to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice *
October 29, 2019 – Tuesday
Acts 6:7 NIV
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
At the start of this chapter we discover while the number of disciples was increasing there was a group of Hellenistic Jews (Jews who had adopted the Greek language and culture) who complained their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food and saw it as the fault of the Hebraic Jews. How was this resolved?
2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” 5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
With this problem resolved we come to our verse of the day where So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. You might think this is the end of it as a potential division between the people of the faith ended, but it was not the end. Instead it was the start of a new chapter of the faith. Guzik comments Satan’s strategy failed. He tried to divide the church, and it did not work. But Satan’s second strategy also failed. The apostles were not distracted from the focus of ministry God had for them – to focus on the word of God and on prayer. Pett further comments The equally satisfactory result was that ‘the word of God’ (God’s new teaching effective through the Spirit) continued to expand and spread, the number of disciples continued to multiply, and it became noticeable that large numbers of priests became followers of Jesus. In case you missed it, Jewish priests were becoming obedient to the faith, effectively becoming priests of the faith of Jesus the Messiah or Jesus the Christ.
All of this prepares us for the ministry of Stephen who became very powerful due to his great faith. 8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke. As a result Stephen was seized and arrested. False charges were brought against him. In the next chapter he defended himself. At the end of his defense he stated to the high priest and the rest of the members of the Sanhedrin in attendance:
51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
They were so angry over this they drug him out of the city and stoned him to death. Those stoning him and witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul (who would later have his name changed to Paul after an encounter with Jesus). Stephen as he was being stoned to death prayed Lord Jesus, receive my spirit and then Lord, do not hold this sin against them. How will we pray for those oppressing us when our time comes?
(to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice)
* Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)