Summary: This sermon describes the predictable attacks of Satan when the Spirit moves in a church or a person’s life and how we should respond to those attacks.
When The Spirit Moves
April 28, 2002
A. [illustration: From the sermon, "Spreading Power through Persecution" by John Piper, senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota]
On January 9, 1985, a Congregational pastor in Bulgaria named Christo Kuleczef, was arrested and put in jail.
His crime was preaching in his church, just like I am right now.
It was a crime because the week before the village committee had appointed a new pastor.
The secular committee who runs the village put a new pastor in even though the Congregational church doesn’t recognize any pastors but the ones they elect and install.
So he preached, and they clamped him in jail immediately, and he immediately began to share Christ and make the truth known while he was in prison.
He had a trial.
It was a mockery of justice, and he was sentenced to eight months.
He did his eight months, got out, and wrote these words: "Both prisoners and jailers asked many questions, and we had a more fruitful ministry there than we could have expected in church. God was better served by our presence in prison than if we had been free."
B. Today we come to Acts chapter 8 and the aftermath of the stoning of Stephen where we can learn some things about persecution and the attacks of Satan.
I. The aftermath of the stoning of Stephen for them.
A. Saul gave approval.
Acts 8:1, And Saul was there, giving approval to his death…
1. Now this is the same guy who we now know as Paul.
2. The same apostle Paul who later went on several missionary journeys starting churches all over the world.
3. The same apostle Paul who later wrote over half the NT.
4. The same apostle Paul who taught us all most of what we know about NT Christianity.
5. But this is our first introduction to him.
6. His name at this time is Saul and he was there when these spiritually immature men did what they did to Stephen in the previous chapter.
7. Acts 7:54-60, When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 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. 56 "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.
8. Acts 8:1, And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.
9. Saul was there giving approval to what these hard-hearted people did to Stephen.
10. Saul was there giving approval to what these religious people were doing to this man of God.
11. Saul was there giving approval to their supposed "stand" against change.
12. Saul was there holding the coats of these stiff-necked religious people while they stoned Stephen.
B. Persecution broke out against the church.
Acts 8:1, …On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem,…
1. Now the religious leaders no longer cared about what the crowds would do.
2. Before they were afraid to do anything like this because they feared riots.
3. They had previously arrested Peter and John twice and beat them and let them go.
4. But now they stoned Stephen.
5. They had obviously taken all they were going to take from these disrespectful people who were trying to change things.
6. They had had all they were going to take and they became furious with Stephen.
7. They covered their ears and yelled at the top of their voices (can you imagine the Spiritual maturity?) and they rushed at Stephen and stoned him.
8. And after that day persecution began in earnest against the church.
9. They didn’t just want Stephen to be "an example" of what would happen to people who continued to follow "the way," they were going to get them all.
C. The 15,000+ member congregation fled.
Acts 8:1, …and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
1. The first church was understandably frightened by what had happened to Stephen and they fled for their lives.
2. The apostles stayed, but the rest of them fled to nearby cities.
3. The church of 15,000+ members which began in Jerusalem was greatly diminished.