We should be familiar with the words of the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught his disciples….”thy will be done on earth” Our readings today show us how God creates situations to see that his will is carried out – when men neglect to do so!
The last thing that Jesus said to his servants before he ascended into heaven was that they were to be his witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” [Acts 1 v.8]. They had witnessed in Jerusalem very effectively. A great congregation had resulted but it brought its own problems so 7 deacons had been appointed so that the 12 Apostles could concentrate on “prayer and the ministry of the word” [6 v.4]. Consider how attempts were soon made to carry out the commission to preach further afield.
With the stoning to death of Stephen there was a big change. No doubt many had expected Stephen to experience some dramatic deliverance as had happened with the Apostles earlier. There would be much heart searching because that did not happen. Now we read there was “a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem and they were all scattered and went about preaching the word” [v.4]
This preaching resulted in conversions in Samaria with men and women being baptised after they had heard “the good news about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” [v.12] Peter and John came down from Jerusalem “and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit” [v.15] which implies that the Apostles had special authority in this and no one else, so that the ability to pass on the powers of the Spirit ceased when they died.
The chapter ends with another baptism – an Ethiopian who “had come to Jerusalem to worship” – so he already knew of the true God. God’s spirit made Philip link up with him. God was seeing that His will was being done. God was causing “all things to work together for good” [Romans 8 v.28] – that is for the good of God’s plan and purpose: the grieving relatives of Stephen may have seen it in time from that perspective.
Now let’s consider our perspective! The gospel is now going, in these last days, to the end of the earth via the wonder of the internet! What an exciting time in which to live! But also a very challenging time! What facilities of travel there are! Consider the opportunities to open up the full wonder of the original gospel! It now reaches everywhere, but is there any real faith and heartfelt conviction among the readers and hearers? A heart searching question!
Remember what Jesus said about the last days? “Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” [Luke 18 v.8] That is, genuine faith, evidenced by the commitment and actions of those who possess it.
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