Power Alone Is Not Enough For the Growth of the Church

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament account of the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ—the book of Acts—as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically today’s passage is found in the first nineteen verses of the ninth chapter. “And Saul, ye breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecuted thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou m use do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink” (Acts 9:1-9).

 

            “And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, or Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the LORD said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus” (Acts 9:10-19).

 

            When you come to the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find yet one of the greatest transitions in all of church history. If you take the time to read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts you will encounter the tremendous truth of certain times during the history of the early church when powerful transitions took place—transitions that would dramatically alter the landscape of the church. The day of Pentecost—when the day of Pentecost was fully come—would indeed be the first major transition and starting point within the history the early church. It would be on this particular day in the midst of the city of Jerusalem when the person, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit would be manifested within and upon the earth. On the day of Pentecost we encounter the tremendous truth surrounding the manifestation of the Holy Spirit within the upper room where all those who had witnessed and beheld the ascension of Jesus of Nazareth unto heaven as a cloud would receive Him out of their sight. Ten days after Jesus ascended unto the right hand of the Father we find those who were with Him at the mount called Olivet gathered together in once place in one accord in prayer. Scripture seems to suggest that there were one-hundred and twenty individuals who were present in the upper room, however, we cannot actually confirm that this was indeed the exact number of those who were present within that upper room. We know that in the first chapter Luke writes that the number of those who were gathered together in one accord was about one-hundred and twenty, however, there is nothing that suggests that there were exactly one-hundred and twenty men and women present within the upper room on the day of Pentecost.

 

            What we do find on the day of Pentecost, however, is the sound of a mighty rushing wind that would fill the room where all those who were gathered together would be present. In addition to this sound of a mighty rushing wind there would appear cloven tongues of fire resting upon the heads of each and every person who was present. There in the upper room each person present would indeed speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for what we find here is an incredibly powerful picture of the coming and manifestation of the Holy Spirit just as Jesus of Nazareth promised while He was still present within and upon the earth. Both prior to His suffering in the flesh and crucifixion at the hands of sinners as well as after His resurrection from the dead Jesus would promise the coming of the person and presence of the Holy Spirit and would even refer to it as the promise of the Father. Jesus would instruct and command His followers to tarry in the city of Jerusalem until they be endued with power from on high. What’s more is that in the first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find Jesus of Nazareth declaring unto them that they would receive power after that the Holy Ghost was come upon them and they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in all of Judaea, in Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth. We cannot afford to miss how absolutely incredible this truly is for Jesus knew what was coming and that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit would first be manifested upon those who heeded His instruction and deliberately and intentionally tarried in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. Those who would hear and obey His word would indeed remain, tarry and abide in the midst of the city of Jerusalem and would receive the promise of the Father which was sent by Jesus from the right hand of the Father.

 

            If you continue reading the New Testament book of Acts you will notice that in the second chapter of this book there is the mention of the power, the presence and the person of the Holy Spirit which would be manifested in the midst of the early church. On the day of Pentecost those who were present in the midst of the upper room would be the first to not only speak with other tongues but also the first to be endued with power from on high. The New Testament book of Acts presents and brings us face to face with the absolutely astonishing and powerful truth surrounding the manifestation of the Holy Spirit during those days and how those who obeyed the word of the Lord Jesus would indeed receive and be clothed and endued with this power from on high. On the day of Pentecost men and women who were gathered together in the upper room would indeed receive power as the Holy Spirit would come upon them. It would be on this particular day when cloven tongues as of fire would rest upon them and they would begin speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gave them witness. This is important for us to recognize and understand for the day of Pentecost would indeed usher in a tremendous and powerful age of the same Spirit which had come upon and anointed men and women during the days of the Old Testament and the Old Covenant. The day of Pentecost would indeed mark the beginning of the age when the person, presence and power of the Holy Spirit would not simply come upon men and women but would actually indwell and inhabit those who believed on the name of the Lord Jesus and those who were baptized unto repentance for the remission of sin. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to a tremendous and powerful shift in the earth that would come about on the day of Pentecost and would indeed be manifested from that day forward—even unto this generation in which we are presently living.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering this reality and concept of the person, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit and I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with the truth surrounding this power of the Holy Spirit that would be manifested in the midst of the earth.If you read and study the days of the early church you will notice that they were days filled with incredible power which would come as a direct result of the manifestation of the person and presence of the Holy Spirit.  It is absolutely impossible to read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts and not encounter the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the coming of the Holy Spirit and how the coming of the Holy Spirit would indeed bring about the manifestation of the power which would be present within the lives of the apostles—and not just the apostles but also within the lives of both Stephen and Philip. Although the New Testament book of Acts reveals how signs and wonders would accompany and follow the preaching of the word at the hands of the apostles and although the book of Acts describes how Stephen and Philip would be used mightily of the Holy Spirit to not only preach the word and gospel of life as well as perform signs and wonders I would dare say there might very well have been others during those days who did indeed perform signs and wonders. We know that all those who were present in the upper room on the day of Pentecost would receive the Holy Spirit, would be filled with the Holy Spirit and would speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. We know that the apostles would indeed perform great and powerful signs and wonders during those days, however, I would dare say and suggest that it is quite possible that men and women who were a part of the early church could have been mightily used by the living and eternal God to perform signs and wonders which would accompany the preaching of the word and gospel of life.

 

            The more I think about and consider the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts the more I am brought face to face with the incredibly awesome and powerful truth surrounding the manifestation of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit and how as a direct result of the person and presence of the Holy Spirit signs, wonders, healing, miracles and even deliverance from unclean spirits would be manifested during those days. I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to this demonstration and manifestation of power which was present during these days for what we find within this book is not only the power that accompanied the person and presence of the Holy Spirit but also persecution which would arise for the sake of the name of Jesus of Nazareth—and not only for the sake of the name of Jesus of Nazareth but also for the sake of the word and gospel of resurrection. If you want to truly understand the days of the early church you must needs understand them as days of the power of the Holy Spirit which accompanied His person and presence as well as the persecution which would come against those who were called by the name of Jesus of Nazareth—those who believed on His name, those who were baptized unto repentance for the remission of sins and those who were baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. Oh it is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in this New Testament book of Acts—first concerning the coming and manifestation of the person and presence of the Holy Spirit as well as concerning the manifestation of the power that would come as a result of the Holy Spirit within the lives of those who believed on and were called by the name of Jesus of Nazareth:

 

            “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” (Acts 1:6-8).

 

            “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 witting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were 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.k 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 strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes 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).

 

            “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41-47).

 

            “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. 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” (Acts 3:1-11).

 

            “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 whatsoever 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).

 

            “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 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 but 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).

 

            “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenian, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, and set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against the holy place, and the law: For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel” (Acts 6:8-15).

 

            “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 voice, 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, recuse 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” (Acts 8:5-13).

 

            “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, 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 8:14-25).

 

            With each of these passages of Scripture we not only encounter the tremendous truth surrounding the manifestation of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost but we also encounter the reality of the continued manifestation of the Holy Spirit during the days of the early church. It was indeed true the Holy Spirit was manifested on the day of Pentecost and that those gathered together in the upper room were baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. What’s more is that on the day of Pentecost all those who believed on the name of Jesus of Nazareth, all those who were baptized and all those who would be called by the name of the Lord Jesus would receive the Holy Spirit. In addition to this we find in the final verses of the fourth chapter of this New Testament book those who were gathered together with the apostles among the brethren were filled with the Holy Spirit. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for it suggests that the filling of the Holy Spirit is not simply a one time experience within our lives but is something we can and should experience on a consistent and continual basis. The New Testament book of Acts reveals and demonstrates that it is possible to receive and be filled with the person, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit, however, it also suggests that we can be filled with the person of the Holy Spirit more than once. Oh 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 reality of the person, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit and how the Holy Spirit is indeed manifested within our lives as He not only fills but also baptizes us with Himself. Moreover it would be in the eighth chapter of this New Testament book we come face to face with the presentation of the Samaritans receiving the Holy Spirit after being baptized in the name of Jesus and after the apostles laid their hands upon them and prayed for them.

 

            The more you read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts the more you will encounter the tremendous truth surrounding the great power that was manifested during the days of the early church. You cannot read the New Testament book of Acts without encountering and coming face to face with the incredible reality of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit as was evidenced through signs, wonders, miracles, healing and the like. Within the New Testament book of Acts we do in fact encounter the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the manifestation of the Holy Spirit through signs, wonders and miracles as the manifestation of the Holy Spirit would indeed come as a direct result of power. There is absolutely no denying the incredible reality that the days of the early church were indeed days of the person and presence of the Holy Spirit as was evidenced through signs, wonders and miracles. You cannot read the account of the book of Acts and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous power that was evidenced through the apostles. What’s more is that signs and wonders would not only be manifested and wrought by the hands of the apostles but Luke also writes how Stephen and Philip would be used mightily of the Holy Spirit to perform signs, wonders and miracles during those days. This is something we must needs recognize for when we think about the days of Pentecost we must needs recognize that these were days filled with tremendous and incredible power just as Jesus of Nazareth declared. It was indeed Jesus who would declare that these days would indeed be days when they would receive power after that the Holy Ghost came upon them and they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judaea, in Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth. This New Testament book demonstrates and reveals this tremendous power that would indeed be manifested during those days and how the person and presence of the Holy Spirit would indeed release power as signs, wonders and miracles would be performed among those who believed and were called upon the name of the Lord Jesus.

 

            Before I continue and move any further in this writing I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the reality of the name of Jesus of Nazareth. I am absolutely convinced that you cannot read this New Testament book of Acts without encountering and coming face to face with the manifestation of the name of Jesus of Nazareth. If you want to truly understand the words and language found within this New Testament book you must needs understand that in addition to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit there would also be the manifestation of the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This Jesus of Nazareth whom the religious and political leaders of Jerusalem and Judaea thought they had crucified and destroyed from the earth would continue to be preached during those days. What’s more is that during those days—not only would the apostles preach healing in the name of Jesus but they would also preach resurrection in the name of Jesus. This is something we must needs recognize and understand when concerning these words for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the manifestation of the name of Jesus of Nazareth for it would be the name of Jesus and baptism in the name of Jesus that would lead to and make room for the baptism of the Holy Spirit as men and women would indeed be filled with the person and presence of the Holy Spirit. It is with this in mind I find it necessary to call and draw your attention to the references found in this New Testament book concerning the manifestation and preaching of the name of Jesus of Nazareth during the days of the apostles as the name of Jesus would indeed be preached—and not only be preached but would also be preached in direct connection to healing and resurrection:

 

            “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also0 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 heart rejoice, any 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 sepulcure 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 receive 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 he 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).

 

            “And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? OR why look ye 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 of 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 murder 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 ignorance 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 your God 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 hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow 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 everyone of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:12-26).

 

            “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 Israel, that by the name of Jesus of Nazareth, whom he 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 4:8-12).

 

            “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 5:29-32).

 

            “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” (Acts 8:12-13).

 

            “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” (Acts 8:14-17).

 

            There is a great need for us to recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for they bring us face to face with the incredible truth of the preaching of the name of Jesus of Nazareth during those days. What’s more is these passages not only present us with the reality of preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus of Nazareth but they also bring us face to face with the truth surrounding the preaching of resurrection by and through Jesus of Nazareth for Jesus Himself was indeed raised up on the third day just as He said and foretold He would. As if this weren’t enough you will read the following words which are found in these passages you will also find that healing would indeed and would in fact come in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. It would be the apostle Peter together with the other apostles who would declare that the impotent man who was lame from his mother’s womb and yet was healed would be healed in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. What’s more is the apostle Peter would declare that it would be the name and faith in the name of Jesus of Nazareth that would allow this man to not only be whole but also healed fully and completely. It is with this being said that we must needs recognize that as we come to the narrative and account of Saul we must begin with the persecution which would be manifested during those days. I am absolutely convinced that when we read this New Testament book of Acts we must recognize and understand that the conversation of Saul of Tarsus is a story that would indeed begin with persecution—and not only the persecution he wrought against the church but also the persecution which would begin in the fourth chapter at the hands of the priests, the Sadducees and the captain of the Temple.

 

            I am sitting here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the narrative and account of Saul of Tarsus and how his story is one that must be understood through the lens and in the context of the persecution of the early church. I would dare say that you cannot truly understand the story and account of Saul of Tarsus and his conversion which would begin with his encounter with Jesus of Nazareth without first recognizing and understanding the account of the persecution that would be present during those days—persecution that would begin with the apostles themselves at the hands of the religious and political leaders which were present during those days. What’s more is that if we want to understand the conversion of Saul we must needs recognize that within the New Testament book of Acts there were at least three distinct manifestations of the person and presence of Jesus of Nazareth beginning with the first chapter. It would be in the first chapter of this New Testament book we encounter and come face to face with the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the ascension of the Lord Jesus and how those who were present with Him on the mount called Olivet would witness His ascension into heaven before a cloud would receive Him out of their sight. The next mention of the person of the Lord Jesus—at least in terms of what might be considered an encounter and experience with Him—would be in the seventh chapter as while Stephen was being stoned to death he would look up into heaven and would see the heavens opened and Jesus standing at the right hand of the living and eternal God. What’s more is that in the ninth chapter we find Saul of Tarsus actually being the first person during the days of the early church to encounter the risen, ascended, exalted and glorified Jesus as He would appear to Him there on that road.

 

            I firmly believe that in order for us to understand the words and language concerning and surrounding the conversion of Saul of Tarsus we must needs recognize and understand the absolutely wonderful and tremendous truth surrounding the persecution which would be experienced during the days of the early church. You cannot truly understand and appreciate the conversion of Saul of Tarsus without understanding the persecution which would be present during the days of the early church. In fact I would dare say that if you want to truly understand the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts you must needs recognize the tremendous truth surrounding the persecution that would come against the early church during those days. This persecution would indeed begin in the fourth chapter after the impotent man who was lame from his mother’s womb was healed in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. The narrative and account of Saul of Tarsus must be understood through this lens of persecution—and not only through the lens of persecution but also through the lens and context of the death of Stephen who would be the early church’s first martyr. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which were found in this New Testament book concerning the persecution of the apostles, the death and stoning of Stephen, the persecution of the early church as well as the persecution and havoc which Saul himself would bring against and upon the early church. Consider if you will the following words which are found in this New Testament book beginning with the fourth chapter and the response of the priests, the Sadducees and the captain of the temple after the impotent man who was lame from his mother’s womb would indeed be healed in the name of Jesus of Nazareth:

 

            “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 their hands on them, and put them in the 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 five 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 took 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).

 

            “Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) 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 th3e chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow. Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the m en 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 priests asked them, saying, Did not we 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, and 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,  you 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 go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And ally in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:33-42).

 

            “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenian, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and spirit by which he spake. Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came u -on him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, and set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: for we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel” (Acts 6:8-15).

 

            “When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’ feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleeep” (Acts 7:54-60).

 

            “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).

 

            “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of theirs way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they lad him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink” (Acts 9:1-9).

 

            It is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand the story of persecution and affliction which is presented in the New Testament book of Acts for the story of such realities during those days is the story of Saul of Tarsus. There is absolutely no way to truly understand the account of Saul of Tarsus—particularly and especially his conversion experience—without understanding the role persecution played in the early church. Scripture is entirely and altogether unclear as to Saul’s personal witness to the persecution of the apostles as mentioned in the fourth and fifth chapters of this boo, however, we know for a fact that when Stephen was stoned to death the witnesses laid their garments at his feet and he consented unto his death. What’s more is I would dare say that it was the death of Stephen that lit the fuse and sparked the fire within Saul’s heart and soul to persecute the early church and those who were followers of the way. In the opening verses of the eighth chapter we not only read of Saul consenting unto the death and stoning of Stephen but we also read how a great persecution broke out in Jerusalem against the early church. So incredible was this persecution that broke out against the early church in Jerusalem that all but the apostles were scattered throughout all Judaea and even in Samaria. In fact it would be as a direct result of this persecution that Philip would find himself in the city of Samaria teaching and preaching the word of life and the gospel and name of Jesus of Nazareth. The story of the early church is as much a story about power as it is about persecution and I would even dare say that it was the power of the Holy Spirit which gave birth to the early church but it was persecution which began to enable the early church and spiritual body of Christ to truly step into its potential. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there is something incredibly unique about the language found in this New Testament book. There is something we must needs recognize concerning the narrative and account of the early church and how it would be persecution—and not necessarily power alone that would enable it to experience continued and further growth. What’s more is it would be persecution—and not necessarily power alone—that would enable the early church and spiritual body of Christ to be able to step into that for which it was created by the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

            I am sitting here today thinking about and considering the tremendous significance that is found within these passages of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the fact that it wasn’t power alone that enabled the early church and spiritual body of Christ to experience growth. What’s more is that it wasn’t power alone that was able to sustain the growth of the spiritual body of Jesus Christ for that power was never destined nor was it designed to remain within the city of Jerusalem. Notice that it wasn’t power that caused the spiritual body of Christ to be scattered throughout all Judaea and Samaria but it was persecution itself. This is something we must needs recognize and truly understand for more often than not we think and try and convinced ourselves that it is power, it is the anointing, it is signs, wonders and miracles that promote and produce growth—not only within our lives but also within the spiritual body of Christ. The truth of the matter, however, is that more often than not the greatest growth comes as a direct result of the greatest persecution. There would be those who would like to think that power alone is enough to sustain personal and corporate growth in the sight and presence of the living and eternal God. What we must recognize, however, is that this is entirely and altogether false and is nothing more than a farce and façade within our hearts and minds.

 

            The more I consider the words found in the New Testament book of Acts the more I am brought face to face with the truth surrounding the persecution which would break out against the early church and the more I am convinced that power without persecution can sometimes have an adverse and negative effect and impact. There are and there have been men and women throughout the generations who would like to think and believe—even preach and promote—that power alone is enough to sustain growth and further the progress of the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ. I read the words presented in the New Testament book of Acts and I am becoming increasingly convinced that power alone has never been nor will it ever be enough to sustain that for which the spiritual body of Christ has been called, created and formed to be. There is something that can be accomplished and is accomplished by and through persecution that cannot be attained without and apart from it. The power of the Holy Spirit is indeed necessary, however, I would dare say that the power of the Spirit enables and equips us to be able to stand in the midst of the persecution rather than avoiding it. There are and there have been men and women who believe that the power of the Holy Spirit is meant to be experienced during times of rest, during times of peace, during times of quietness and the like. The truth of the matter is that this simply is not and has never been the case. We must needs recognize and acknowledge this for to ignore it would be to miss out on that for which we have been called. It was the apostle Paul who emphatically declared that we must through many trials enter into the kingdom of heaven. It was Jesus who would also declare that in this world we would have many trials but not to fear because He has overcome the world. It was Jesus who emphatically declared that we would be hated of all men and all nations for His name’s sake and that we would be persecuted and even put to death. Jesus Himself would declare that those who were persecuted for righteousness’ sake would indeed be blessed and we would be incredibly wise to pay attention to this within our own hearts and lives.

 

            I am sitting here writing these words and I find myself coming face to face with the fact that more often than not it is resistance and not rest that leads to the greatest growth within our own personal lives as well as within the life of the corporate body. I would dare say that it is persecution, suffering, trials and afflictions that can lead to the greatest growth within the life of the spiritual body and even when you consider working out with weights you recognize and understand that lifting weights is meant to tear the muscles down that they can be built up stronger and bigger than before. There is not a doubt in my mind when reading the words found in this New Testament that the persecution which the early church experienced was precisely what was needed to promote and produce the growth and expansion that was needed. What’s more is I would dare say that power alone wasn’t enough for if it was you would read in this book of the early church moving throughout all Judaea and Samaria based on the power of the Holy Spirit. Oh I continue to believe that it is the power of the Holy Spirit that does indeed and does in fact prepare and equip us for the persecution that is destined to be faced within our lives. Not only this but I would also suggest that we dare not think and/or even believe that we can somehow experience persecution without and apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the person, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit that not only prepares us for the persecution itself but it is the person, the presence and the power of the persecution that enables us to stand in the midst of the persecution. Saul of Tarsus would unleash havoc upon the early church and those who were followers of the way as he would enter into houses and homes dragging men and women out as he committed them into prison. This is something we must needs understand for it would be the persecution of the early church that would lead to their growth beyond the city of Jerusalem and into the midst of all Judaea and even Samaria.

 

There is a great need for us as the people of God to recognize and acknowledge that we have indeed and have in fact been called to be such who not only have the person, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit within us but are also those who can stand in the midst of persecution. Even as I am writing these words I am wondering how many men and women within our churches today would in fact be able to stand in the midst of persecution if it truly did in fact break out in our cities, in our streets, in our towns, in our communities and even in our nation. I firmly believe that the early church was in fact able to stand in the midst of and endure the persecution because they had present within them the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. With this being said I am absolutely convinced that there are men and women within many of our churches today who cannot and will not be able to stand in the midst of persecution when it does in fact take place within this nation. We would be incredibly naïve to think and consider—even for a moment—that we would be able to stand in the midst of persecution without and apart from persecution. There is absolutely no denying the fact that the person, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit which was manifested in the midst of the early church enabled and prepared them to be able to stand in the midst of persecution which would rise up in the early church as was mentioned in the eighth chapter. We must needs recognize this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the need for the person, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit for while it does in fact enable signs, wonders and miracles to be manifested and present within our lives I believe it enables us to stand in the midst of and endure persecution, affliction, opposition, trials, troubles and tribulation when they arise.

 

            Even when you come to the account of Saul of Tarsus and read of his conversion experience you will find that he would in fact encounter the risen, the ascended, the exalted and glorified Jesus of Nazareth while traveling on the road to Damascus. There is something about the experience which Saul of Tarsus would have while on his way to Damascus for while on that road he would not only encounter the ascended and glorified Jesus of Nazareth but he would also learn that it was Jesus Himself who he was persecuting. Imagine being Saul and hearing one declare unto you they were Jesus whom you were persecuting—the very Jesus whom you perhaps despised and abhorred within your heart and mind. There on the road to Damascus Saul would encounter the exalted and ascended Jesus Christ who would not only declare that it was he whom Saul was persecuting but would also declare unto him that he needed to go into the city where it would be told him what he must do. Saul would spend three days in the city of Damascus without sight and without food nor drink while he was waiting for that which the Lord Jesus had spoken unto him. It would be during those days when Saul would have a vision of a man named Ananias coming unto him and praying for him that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Moreover it would be during those days when Ananias would see a vision and hear the voice of the Lord speaking unto him. In the vision the Lord would instruct Ananias to go into the street which is called Straight and inquire in the house of Judas for Saul of Tarsus for he would be praying. The Lord would declare unto Ananias that Saul was a chosen vessel unto and for Him to bear His. Name before the Gentiles and kings as well as the children of Israel. What’s more is the Lord would also declare unto Ananias that Saul must suffer many great things for His name’s sake thus marking Saul and making him a target in the coming days. This man who would wreak havoc against and upon the church and who would unleash a fury and torrent of persecution would indeed himself become a target of opposition and the persecution of the Jews who would rise up against him—even as early as during these days in which he was in Damascus.

            As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the incredible truth surrounding this man named Ananias and how he was a faithful disciple of the Lord Jesus living in the city of Damascus. The Lord would appear to him in a vision and instruct him to go into the street called Straight and inquire of a man by the name of Saul of Tarsus. What’s more is the Lord didn’t merely instruct Ananias to inquire of this Saul of Tarsus but the Lord was well aware of Ananias’ knowledge and understanding of who this Saul of Tarsus was. Even Ananias initially spoke unto the Lord of the many things he heard concerning this man and how much evil he had done unto his saints which were at Jerusalem. Not only this but Ananias would also speak unto the Lord of the authority Saul of Tarsus had from the chief priests to bind all that called upon his name there in the midst of Damascus and bring them back unto Jerusalem and commit them into prison. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for I am absolutely convinced that everyone needs an Ananias in their life—that one who would faithfully obey the word and voice of the Lord to be used in our lives that we might not only receive the Holy Spirit but might very well step into that for which the Lord has called us to. I would imagine Ananias initially balked at the idea of going unto this man named Saul of Tarsus for he knew the fury, the rage and the evil he had unleashed against the church in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. What I find absolutely astounding about the words and language presented in this passage of Scripture is how Ananias did indeed and did in fact obey the word and voice of the Lord and go unto Saul. What’s more is that when he came unto Saul of Tarsus he would first call him “brother” before speaking his actual name. We must needs recognize and understand how absolutely incredible this truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the relationship we share with each other—namely that before we recognize and understand each other according to our name(s) we understand each other as brother and/or sister. When Ananias came unto Saul he would first address him as brother and would then speak his name and how Jesus who appeared unto him in the way which he came had sent him that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

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