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From Persecutor to Preacher

from Google Images

from Google Images

Paul persecuted the nascent Church, because he believed that the fact Jesus was crucified indicated both he and his message were cursed by heaven (Deuteronomy 21:23). One might conclude that not only was he responsible for Stephen’s death, but that he was also behind the first persecution of the Church (Acts 7:58-60; 8:1, 3). As a result of the posture Paul assumed toward believers in Jesus, he became the Jewish authorities’ go-to person to get the job done concerning putting down this new Jewish movement (Acts 9:1-2). He excelled where others failed (Galatians 1:14). Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2015 in Epistle to the Galatians, Paul

 

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Paul Visits Thessalonica

After being asked to leave Philippi by the city magistrates (Acts 16:39), Paul visited Lydia’s home, which had become the first house-church in the city and comforted and encouraged the believing community there. His delay in obeying the city authorities expresses the advantage of his Roman citizenship, which honor had been vindicated through the magistrates’ apology concerning their illegal behavior. Paul left on the Via Egnatia, the main Roman highway connecting Rome with her eastern provinces. The missionary team was probably on horseback and reached Thessalonica in approximately three days with overnight stops at Amphipolis and Apollonia (Acts 17:1), roughly 30 miles per day. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Gospel, Paul's 2nd Missionary Journey

 

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Church Unity at Risk!

Sometimes we are completely unaware of the pressures we are under and how this translates into our walk with Christ. I think this was the issue that faced the believing community in this next phase of Luke’s work of recording the progress of the nascent Church of God. The first phase, remember, dealt with the believing community being the Body of Christ or the Temple of God. That is, the Temple that Jesus was building was not stationary but mobile, and it, therefore, did not reside only in Jerusalem but existed wherever believers in Jesus were found! Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2012 in circumcision, Temple of God

 

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The Churches of God Were Multiplied

Luke concludes Acts 9:31 with the words: “…[the churches throughout all Judea, Samaria and Galilee], walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, were multiplied.” Months ago I had shared what I believed to be the manner in which Luke had written Acts. I believe he wrote Acts in 6 submissions, which can be categorized into three themes of two parts each. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2012 in Persecution, Temple of God

 

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Jerusalem’s Hesitancy to Agree with Paul

Once Paul was accepted as a sincere brother in the Lord by the Apostles at Jerusalem (Acts 9:27), this didn’t mean that Paul’s Gospel was fully embraced by the church authorities there. We receive a glimpse of Peter’s uneasiness with Paul’s understanding in Acts 10 when Peter actually needed a special vision from the Lord to change his point of view. James, the Lord’s brother and later apparent head of the Jerusalem church, didn’t make any official decision on Paul’s Gospel until Acts 15, a little over a decade after Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem. Nevertheless, an unwritten agreement between Paul and the leaders of the Jerusalem church seems to have been ironed out in the 15 days Paul spent with Peter (Galatians 1:18), during which time, he also seemed to have met with James, the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:19). Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2012 in Paul's First Visit to Jerusalem

 

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The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb

Wolf and lamb

from Google Images

I wonder how often, if ever, that we think of the prospect of coming into fellowship with one who hurt us badly. Most often, I suspect, we would simply seek to avoid such a person. People who seem to live to or at least enjoy hurting those who trust in Jesus are too often simply written off as unreachable, and perhaps unforgivable. Certainly, it would be very difficult to forgive such a one under normal circumstances who had beaten or killed a friend or a loved one, especially a harmless, gentle friend or loved one. Yet, as the Scripture keeps telling us, the thoughts of God are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9); yes, the depth and height of his wisdom is beyond our full comprehension (Romans 11:33). Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2012 in Religion

 

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The Wrath of Saul

Wrath of Saul

from Google Images

From the beginning the Jewish people held the Jesus Movement in high esteem. Although many didn’t fully embrace the Gospel, the Apostles and early believers were not only regarded as harmless to the Jewish faith, but what they preached was part of that faith, just as the sects of the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes were so held. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2012 in Kingdom of God

 

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Saul and the Persecution

Saul Persecutor

from Google Images

If Luke was not among those believers who were persecuted and had to leave Jerusalem, he may not have witnessed Stephen’s death or those events that followed. However, it would not be inconsistent with his explanation in Luke 1:1-4 that he could have researched his material concerning the events surrounding Stephen’s death and the persecution that followed. These things may very well have been supplied by Philip, who had ultimately settled in Caesarea after fleeing Jerusalem. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in Kingdom of God

 

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The Reluctant Evangelists

Philip the evangelist

from Google Images

For about three and one-half years the disciples had been witnesses at Jerusalem, the capital of Judaism. Miracles were done in the name of Jesus and the Gospel was preached and believed in power. Thousands were baptized into the Kingdom of God and most of these traveled home to various parts of the Empire taking the Gospel with them. Nevertheless, the power behind the Gospel seemed to build up pressure at the capital like waters behind a damn of clay. Something had to occur sooner or later, and finally it did. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2012 in Kingdom of God

 

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The First to Die for Christ

Stephen's Death

from Google Images

Stephen’s death (Acts 7:51-60) is probably the most significant chapter in the life of the Church since Pentecost. He is the first believer whose blood was shed in Jesus’ name, and I don’t believe its significance is fully appreciated in the Church today. It may come as a surprise to know that he was probably stoned on the Day of Atonement 3 ½ years after Jesus’ crucifixion and comes at the culmination of the second half of the 70th week of Daniels 70 Weeks Prophecy. The first half of that week incorporated Jesus’ public ministry which ended in his crucifixion in the “midst of the week” (cp. Daniel 9:26-27). Both halves equal 7 years or the 70th Week beginning on the Feast of Trumpets in 27 AD and ending on the Day of Atonement or 10th day of the seventh month in 34 AD. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2011 in Kingdom of God

 

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The Tenth Temptation of God

Tempting God - 2

from Google Images

Whether or not Stephen was concluding his address to the Sanhedrin is not specifically stated in the text. However, it seems by the time he stated that the Most High doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands, quoting Isaiah the prophet, Stephen seems to react to something the crowd said or did, because in Acts 7:51 he complains his audience is reacting just as their fathers had in the past. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2011 in Kingdom of God

 

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The Tent of Witness

Tent of Witness

from Google Images

Without a doubt Stephen’s speech before the Sanhedrin is the most important event concerning the community of believers since Pentecost in Acts 2. Luke devotes more space to what Stephen says than any address spoken by either Peter or Paul in the Book of Acts. It stands out as a defining point for the Church. From this point on the Gospel will go to the nations. From this point on, less and less emphasis is placed upon Jerusalem as the center of the faith. It is almost as though God dwelt there in Jerusalem until blood began to be shed, after which he led his people out—not quite true, but the principle that showed the presence of God was not in a specific place, but wherever his people happened to be is defined here with Stephen’s words: “The Most High dwells not in Temples made with hands!” Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2011 in Kingdom of God

 

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The Prophet Like Moses and Worship

Moses - worship

from Google Images

Remember that Stephen was accused of blasphemy against Moses (or the Law) and against the Temple (Acts 6:13-14). In the last four blogs I’ve shown how Stephen addressed the first accusation. By and large the fathers had rejected both Moses and Joseph and had no faith in God as their father, Abraham had. Their eyes were always upon the past, traditions, where they had been (e.g. in Egypt etc.) and had no vision for the future (promises to be fulfilled). The five books of Moses are what make up the Law (Torah), so blasphemy against either (Moses/Torah) is blasphemy against the other. Not only did Stephen show a reverence toward Moses, but implied the Prophet who was like him (Acts 7:37) fulfilled Moses’ experiences to the letter, i.e. he fulfilled the Law and was rejected and crucified in doing so. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2011 in Kingdom of God

 

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The Prophet Like Moses ~ Savior

Moses - Savior

from Google Images

As we go through Acts 7, I am emphasizing parts of Stephen’s address before the Sanhedrin, hoping to show how the young Messianic leader put forth not only his defense but that of the Gospel as well. Throughout Stephen’s address he points to Israel’s history—a solidified revelation of how God has interpreted himself and his relationship with mankind in such a manner that God’s people’s eyes were always directed toward the future. It was a history of faith and expectation. The problem in Stephen’s day was the Jewish authorities wrongly defined their present service to God with the past. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Kingdom of God

 

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The Prophet Like Moses ~ His Rejection

Moses - rejected

from Google Images

Luke, in the person of Stephen, uses four periods in Moses life, beginning with his birth and then separated by 40 years each, to show a correlation between Moses and the Prophet who would be like him (Jesus), and subsequent parallels in the lives of those who would be like Jesus. What happened to Moses reoccurred in Jesus’ life under different circumstances, and, perhaps unexpectedly, we find what happened to Jesus, the Christ (Messiah), also occurred in the “life” of the Body of Christ—the believing community—and this is Stephen’s defense, Moses’ life is Stephen’s vindication and the vindication of the Gospel Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2011 in Kingdom of God

 

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