…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
In the Old Testament, the blood of sacrifice covered the sins of the people, and they were forgiven. When Jesus came, He cleansed the sin from within us by changing man’s sinful heart (Ezekial 36: 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.)
In the Old Testament Israel followed God because of the visual , physical manifestations He showed them. Now, we follow God because His Spirit is within us, teaching, leading and guiding us in our Christian lives.
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
There is no sugar-coating here. God is telling Saul up front that he will suffer. The thought of suffering for Christ did not deter him.
Possessing the free gift of salvation, and knowing Jesus Christ gives us everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness …} Salvation isn’t a means to a trouble-free life, a life that has no suffering. Knowing Jesus, having his love, comfort and peace within us is how we travel through times of suffering, never forgetting that this is not our home. We are on the way home.
You have no part or share in this ministry, because you heart is not right before God.
As Christians, this should be a daily event in prayer – making sure our hearts are right before God. We want to share in the fruit of the ministries God has given us. We want to hear the words, “Good and faithful servant”, when we move to our eternal home in heaven. And then, we will fall at His feet, thanking Him and praising Him for the blessings of life and godliness He imparted to us in our lives.
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’
Heaven must be opened for us to see beyond this world and into the glory of God. BUT…look at vs. 34, (God speaking)I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt. God hears our groanings from the earth, through the barrier that divides us from heaven – our groanings, our rejoicing, our prayers and our praise. The Psalms tell us He hears every sigh and records every tear. It is His love for us that .pierces the barrier between heaven and earth.
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
Let this be a lesson to us. No one is beyond the hope of the saving grace of Jesus – not the most hardened by sin, not the most legalistic, not the most religious or the most stubborn or the most argumentative. Keep praying. Keep sharing.
Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!
They state it clearly: their orders are from God, not from man. They know this and they obey. Sometimes people won’t understand decisions we make or actions we take, but if our instructions are clearly from God, we can obey with confidence.
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
God does not require that we be wealthy, educated, prominent persons in order to be used by Him. God only asks that we be available and obedient. He will do the work through us.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
What caught my attention here was the phrase, “that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” This comes after repentance, turning to God, sins wiped out: then, times of refreshing come from the Lord. Consider then, if we have sin in our lives, as believers, we won’t have refreshing times from the Lord. In this sin-crazy, dark world, don’t you long for those refreshing oases with the Lord?
Peter replied, ” Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
It would be easy to miss this truth since it comes at the end of the passage: it is the Lord Who calls. It is the Lord Who adds to the number of those being saved. Our responsibility is to be God’s willing vessels, to share the Good News when given the opportunity. But, whether that person embraces salvation or not is between the individual and God. We plant the Word of God, we sow the seeds of truth, but God is the Saviour.
Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen…”
There is comfort in this verse. There is accountability, and, there is justice. Comfort, because we know that when we fall to our knees before Him and cry out – for wisdom, for healing or for help in life – He can read our heart, though our words may be imperfect. Accountability, because we are to be cleansed from sin before approaching the throne of grace. Justice, because He can see the heart of those who would use and abuse us, those who would be our enemies and He knows how to deal with them.
Be comforted, be careful, have confidence, for the Lord knows everyone’s heart.