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In the first phase of our study of the book of Acts, I suggested that we adopt what seems to me to be Jesus’ Plan of Action found in Acts 1/8 – a goal accomplished through ever-widening circles until the gospel message penetrates to the very heart of the Roman Empire – Rome itself.

We completed the first of those 4 phases by listening to the preaching of Stephen – a message twice as long as Peter’s Pentecost sermon but producing a rather more hostile response than Peter’s declaration of the Lordship of Christ. This may be due to the fact that the religious leaders had more opportunity between those two sermons to recognise just what a significant threat this new movement was so far their own perspective and agendas were concerned.

One could be forgiven for wondering if Stephen had some kind of “death wish”. He was doing really well until the end of verse 50 when he launched a scathing attack on the religious establishment of his day. (Remind yourself of the thrust of Stephen’s message without necessarily reading it again in its entirety)

The response to Stephen’s message was prompt, decisive and lethal. The execution of Stephen marks the introduction of another young man who was to become the central character of the book of Acts. Luke’s introduction of him is quite “underwhelming”.

“Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul”. (Acts 7:57-58 NLT)

As we begin to launch into Phase 2 of “Action In Acts”, think of the first of those ever-widening circles as Judea and Samaria begin to encounter those who are the Followers of the Way.

Here is something to ponder:

  1. Notice the rapid growth of intensity when it comes to opposition and persecution. Initially it was nothing more than a slap on the wrist (4/18); then came stronger threats, then a night in gaol, then a physical flogging (6/40). Those who oppose Christianity by persecution have not learned the lessons of history. In their attempts to stamp it out by force, they will soon discover that such an approach is completely counter-productive and energizes the very movement they want to neutralize.

  2. I seriously doubt that any of us would go out of our way to cultivate a posture of persecution towards us. However, if our lifestyle is the genuine article , it would seem that  some form of opposition or persecution is inevitable

  3. As we move into phase 2, you will probably realise that the history of the Christian Church is far from complete. It is still being written by our generation.  There is no “Amen” at the end of chapter 28. No doxology.

  4. Luke’s method of telling the early history of the Church is to tell the story of others. We meet such a wide range of people and we hear something of their stories. These are people like Stephen,….Cornelius…. Saul…. Philip.

  5. Do what you can to enter into the story. Imagine that you were there. Imagine that you are one of the characters that you meet. How would you have felt if you were threatened with “bodily harm”.

So, here goes!!  Let phase 2 begin!

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