locking horns November 13 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Acts 6:1- 8:1

Locking horns; Opposition – inside and out

Trouble within a family or organization is inside opposition, while trouble from without is outside opposition. When these things occur, how do we handle them? Today’s lesson will help us with that answer.

Inside opposition may consist of complaints or struggles within a family, church, or other organization. They usually come because certain needs are not being met. That was true of the believers in the new Jerusalem church.

“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 did the apostles do? Did they ignore the needs of the Grecian widows because they were too busy? No, they addressed the problem. The new church appointed 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. Dissatisfaction about unmet needs can cause discouragement, disillusionment, and desertion. The work might be dragged down or even stopped or abandoned because the leaders do not care enough to do something to help. People need to know that 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 inevitable. There will always be people who do not like what we do or say, and they may work against us. The Jewish leaders did not like Stephen, one of the spiritual leaders, preaching Christ and doing miracles. They were losing their following on a daily basis with every convert to the Christian faith. They were 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 did Stephen answer them? Did he rail back on his accusers? No, Stephen calmly gave his defense. His example is a good lesson for us. What was his defense?

Stephen led his audience through a history lesson that demonstrated his respect for the Law of Moses. He shared how God led certain patriarchs of the faith before Moses. After Moses came, the Jews resisted both him and later prophets of God. False prophets and religious leaders killed God’s 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. They were no better than their ancestors. The Jews were given the Law (probably referring to the entire Old Testament, including the prophets) but they did not obey 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 were incensed by these accusations because it exposed their sins. Then when Stephen claimed to see Jesus in heaven standing at the right hand of God, they could no longer bear it. It was bad enough that Stephen exposed their sins, but now he was blaspheming. His claim that he saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God suggested that Jesus was equal with God, for no mortal man could stand in God’s presence. Because of this they rushed Stephen, carried him off, and stoned him to death.

Was Stephen bitter about being stoned? Did he curse them? No, he forgave them. We must expect opposition. We must not hold grudges and get bitter when we are persecuted. We must leave all judgment to God and trust him in the bad situations. We must learn to love our enemies as Christ taught us (Matthew 5:44).

Many times God will deliver us in times of opposition, but sometimes he does not. Why not? Though we may not understand why, sometimes we can see that God has a higher purpose than delivering his servants. All things are done for God’s glory. Stephen was the first martyr of the church, and God had a higher purpose in allowing his death. His death emboldened 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 you suffer opposition, either within your family or organization or without it? God will help you if you have a relationship with him through his Son Jesus (more...)
  • Handle inside opposition swiftly and with godly wisdom.
  • Handle outside opposition with calmness and godly wisdom. Trust God and leave the results with Him.

Today’s Bible memory verse:

Hebrews 12:2-3

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. (NIV)

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