Summary: The story of Jesus doesn’t end with His ascension. In the scriptures His story continues in the lives of the disciples, and today the story goes on in our lives. The primary assignment of the Church is to lift up Jesus. We are not a social or political
Lifting Up Jesus
The story of Jesus doesn’t end with His ascension. In the scriptures His story continues in the lives of the disciples, and today the story goes on in our lives. The primary assignment of the Church is to lift up Jesus. We are not a social or political action group. There are other groups whose primary cause is to address those issues. No one else is lifting up Jesus. Therefore, our primary message is to keep the story of Jesus alive.
Our text for today begins the second major division of the book of Acts, if you divide it up according to the Lord’s Commission in Acts 1:8.: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
First they were to witness in Jerusalem. Now we come to the Lord Jesus Christ’s work by the Holy Spirit through the apostles in Judea and Samaria. This section of the book includes chapters 8-12. Chapter 7 concluded with a most unusual scene. It included the two young men who had the greatest influence upon the early church. The one was Stephen, the deacon, the young man who gave up his life, the first martyr in the church. The other man was a young Pharisee who had charge of the stoning of Stephen. His name was Saul.
I want to read our text for today and you will see as we study these verses that Saul becomes the chief persecutor of the Church, and that the Church is scattered.
1 Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.
6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
7 For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed.
8 And there was great joy in that city.
9 But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great,
10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power of God.”
11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time.
12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.
13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.
Let’s take a quick look at what happened in the Early Church that kept the story of Jesus alive. The disciples had been filled with the Spirit, and the Spirit empowered them for witnessing. He gave Peter insight into the Word and the ability to show men Christ in the Word. The Spirit used the witness of the Church to convict the lost, just as Jesus said He would do. But the same Holy Spirit also assisted the believers in their church fellowship. The original group was outnumbered by the new believers, but there was still harmony in the church family. They worshipped daily and witnessed daily, and “the Lord added to the church daily.”
God was doing great things through them. The Lord Jesus Christ was at work by the Holy Spirit through the apostles in Jerusalem. The Church was born on the Day of Pentecost, because the Holy Spirit was indwelling believers; and He filled them with His love, power and the ability to serve.
There were wonders performed by the apostles. Peter healed a lame man who was setting at the gate of the Temple. When a crowd formed to observe the miracle, Peter gave his first sermon and three thousand were saved. Later on he preached his second sermon and five thousand believed.
They were holding the things of the world loosely. Those who owned property sold it and brought the proceeds to the apostles and laid it at their feet. They held all things in common; people were provided for by the Church according to how great their need was. They were an unselfish and living in loving fellowship.