and faith in the name of Jesus would indeed lead to the healing of a man who was lame from birth in the midst of the city of Jerusalem and at the gate called Beautiful at the Temple of the living God. As if it weren’t enough for the apostles to teach and preach the name of the Lord Jesus they would also demonstrate and manifest healing in that name and through faith in that name. So absolutely wonderful and marvelous was this when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible truth surrounding the manifestation of the name of this Jesus of Nazareth during the days of the Holy Spirit for the name of Jesus would not only be intrinsically linked and connected to resurrection but it would also be linked to healing. This is something we must recognize and understand when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture for it brings us face to face with the absolutely wonderful concept surrounding the teaching and preaching of the name of Jesus and the inherent power in both the preaching and proclamation of that name. Oh with this being said I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the second, third and eighth chapters of this New Testament book beginning with the second chapter:

 

            “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approve of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be Holden of it. For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord slays before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my hearty rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which. Ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:22-36).

 

            “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:37-40).

 

 

            IN the second chapter of this New Testament book we find the apostle Peter preaching Jesus of Nazareth unto those who were present in Jerusalem at that time—and not only preaching the name of Jesus of Nazareth unto them but also the resurrection from death. The apostle Peter would initially declare unto them that what they were witnessing on that day was the fulfillment of the words which the prophet Joel had prophesied unto them centuries and generations earlier. Having emphatically declared unto them this fulfillment of the prophetic word spoken by Joel the apostle Peter would then preach unto them Jesus of Nazareth crucified, buried, raised from death to life and ascended unto the right hand of the Father. Not only this but the apostle Peter would also instruct them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. This would indeed be the first time within this New Testament book we read of the name of Jesus as it was preached during those days and it’s something we must needs recognize and consider when coming to the third chapter. It would be in the third chapter of this New Testament book where we not only encounter healing in the name of Jesus but we also encounter the absolutely wonderful declaration of how it was the name of Jesus and faith in His name that would bring about and lead to the healing of this man who was lame from his mother’s womb. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the third chapter beginning to read with and from the first verse:

 

            “Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God: and they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him” (Acts 3:1-10).

 

            “And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s greatly wondering. And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? Or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorant ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord h your God shall raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not heart that prophet, shall be destroyed from the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follower after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:11-26).

 

            It is within the third chapter of this New Testament book we encounter and come face to face with the absolutely wonderful and incredible reality surrounding the name of Jesus of Nazareth and how that name and faith in that name would lead to and bring about the healing of the man who was lame from his mother’s womb. In the third chapter of this New Testament book we encounter and come face to face with the absolutely wonderful reality surrounding the healing of this man who was lame from his mother’s womb and how through the name of Jesus this man would find and experience healing within his physical body in both his feet and his ankles. OH we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible this truly is when you take the time to think about it for there is a strong and stark contrast which is found in the third chapter and the fourth chapter. What’s more is that not only would there be a stark contrast between the language found in the third and fourth chapters but there would also be a stark contrast between certain words which are found in the third chapter and the fifth chapter. It is when we come to the fourth and fifth chapter where we begin to notice this resistance and opposition to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. It is absolutely impossible to read the words which are found in the fourth and fifth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely remarkable and astounding truth surrounding the resistance, the rejection and the opposition toward and of the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This resistance toward and rejection of the name of Jesus of Nazareth is something which we must needs recognize and understand for it can and will help us to recognize and understand what we find in the fourth and fifth chapters of this New Testament book. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fourth and fifth chapters of this book beginning with the opening verse of the fourth chapter:

 

            “And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about give thousand. And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4;1-12).

 

            “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they too knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, What shall we do to these men? For that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done. For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed” (Acts 4:13-22).

 

            “And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatosever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:23-31).

 

            Consider now if you will the following words which are found in the fifth chapter and how healing would continue to take place in the name of Jesus and how signs and wonders would be wrought by the hands of the apostles. Moreover you will find in the fifth chapter an incredibly unique and powerful description of the continued resistance of and opposition toward the name of Jesus. In the fifth chapter of this New Testament book we encounter signs and wonders being wrought by, at and through the hands of the apostles and how there were not only multitudes who were healed but also multitudes were added unto the believers—both men and women. Undoubtedly the religious and political leaders were not only threatened by the name of Jesus of Nazareth, not only were they threatened by the preaching of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, not only were they threatened by the signs, wonders and miracles which took place during those days but the believers and early church would continue to grow in size as multitudes both of men and women were added unto their number daily. At one point in time we read of the number which believed being five thousand which would indeed be the same number of the largest number of those whom Jesus fed with loaves of bread and fish. With this being said I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fifth chapter of this New Testament book of Acts beginning to read with and from the twelfth verse:

 

            “And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women,) insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one” (Acts 5:12-16).

 

            “Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Saccudees,) and were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within. Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow. Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, saying, Did we not straitly command you that ye should not teach in this. Name? And, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (Acts 5:17-32).

 

            “When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them. Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; and said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing,a nd drew away much people after him: he also perished:; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them God. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:33-42).

 

            YE MEN OF ISRAEL, HEAR THESE WORDS; JESUS OF NAZARETH! THIS JESUS HATH GOD RAISED UP! GOD HATH MADE THAT SAME JESUS, WHOM YE CRUCIFIED, BOTH LORD AND CHRIST! REPENT, AND BE BAPTIZED EVERY ONE OF YOU IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS! IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST OF NAZARETH RISE UP AND WALK! AND HIS NAME THROUGH FAITH IN HIS NAME HATH MADE THIS MAN STRONG! PREACHED THROUGH JESUS THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD! BY WHAT POWER, OR BY WHAT NAME HAVE YE DONE THIS? BY THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST OF NAZARETH, WHOM YE CRUCIFIED, WHOM GOD RAISED FORM THE DEAD, EVEN BY HIM DOTH THIS MAN STAND HERE BEFORE YOU WHOLE! THERE IS NONE OTHER NAME UNDER HEAVEN GIVEN AMONG MEN, WHEREBY WE MUST BE SAVED! LET US STRAITLY THREATEN THEM, THAT THEY SPEAK HENCEFORTH TO NO MAN IN THIS NAME! COMMANDED THEM NOT TO SPEAK AT ALL NOR TEACH IN THE NAME OF JESUS! AND THAT SIGNS AND WONDERS MAY BE DONE BY THE NAME OF THY HOLY CHILD JESUS! DID NOT WE STRATILY COMMAND YOU THAT YE SHOULD NOT TEACH IN THIS NAME? AND WHEN THEY HAD CALLED THE APOSTLES, AND BEATEN THEM, THEY COMMANDED THAT THEY SHOULD NOT SPEAK IN THE NAME OF JESUS! REJOICING THAT THEY WERE COUNTED WORTHY TO SUFFER SHAME FOR HIS NAME!

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for what we find here is an incredibly unique and powerful picture of the rejection of and resistance toward the name of the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Within the third chapter we find the apostles emphatically declaring that it was through the name and faith in the name of Jesus that this man who was lame from his mother’s womb would be healed and made whole. What’s more is that in the second chapter of this New Testament book we find the apostle Peter admonishing those who responded to the preaching of Jesus of Nazareth and instructed them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus of Nazareth for the remission of sins that they might receive the promise of the Holy Spirit which was for both they and their children. Oh this is something we have a great need of recognizing and understanding for when we come to this passage of Scripture we must needs acknowledge two different opinions concerning the name of the Lord Jesus. The apostles would indeed preach the name of Jesus of Nazareth and would preach resurrection from the dead by and through the name of Jesus of Nazareth. The apostles would themselves emphatically declare that men must repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus unto remission of sins that they might receive the promise of the Father which was the Holy Spirit. Moreover the apostles would declare and proclaim that it was the name of Jesus of Nazareth and faith in His name that would cause the man lame from his mother’s womb to be made whole and be healed. The apostles would indeed preach the name of the Lord Jesus and would preach this same Jesus whom they had delivered up unto Pilate and sinners that He might suffer in the flesh, that He might be killed and crucified and that He might be buried in the grave. What the apostles would emphatically declare and proclaim, however, was that Jesus had indeed been raised from death to life on the third day as He said He would and that God the Father had indeed exalted Him and given Him a name higher and greater than any other name.

 

            The more you read the words which are found in this New Testament book the more you will find something running contrary to the preaching of the name of Jesus of Nazareth for you will indeed find a grief and indignation toward that name. It is in the third chapter of this New Testament book we encounter the priests, the captain of the Temple and the Sadducees (who interestingly enough did not believe in the resurrection from the dead) came upon the apostles, the man who had been healed and all those who were gathered together unto them being grieved that they not only taught in the name of this Jesus of Nazareth but also that they preached resurrection from the grave and from death. It is in the fifth chapter of this New Testament book we encounter continued resistance and opposition toward the name of the Lord Jesus as what was previously grief would indeed transition to indignation. It is as you come to the fifth chapter of this New Testament gospel you will continue to encounter the tremendous rejection of and resistance toward the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous opposition which was found within the hearts and minds of the religious and political leaders which were present in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. From the priests, to the elders, to the scribes, to the Sadducees, to the high priest and to the senate of the people there was a great resistance toward the name of Jesus. What’s more is that this name of Jesus of Nazareth—a name which they would just assume forget was ever present among them—would be directly linked to healing, to signs and wonders and even to resurrection from the dead. The apostles would preach that the name of Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the only means whereby men can be saved and preached and admonished that men ought to call upon that name that they might be saved. Oh how absolutely wonderful and powerful this truly is when you take the time to think about it for there is something absolutely captivating about the words and language that is found in this New Testament book concerning the resistance toward the name of Jesus of Nazareth and how offensive it truly was to the religious and political system of that generation.

 

            When you come to the eighth chapter of this New Testament book you will find persecution taking on an entirely new and different level as what would be indignation and grief toward the apostles for teaching and preaching the name of Jesus would transition to wrath and rage toward and against those who confessed and believed upon the name of Jesus of Nazareth. If you want to truly understand that which we find in the eighth chapter you must needs recognize and understand that what is present and manifested here is a tremendous and powerful resistance and opposition—not merely to the name of Jesus of Nazareth but also toward those who confessed and believed on that name. It wasn’t enough for the senate of the people and for the religious and political leaders in Jerusalem to straitly charge and command the apostles not to teach and preach in the name of Jesus but now there was an incredible persecution that would break out against the early church and those who would confess and profess the name of the Lord Jesus. As you come to the eighth chapter you will find that it wasn’t merely about the name of Jesus of Nazareth nor even about teaching and preaching in the name of Jesus but it was now about those who were called by that name. In the eighth chapter of this New Testament book we find the persecution and opposition being directed unto those who would confess and profess the name of the Lord Jesus during those days. It had transitioned beyond simply a resistance toward and rejection of the name of the Lord Jesus but it would be a persecution of those who were called by the name and a persecution of those who confessed and professed the name of Jesus during those days. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there is something truly astonishing and captivating about the words and language found in this passage of Scripture and how absolutely wonderful it truly is for there would be a resistance toward and rejection of the name of the Lord Jesus of Nazareth and those who were called by His name—“If my people who are called by my name.” Oh please pay close attention to those words “if my people who are called by my name” for what we find here in the eighth chapter is a direct persecution of a people who were called by the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the first four verses of the eighth chapter and this tremendous persecution which would break out in Jerusalem against those who were called by the name of this Jesus of Nazareth:

 

            “And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and hailing men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word” (Acts 8:1-4).

 

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for what we find here is the beginning of a tremendous persecution toward and against the spiritual body of Jesus. In the fourth and fifth chapters we find the religious and political leaders which were present in the midst of the city of Jerusalem being grieved and filled with indignation that they taught and preached in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. What’s more is they were grieved that they not only preached resurrection from the dead through this name but they also seemed compelled to bring the blood of Jesus upon them. This is something which warrants strong consideration when coming to this section of the book of Acts for it is here where you will notice a wonderful and powerful transition. Up until this point the spiritual body of Jesus of Nazareth remained largely untouched as the wrath, the offense, the anger, the indignation and the malice of the religious and political leaders would be directed toward the apostles. It wouldn’t be until Stephen’s death at the hands of those who would stone him that something shifted during the days of the early church—specifically within the heart and mind of Saul of Tarsus. Scripture makes it perfectly clear that Saul consented to the death of Stephen and immediately after that there began a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem. Up until this point the church—the spiritual body of Jesus of Nazareth—was indeed shielded from the persecution that would ultimately come against it, however, there is one thing we must needs recognize. What we find here in this passage calls and draws our attention to the fact that persecution was always inevitable for the spiritual body of Jesus of Nazareth. The words which Jesus of Nazareth had spoken while He was still yet with His disciples and followers were not limited to the disciples themselves but would in fact touch all those who would be called by His name and all those who would profess and confess His name.

 

            As you come to the eighth chapter of this particular New Testament you will find something which was always going to take place within the spiritual body of Jesus of Nazareth and something that could not be avoided. There is not a doubt in my mind that just as surely as the promise of the Father was going to be released upon those who believed on the name of the Lord Jesus and were baptized in water and baptized in His name so also would persecution eventually reach the shores of the land which was the spiritual body of Jesus. For six chapters the opposition, the resistance and the rejection of the name of Jesus of Nazareth would be directed toward the apostles and it would be they themselves who would be threatened, imprisoned and even beaten while the religious and political leaders commanded and demanded of them that they cease teaching and preaching in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Of course we know and understand the apostles did not comply with the commands and demands of the political and religious leaders and continued to preach the gospel and word of life as Jesus had commanded and even as the angel of the Lord which brought them forth from the midst of the prison had commanded. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it brings us face to face with the absolutely challenging truth that there was always going to come a day when persecution would break out against the early church. Oh it is true they might have enjoyed a period of rest and a period of uninterrupted fellowship without the threat and fear of persecution, however, when we come to the eighth chapter of this New Testament book we find persecution beginning to break out against the spiritual body of Jesus. What’s more is that not only did persecution break out against the church but the church itself—save the apostles—would be scattered throughout all Judaea and even Samaria.

 

            If there is one thing we must needs recognize when reading the words found in the New Testament book of Acts—specifically the eighth chapter—it’s that not only would persecution fulfill the words which were spoken by Jesus of Nazareth Himself but as a direct result of that persecution the church would begin to step into and fulfill that for which they were created and formed. Jesus Himself declared that they would receive power after the Holy Ghost came upon them and they would be witnesses unto Him—first in Jerusalem, then in Judaea, then in Samaria and ultimately unto the ends of the earth. What we see here within the eighth chapter is an incredibly powerful picture of persecution helping to facilitate—not only the growth of the church itself but also allowing the church to step into its full potential and that for which it was created and formed. We would like to think that the church would be witnesses in all of Judaea and Samaria simply because they chose to take the word and gospel into the cities, towns and villages contained within them, however, the book of Acts paints an entirely different picture. The New Testament book of Acts is an incredibly powerful picture of how persecution and suffering would not only promote growth but it would also promote and bring about the direct fulfillment of that which the Lord Jesus Himself had declared and spoken of before His ascension. It was Jesus Himself who declared they would be hated of all nations for His name’s sake, that they would be put out of the synagogues, that they would be killed by those who believed themselves doing a service unto the living God and also that they would be witnesses and receive power. If there is one thing we must needs understand it’s that there are men and women who want power yet don’t want and aren’t ready to handle persecution when it arises in their lives, in their cities, in their towns, in their nation and the like. In all reality I would dare say that persecution is more often than not intrinsically linked and connected to the power of the Holy Spirit and the two cannot be separated from each other. Try and try as we may to separate persecution from power the New Testament book of Acts paints a clear and present picture that this simply is not the case.

 

            The more I read the words which are found in this particular book the more I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the direct connection between persecution and power. I read the words which are presented in this passage of Scripture and I find something which cannot be disputed nor denied—namely that persecution and the power of the Holy Spirit are intrinsically linked and connected. What’s more is that it would be the persecution that broke out against the church that would indeed lead to the church itself stepping into that for which it was created and that for which it was formed. When I read the words found in the eighth chapter I am absolutely gripped with the truth surrounding the persecution which broke out against the church and how the persecution would itself bring about the direct fulfillment of the words which Jesus spoke concerning the word and gospel spreading unto and throughout all Judaea and Samaria. There was indeed a work which would take place in the midst of the city of Jerusalem and that work would be evidenced and manifested in the first seven chapters. What we find when coming to the eighth chapter, however, is the beginning of a transition which would take place in the midst of the early church. It would be the persecution which would break out against the early church that would indeed facilitate the growth of the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus as Jerusalem itself was too small to contain it. The same way no physical house or Temple built within the earth could contain the fullness of the glory and majesty of the eternal God is the same way the city of Jerusalem could not contain the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ. With this being said we must needs recognize that the spiritual body of Jesus Christ was never designed nor was it ever intended on remaining and abiding within the city of Jerusalem. The spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ was always destined and designed to be manifested in the midst of the the earth and it was never designed to remain in the city of Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem would indeed be too small for the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ and was only meant to be the starting point and the birthing place of that body.

 

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the incredible truth surrounding the great persecution which would break out against and upon the early church. It would be in the eighth chapter where you will find those who were called by the name of Jesus of Nazareth who would become targets within the city of Jerusalem. The time of rest and peace for the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ had come to an end and the age of persecution was beginning—an age which many of them might not have expected or even anticipated. With this being said it is important that we recognize and understand the true reason we come to Jesus of Nazareth. We must needs recognize and understand that if we come to Jesus of Nazareth simply for salvation, simply to avoid hell, simply to gain heaven and simply to live our best life now here on the earth we are sorely mistaken. I am absolutely convinced that those who come to Jesus of Nazareth for this reason can and will be those who will be greatly offended with persecution rises on account of the word and name of the Lord Jesus. Remember in the parable of the sower how Jesus described the seed which fell upon the stony ground and how it would represent those who heard the word with joy and gladness initially and perhaps even bore some fruit and yet when persecution and suffering arose on account of the word they would be offended. What’s more is that when Jesus was describing the Last Days He would speak of those days as being days of tremendous persecution, affliction and suffering and how many would be offended. I am absolutely convinced that when persecution arises for the sake of the word and for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus we either experience offense or we experience power. When persecution arises on account of the word and name of the Lord Jesus we are faced with a decision whether or not we will turn back and walk no more with Jesus or will continue walking with Him by and through the person and presence of the Holy Spirit and will go where He sends us and say what He wants us to say.

 

If there is one thing I absolutely love about the words presented in this passage of Scripture it’s how despite the persecution which broke out against the early church in the city of Jerusalem the church would be scattered abroad and would go everywhere preaching the word. What’s more is that it would be Philip who would go down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them. Stop and simply consider the magnitude and weight of the words which Luke wrote here for they bring us face to face with that which we have been called to do—namely, “Preach Christ” unto those to whom we have been called and sent. Luke writes how Philip preached Christ unto those in the city of Samaria and how the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake. What’s more is that unclean spirits cried out with a loud voice as they came out of many that were possessed with them and many taken with palsies and those that were lame were healed. What’s more is Luke also goes on to write how there was great joy in that city as a direct result of the preaching of Christ and the witness of His presence and power. Not only this but Luke goes on to write how they believed Philip reaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ and were baptized—both men and women. Eventually report of what was happening in Samaria would reach the apostles in Jerusalem and they would send unto Philip and those in the city the apostles Peter and John. When these apostles of Christ came down they prayed for those who had heard and had been baptized in the name of Jesus that they might receive the Holy Ghost. It would be when the apostles Peter and John laid hands on them and prayed for them they would receive the Holy Ghost—something which at that point had only happened in the city of Jerusalem. Oh there is a great need for us to recognize and understand this for I am convinced that we are heading into days within this generation and this nation when the growth of the body of Christ, our own spiritual growth and even the power of the Spirit are going to be intrinsically linked and connected to persecution, suffering and affliction. I can’t help but feel within my heart that as we are coming to the days ahead of us we must needs prepare ourselves for an onslaught of persecution and a torrent of affliction and suffering. Moreover we must not only be those who endure unto the end but we must also be those who guard our hearts and souls from offense when such things arise among us within our generation as Jesus Himself emphatically declared would.

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