Summary: God has a great plan, and He uses Satan to accomplish it. Amazing!
Passage: Acts 8:1-8
Intro: The Word of God never ceases to amaze me.
1. come to this little “housekeeping” passage, a summary of what went on.
2. and yet in it we find the fingerprints of God, the events that reveal the plan and purpose of God.
3. and because we discover them here, we can also be on the lookout for God at work in our own time and place.
4. the principles of God do not change, because God does not change.
5. it may look different on the surface, but God is at work in us and through us according to eternal principles.
6. as He works, He reveals to us His wonderful character and teaches us to trust Him.
7. what are the practical principles we can draw from this passage and apply to our everyday life?
I. God Has a Plan, and Uses Satan to Accomplish It
1. our typical view of Satan is that he opposes God, and God opposes him.
2. in general, that is true. But it doesn’t go far enough.
3. verse 1, an outbreak of persecution followed the martyrdom of Stephen.
4. scholars argue about the extent of this persecution-driven dispersion, but clearly the honeymoon was over in Jerusalem.
5. it was a divided city, demonstrated by these “godly men” who buried Stephen and mourned for him.
6. probably godly Jews who were not part of the church, but were impressed by Stephen.
Il) Sanhedrin 6:6 makes it clear that open lamentation was inappropriate for those who had been stoned or otherwise executed under the judgment of the Sanhedrin.
7. it was now open season on followers of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem! What a disaster!
8. but wait! Look at verse 4
9. these believers left the comfortable confines of Jerusalem and went out preaching the word, the gospel of Christ
10. this is where the idea of infection comes in.
11. I want to describe a biological process called lysis. It is the way that a viral infection spreads in the body.
12. going to put a animation up on the overhead that shows this process.
13. virus are seen as little spaceships invading a cell, in which the host DNA provides the equipment to replicate the virus, making more viruses, which then burst out of a cell whose lining has been destroyed by an antibody trying to destroy the virus.
PP Lysis animation
14. the church is full of believers infected by the gospel virus, but they need to be released to infect other cells.
15. Satan persecutes the church here, and what happens?
16. they are released to go back home spread the virus of the gospel virus to others.
17. as we saw in Revelation, all Satan can do is seek to oppose the plan of God.
18. and God uses that very opposition to achieve His plan.
Il) the development of orthodox theology in church history is the story of godly responses to Satanic heresy. Satan seeks to destroy the church, God uses those attempts to cause people to clarify correct doctrine.
PP Harold O.J. Brown’s book “Heresies”
19. God is always at work, even when it appears He is being successfully resisted.
PP Romans 8:28
20. Satan doesn’t need us to help him by sinning
II. God’s Plan Requires People Exhibiting Transformation Through Obedience.
1. the amazing thing about the gospel is that is changes those who receive it.
2. God’s purpose is not just to forgive, but to transform.
3. and that transformation is demonstrated in very visible ways.
4. if someone came and threw us out of our house, drove us from our neighborhood, we might not take it too well
5. but that is exactly what happened to these early believers
6. everyone but the apostles are “scattered”, which is interestingly enough a form of the word used in Mark 4:4 for the scattering of the seeds by the sower
PP Mark 4:4
7. do they quit in a huff? No!
8. verse 4, they preached the word
9. just because their situation had changed, the task remained the same.
PP Acts 1:8
10. some scholars believe Great Commission given just to apostles.
11, clearly these believers thought it was their task as well, and the apostles stayed behind in Jerusalem!
12. the virus is not freed from the cell just to be loosed, but to continue the task of replication in other cells!
13. this kind of obedience shows that these people had been transformed.
14. no longer did they live for themselves, but to be used of God to proclaim the good news.
Il) the same gospel that had gotten Stephen killed!
15. the good news is most powerfully proclaimed when it comes with the evidence of it’s positive power to transform.