Summary: Sometimes our routines keep God from working, so He brings change and even persecution to awaken us as to what He is doing.
The Transition from “Jews for Jesus” to “Semi-Jews for Jesus”
1. People try playing all sorts of tricks.
Two friends run into each other while walking their dogs. One suggests lunch. The other says, "They won’t let us in a restaurant with pets."
Undeterred, the first guy and his German shepherd head into the restaurant. The maître d’ stops them, saying, "Sir, you can’t bring your dog in here."
"But I’m blind," the man replies, "and this is my guide dog."
The maître d’, apologizing profusely, shows both man and dog to a table.
His friend waits five minutes, then tries the same routine. "You have a Chihuahua for a guide dog?" the skeptical maître d’ says.
"A Chihuahua?" the man says. "Is that what they gave me?"
2. The Samaritans were rivals of the Jews, and they played tricks on them, let sending up false signal fires on hilltops. This rivalry, in a way, went back about a thousand years before the Book of Acts took place.
3. Let me review who the Samaritans were. We can start with Solomon’s son, Rehoboam; Jeroboam; the Assyrian invasion and mixture of peoples, 722BC. The return under Ezra and Nehemiah; Samaritans at the time of Jesus (Mt. Gerizim) and now. They only accepted the Torah, so they were waiting for a Moses-like Messiah promised in Deuteronomy.
4. Back then, Samaritans were considered neither Jews nor gentiles, but a sort of defective Jew. I call them “semi-Jews.” Today, because Judaism has moved so far from the Torah, Samaritan Jews are considered stricter when it comes to Torah observance than even Orthodox Jews. The Tribe of Joseph in Revelation 7 probably refers to the Samaritans, among others.
5. But it did not come naturally to the early church to consider evangelizing Samaria, despite the Lord’s Words. God had to make it happen. He is good at that.
Main Idea: Sometimes our routines keep God from working, so He brings change and even persecution to awaken us as to what He is doing.
I. God Shook the Church Through Persecution, and the Church SCATTERED (1-3)
A. Stephen’s STONING Jump-Started Saul’s PERSECUTION (1a, 3)The expression, “broke out” doe not really say who is responsible; was it the Jews who rejected Stephen’s message, was it the devil, was it the Lord, or was it all three? I think it is fair to say that the Lord allowed it, but did not cause it.
• The apostles were so respected by the people that they felt safe to stay put.
• In many situations, they would target the leaders; but they tried that earlier, and it didn’t work…
• Acts 5:17-19, “Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out.”
• I Corinthians 15:9, "For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God."
• I Timothy 1:13, "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief."
• The fiercest enemies of the Gospel, the Bible, and truth, are often religious motivated individuals (or secular crusaders)
• According to Wikipedia, "The persecution of Christians is the religious persecution that Christians have endured as a consequence of professing their faith, both historically and in the current era. In the two thousand years of the Christian faith, about 70 million believers, of whom 45.5 million or 65% lived in the twentieth century, have been killed for their faith." Someone right now is dying for their faith in Christ, while others are imprisoned and tortured as we speak.
B. They buried Stephen and MOURNED for him (2)
1. Grieving is a good thing, even in fearful times
2. Were these Christians or godly Jews? Can one be described as godly if he is not a believer in Jesus, and thus not right with God?
3. Jewish law forbade grieving over a man who had been executed; these men certainly did not agree with Stephen’s stoning.
C. Believers now throughout JUDEA and SAMARIA (1b)
1. The Judeans were Jews, & Jerusalem is in Judea, this means "the rest of Judea."
2. The Samaritans were viewed as compromised Jews; not considered gentiles.
3. A fulfillment of Acts 1:8 (turn there)
4. God doesn’t just talk; He makes things happen
Sometimes our routines keep God from working, so He brings change and even persecution to awaken us as to what He is doing.
II. The Scattered Believers Were EMBOLDENED to Share the Gospel (4-8)