Text: Acts 11-12
OBSERVE: Within these two chapters we observe the following:
INTERPRET: After initial opposition from the chief priests and then persecution by a zealous young Pharisee, the followers of Jesus have now come to the attention of Herod. Herod Agrippa 1 begins to persecute the church to gain favor of both the religious leaders and the Romans. Herod either saw, or wanted people to think he saw this new Jesus movement as a political threat. So he took action at Passover time which was thought of as the time when God delivered his people from slavery.
Things appear to be going badly for the church on all accounts. Yet, the God who has revealed himself in and through Jesus remains sovereign, and his purpose is moving forward no matter what efforts attempt to stop it. Even the puppet king (Herod Agrippa 1) is unsuccessful at his attempt at killing off the church’s main leadership, and he himself is suddenly cut down with a swift and fatal disease.
APPLICATION: Despite the efforts of the most powerful authorities of the time, the church continued to grow and fulfill its purpose. When persecution arose, we see a new church emerging in another place. When an effort took place to get rid of the leadership of the church, we witness God providing a miracle; that even the faithful believers had a hard time believing. In addition, we see barriers being removed (Herod) and God carrying His church forward. This is emphasized in the text when we read that the Word of God increased and multiplied.
The church has continued to face opposition for its entire existence. Despite all the trials, the Lord Jesus has continued to increase and multiply his church. These stories in scripture along with the last 2000 years of history; should provide us with great hope that Jesus will continue to help His church overcome all obstacles. Not only will Jesus help us overcome adversity; He will continue to increase and multiply.
REFLECTION: Do the stories of the early church facing persecution help you to face your current hardships and obstacles? Are you praying regularly for the persecuted church around the world today? How does their witness encourage you in your daily walk?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus; time and time again you have shown us that your church will not be overcome. Help me to trust in you and your promises more and more each day. Empower and equip all of those in the persecuted church to stand firm in the face of persecution. May you use their faithful witness to increase the Word of God and grow your church. AMEN.
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