locking horns November 13 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Acts 6:1–8:1

Locking Horns–Handling Opposition

From time to time we lock horns with family members, organizational members, or with people at our place of employment. Some people lock horns with their neighbors or even the government. When any of these things occur, how do we handle them?

Complaints, struggles of the will, or verbal opposition within a family, organization, or work place usually surface because certain needs are not being met. This was also true of the believers in the new Jerusalem church. How the leaders dealt with the situation provides a good example for us.

Not long after the birth of the church (see the last lesson), there arose a problem. “In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food” (Acts 6:1, NIV).

What should the apostles do? Should they ignore the needs of the Grecian widows because they are too busy? No, they address the problem. The new church appoints good spiritual men to oversee the distribution of food for the widows. If at all possible, internal problems should be handled swiftly and with godly wisdom by responsible, well-respected people. Dissatisfaction about unmet needs causes discouragement, disillusionment, and desertion. The work will suffer, be stopped, and eventually abandoned because the leaders do not care enough to do something to help. People need to know leaders care about them emotionally, physically, and spiritually. If leaders cannot help meet the needs personally, then they should appoint responsible people to do it.

Outside opposition is sure to happen. There will always be people who do not like what we do or say, and they may work against us because we are Christians and try to live like it. In today's Bible reading, the Jewish leaders do not like Stephen, one of the spiritual leaders of the new church, because he is preaching Christ and doing miracles. The Pharisees and Sadducees are losing their following on a daily basis with every convert to the Christian faith. They are jealous and angry. Because of this, these religious leaders set a trap for Stephen.

Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God,”

So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.

For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us” (Acts 6:11-14, NIV).

How does Stephen answer them? Does he rail back on his accusers? No, Stephen calmly gives his defense. Stephen leads his audience through a Jewish history lesson, which demonstrates his respect for Abraham and the Law of Moses. After Moses came, the Israelites (Jews) resisted both him and later prophets of God. False prophets and religious leaders killed his prophets who spoke of judgment and the Righteous One to come (a reference to Jesus). Then when Jesus came, the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and religious teachers rejected him and conspired to kill him. Stephan says they are no better than their ancestors. The Jews were given the Law (referring to the entire Old Testament, including the prophets) but they were not obeying it. If the religious leaders were interested in obeying the Law, instead of lording over the people, they would not have killed Jesus because the Law and the prophets spoke of him.

The Jewish leaders are incensed by these accusations because it exposes their sin, Then when Stephen claims to see Jesus in heaven standing at the right hand of God, they can no longer bear it. It is bad enough that Stephen exposes their sins, but now he is blaspheming! His claim that he sees Jesus standing on the right hand of God suggests Jesus is equal with God, for no mortal man could stand in his presence. Because of this, they rush at Stephen, carry him off, and stone him to death.

Is Stephen bitter about being stoned? Does he curse them as he receives blows to his body? No, he forgives them. If we are Christians, we can also expect verbal and sometimes physical opposition. We won't like that a bit. Some of us may struggle to not fight back, hold grudges and get bitter when we are persecuted for Jesus sake. However, we can choose to leave all judgment to God and trust him in bad situations. We can learn to love our enemies as Christ taught us (Matthew 5:44).

Sometimes, God delivers us in times of opposition, but not always. Why not? Although we may not understand it, sometimes God has a higher purpose than delivering his servants. All things are done for his glory. Stephen is the first martyr of the church, and God has a higher purpose in allowing his death. His death emboldens the witness of the church. We will look at the results of Stephen’s martyrdom in our next Bible study.

Lessons to Live By

  • Do any of us suffer opposition, either within our family, organization, or outside of it? God will help us if we have a relationship with him through his Son Jesus (more...)
  • We should handle inside opposition swiftly and with godly wisdom.
  • We should handle outside opposition with calmness and godly wisdom. Let us trust God and leave the results with him.

Focus Verse

Hebrews 12:2-3 (NIV)

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Watch a video of today's Bible lesson. Start at 35:20 minute mark and finish at 48:12

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A Look Ahead: Why does God allow persecution? Like a rock thrown into the middle of a pond causes ripples, persecution is a way God 's Grace is Extended. Find out more in our Next Lesson.

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