Acts 8:1-3 ESV
“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.”
The same people who had persecuted and put to death Jesus Christ and the deacon Stephen were now persecuting the New Testament believers in Jesus Christ. For they rejected Jesus Christ as their Lord and Messiah, and so they were bent on destroying the followers of Christ and their testimonies for Jesus Christ and for his gospel. For, they didn’t want to hear about Jesus Christ nor about the gospel of Jesus Christ and his plan of salvation.
And who persecuted and put Jesus to death? They were primarily the rulers in the Temple of God, and they were the teachers of the Scriptures. Some or all of them were hypocrites, or primarily the hypocrisy applied to the Pharisees. For they put on a show of righteousness on the outside and they liked to have attention drawn to themselves and for people to think well of them, but they were secretly sinning. But Jesus knew of their sinful practices, and he was not fooled by them nor by their performances.
And that is one of the reasons why they hated Jesus, because he saw right through their performances to see what was in their hearts, and they didn’t like that. They also hated him because he said he was God, and because of his temporary popularity among the people who were flocking to Jesus because he was healing them (and because of his miracles, and in some cases because he had also fed them miraculously twice). And so they were threatened by him out of fear they might lose their own positions of power.
And if we are as committed to Christ and to his gospel as the early Christians were, we also will be persecuted as they were. But now, here in America, to claim faith in Jesus Christ is rather common, actually, so right now there is not a big outcry against anyone professing faith in Jesus Christ. For, it isn’t in the professing of faith in Jesus that gets one persecuted here. It is in the putting into practice the things that Jesus taught, and it is actually living what he said to live, and to do what he said we ought to do.
And our persecutors, as well, will largely be among those claiming faith in God, in Jesus Christ, and they will be pastors and elders in the churches (or in what is falsely called “church”). And they will be those who make outward shows of faith in Jesus while they are secretly sinning against God and against others, many of them sexually sinning against their spouses, and some even against their children. And they will be those who have embraced the ”cheap grace gospel” who won’t accept the true gospel of God’s grace.
It isn’t the name of Jesus which offends them, though, and that is because so many of them have created a false God/Jesus in their own minds who fits with how they want to live. And they are following after a false half-truth diluted gospel which allows them to continue living in deliberate and habitual sin without guilt and without the fear of punishment and with the false hope of heaven as their eternal destiny.
But not everyone goes to heaven when they die. Not even every person who professes faith in Jesus Christ is going to heaven. Only those who are doing the will of God the Father who is in heaven will enter the kingdom of heaven. Only those who have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Only those who are denying self, daily putting the deeds of the flesh to death, by the Spirit, and who are walking according to the Spirit of God, and who are not walking in deliberate and habitual sin in direct disobedience to the Lord.
[Matt 7:21-23; Gal 5:24; Lu 9:23-26; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; 1 Jn 1:5-9]
Acts 8:4-8 ESV
“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.”
We need to be those who are proclaiming the truth of the gospel wherever God plants us. If he has put us on the internet, we are to be there to spread the gospel, not to entertain and to be entertained, and not there just to pick fights and insight arguments. But we are to expose the fruitless deeds of darkness, and we are to call out lies and liars who are teaching false doctrines which are leading people astray and away from true faith in Jesus.
And we are to be proclaiming the truth of God’s grace which delivers us from our slavery (addiction) to sin, and which empowers us to live godly and holy lives. For his grace, which brings salvation, trains us to say “NO!” to ungodliness and fleshly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for our Lord’s return. For this purpose Jesus Christ gave his life up for us on that cross that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness, all for the glory and praise of God.
[Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:21-25; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:21-23; Gal 5:16-24; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Rev 18:1-6; Rev 21:8, 27; Rev 22:14-15]
An Original Work / August 8, 2012
Based off Ephesians 1:3-10 NIV
Praise be to God, the Father of Jesus,
Who has blessed us in heavenly realms.
For He chose us in Him from beginning
To be His holy children of God;
All in accord with His will and pleasure;
To the praise of His glorious grace.
In Jesus Christ we receive forgiveness.
We have redemption through His shed blood.
Glorious grace God freely has given us
In the One He loves and adores;
All in accord with the riches of His grace
Which He pours out on those He loves.
With all His wisdom and understanding,
God has made known His will unto us,
According to His will and good pleasure,
Purposed in Christ till all be fulfilled;
To bring all things on earth and in heaven
Under our Lord Christ; be unified.