Tom: In this our Understanding the Scriptures segment, we are in Acts 8. Dave, we made it to a new chapter.
Dave: Very encouraging.
Tom: Well, for those who are racing along with us. [Laughs] But you know, no matter how fast or how slow we go, this is God’s Word, and it’s our privilege to be able to take our listeners through it. And again, the program is Search the Scriptures Daily, so it’s our encouragement for them to do that and check out what we say. We’re giving our perspective.
Dave: We don’t have the last word, and we’re certainly not doing justice to what God has said. It has a depth beyond what we could cover in a few minutes.
Tom: That’s for sure. [Acts:8:1]: “And Saul was consenting unto his death.”
Dave: That’s Stephen’s death; they had just stoned him.
Tom: “And at that time, there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”
Dave: Tom, I don’t want to read anything into it but, you know, Jesus had said, “Begin at Jerusalem, and then go to all the world.” And maybe they had gotten a little bit too settled and comfortable in Jerusalem, because thousands are coming to Christ, the church is growing, and I guess the Lord had to allow a little persecution to scatter them.
Tom: Mm-hmm, and take them to the land of the Gentiles, which I think it was something the Jews were reluctant to do, based on their teachings.
Dave: In fact, they didn’t do it until the Lord literally forced Peter to go to the household of Cornelius, and then they were shocked. I mean, we’ll come to that in a few chapters, but, “Wow! You mean the gospel is for the Gentiles, too?” They couldn’t believe it, but it was all through the Old Testament! In Malachi:1:11, “From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, my name will be great among the Gentiles.”
Psalm 22 is foretelling the crucifixion, and it says, “All the ends of the world will hear and will praise the Lord because of this.”
In Isaiah you have - a number of times, God is talking about the nations who will hear and who will believe, and of course one of the most important verses for any Jew is in Genesis:12:3 where God calls Abraham, bringing him into this promised land, and He says, “In thee and in thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed.” So of course the gospel had to go - the blessing of the Messiah had to go to all people, but even the disciples couldn't believe it.
Tom: Mm-hmm. And verse 2: “And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and hailing men and women, committed them to prison.”
Dave: Tom, maybe we ought to go back and deal with “made great lamentation over him.” Again, it’s difficult sometimes to understand exactly what is meant. I think we can know quite certainly they were not lamenting that he was dead and gone, you know, and Paul talks about that in 1 Thessalonians 4: “I don’t want you to be ignorant concerning those who are asleep [who died], that you sorrow not as others who have no hope…” So they weren’t sorrowing because they didn’t have any hope; they knew that Stephen was with the Lord, and that they would be there, too. But, “made great lamentation…” I mean, you can’t help but - even though you know a person has gone to a better place. We put our little Henry, you know, 22-months old in the grave…
Tom: This is your grandson?
Dave: Our youngest grandson, and we knew where he was. He was with the Lord, but still you wish, “Well, couldn’t he have grown up? Couldn’t he have served the Lord on this earth?”
I’m sure they are thinking, Stephen was such a witness for Christ. What a pity! Couldn’t he have lived longer and served the Lord powerfully? But this was not God’s will, and we have to resign ourselves to the will of God because, as Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” God knows what is best.
Tom: You know, we’ve talked about Jim Elliot, who you knew personally, his life taken by a savage tribe.
Dave: Yeah, my best friend among the three that I knew was Ed McCully. That was really hard for me to understand. “Lord, how could this happen?” We may have mentioned it before, but Ruth and I were the only non-family members as we stood around the piano as Mary Lou McCully played. We all sang - this was their theme song:
“We rest on thee, our shield and our defender.
We go not forth alone to meet the foe,
Strong in my strength, safe in thy keeping tender,
We rest on thee, and in thy name we go.”
And then, one of the verses talks about, “When entering through those gates of pearly splendor.” And that was the name of a book written by Jim’s wife, Gates of Splendor.
So if anybody would be protected by God, I was sure these three young men - they were so devout, they loved the Lord, they’re willing to give their lives, and they were trying in such innovative ways to reach the Auca Indians. How could this happen? And yet, through their death, perhaps more people came to Christ than would have happened through their lives, and certainly the Auca Indians came to the Lord.
Tom, v. 3 - wow! Saul, he is a zealot; he made havoc of the church, “entering into every house…” Wow, this guy is busy! [Laughs] He really believes in what he’s doing, and he’s not a slacker. He is giving everything he’s got and entering into every house, hailing men and women, committing them to prison. And then he is going to go on to Damascus, and that’s where the Lord is going to arrest him, but I love this next verse: “Therefore, they that were scattered abroad hid out in caves, and they don’t want anybody to find them. They’re not going to preach this gospel anymore, it brings persecution….” [laughing] You know what it says, Tom; why don’t you go ahead and read it.
Tom: “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.”
Dave: Preaching the Word. Wow, that’s so wonderful! They’re not intimidated, they’re scattered… Well, Jesus said, “They persecute you in one city, you know, they don’t want to hear what you have to say, then go off to another place.” But, Tom, it’s in them. They know the Lord - the resurrected Christ is living in their hearts. They can’t keep silent, and everywhere they go they are preaching the Word, and it really speaks to my heart. And oh my goodness! It reminds me I’ve got something that I’ve got to send to a Muslim that I met on this trip. I promised him…
Tom: Your taxicab driver in Denver.
Dave: Right, the taxi driver, and we had a great conversation, and I was going to send him something - I hope I didn’t lose his name and address. But it’s thrilling to preach the Word wherever you go.
Tom: Mm-hmm. And, Dave, it’s not always the results that you want. I talked to a lady who was witnessing to her taxicab driver who was a Muslim, and he stopped the cab and told her to get out! So we go by the Lord, and it’s not always going to be what we expect, but you never know if seeds were planted, even though it might be a hostile environment.
Dave: Yeah. Well, they went everywhere preaching the Word, and they probably had some fear, because Paul in 2 Corinthians 4 says that “there was terror out there and fear in our hearts, but still we persisted no matter what.”
Tom: “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.” Now, Dave, couldn’t that be what was being presented in our earlier segment?
Dave: Well, I hope so, Tom. I hope it’s genuine, but as we mentioned, it doesn’t seem to be in most cases, because when you follow up these reports - and I believe in healing, I believe in miracles, I believe the Lord can raise the dead; He can do anything today that He has ever done and more, but we find that there is an exaggeration. I remember a friend who was involved in this type of ministry at Amy Semple McPherson’s temple in Los Angeles.
Tom: The founder of Four Square.
Dave: Four Square, and one Saturday night, more than 80 people were healed, crutches being thrown away and glasses stomped on, and so forth. These are believers - they believe in this. They were thrilled, and they followed up on these people, not because they are skeptics, but they wanted to get the testimonies from these people, to get more people interested to come. I can only tell you what my friend said, who was deeply involved in this. To our astonishment and chagrin, not one of these people had actually been healed. In the excitement of the moment they thought they had been. So, Tom, I want to see everybody saved, everybody healed, everybody blessed, but the Bible says, “Evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse.” There will be apostasy and deception, so we have to be very careful.