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Persecution and Preaching (Acts 8:1-8)

July 16, 2014

Reflecting on the Passage:

Here at East Point Church, we have begun a new sermon series entitled “Acts: The Spirit and the Church in the World“. This week’s sermon unveils the reality that God uses unconventional means to accomplish His plans and purposes. Pastor Carter stirs the heart with a healthy reminder that God is sovereign, not tribulations or persecutions. The focus of this sermon is on the great persecution of the Church by Saul and the greater proclamation of the Church.

The Great Persecution of the Church by Saul

And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison (Acts 8:1-4; ESV)”.

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What comes first persecution or proclamation? Experientially, both persecution and preaching go hand-to-hand in a continual cycle. Stephen was a follower of the Way – the name derived from Christ’s teaching that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life – and he realized that being a follower of Christ meant he had to be willing to deny himself or even literally lose his life for the sake of the Gospel (John 10:12; 14:6). On the other hand, Saul had zeal for the God he thought he knew and he wanted to be known for being zealous for God. In fact, Saul wanted see the execution of Stephen, because he was drawn away by lust, and enticed, so much so that he would be known as an instrument of pain and lost for these followers of Christ (cf. James 1:13-15). However, Saul was not sovereign, God is. Even though the persecution was fierce, God remained faithful!

The Greater Proclamation of the Church

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city (Acts 8:4-8; ESV).”

In God’s Kingdom, the death in one produces life in others (John 12:24-27).  Here, we see it is God’s design for all Christians to preach Christ. The more the early church got in trouble for proclaiming the sufficiency of Christ, the more they became stirred to preach Him. As they began to call others around to the repentance against sin and pointing them to the One who is mighty to save and forgive them (Zephaniah 3:17). Who is like the Lord?

Have you counted the cost to follow Jesus Christ?

If you are in Christ, wherever you are God put you there to point people to Christ (Philippians 1:12). We miss opportunities because we do not ask the right questions in our sufferings, such as what the Lord is leading us to do; who do we need minister to about Christ; and in the midst of my scattering what is my mission? Stephen was not executed for preaching the prosperity gospel (i.e. name it and claim it, health and wealth, or self-actualization), instead he believed Jesus was the Way, the Truth, and the Life and died for this reality (John 14:6).

Saul was fighting a losing battle. He did not realize that when one Christians gives his or her life, many more rise in their place. You cannot kill the Church, because you cannot kill Christ.

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

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