Sovereign Grace Blog

Sermon Summary - Persecution & The New Sexual Revolution - Acts 8:1

Persecution & The New Sexual Revolution - Acts 8:1–8:8

Persecution heats up like never before in Jerusalem in Acts 8:1-8:8 for every person who holds to the doctrine of Christ, the gospel. Persecution in our country is growing stronger every day, particularly from the persecutors of the new Sexual Revolution. God uses persecution as a means to purify His church and for the spread of the gospel through evangelism.

Persecution means “to pursue”, most often used in a negative sense to harass so as to silence and shut down someone or something. It starts with ridicule and slander, and can lead to imprisonment, torture, and even death. Old Testament examples include Abel, Joseph, and the prophets (Elijah, Jeremiah, etc.). In the New Testament, Jesus warns of coming persecution (Matt. 13:20-21, Mark 10:29-30, Matt. 5:10-12, Luke 21:12, John 15:20, Matt. 5:43-44). In Acts, we already saw Peter and John persecuted and thrown in jail (Acts 4:3), and beaten and warned not to speak in the name of Jesus (Acts 5:40). Stephen becomes the first Christian put to death (Acts 7:58-60). Later in Acts the persecution spreads during Paul’s ministry (Acts 13:50). Paul was persecuted again and again - the great persecutor of the church became the persecuted, because of his faithfulness to Christ and the gospel. Persecution continues throughout the history of the church (Nero, Flavian, Trajan, etc.).

In the present day, just 3 years ago Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito prophetically predicted that the ruling to legalize same sex marriage would be used to vilify Americans who hold to traditional beliefs on marriage. We see this played out today in examples like the public ridicule of Mike Pence’s wife for teaching at a Christian school, and the statements of Lady Gaga and Elton John claiming Bible-believing persons who reject the new sexual orthodoxy are false representatives of Christianity. So the question is: Will we joyfully stand for the truth in the midst of persecution? Will we draw closer to the Lord in prayer, devotion, worship, and dependence because of it?

Persecution has a way of focusing the mission of the church on evangelism. The church had only preached the gospel in Jerusalem, despite Jesus’ words earlier in Acts 1:8. We see a year after those words that God uses persecution to scatter the church outward from Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), a scattering which extended hundred of miles beyond Samaria (Acts 11:19). Just as God may bring crisis or pain or conviction to smack awake a spiritual slumbering Christian, so too He may bring persecution to jar us awake.

Some in the church today may say, “Let’s just love people. Don’t speak out on abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism, etc.” They would likely question why Stephen would speak out on peripheral issues like the temple and the sacrificial system. But the devout men of Stephen’s day gave him an honorable burial (Acts 8:2). While the church subsequently endured persecution and imprisonment at the hand of Saul (Acts 8:3), their suffering was not in vain, but instead ultimately produced joy (Heb. 10:32-36, Acts 8:8). The scattered Christians continued to preach the word (Acts 8:4), such as the recorded example of Philip (Acts 8:5). 

5 concluding lessons on persecution: 1) Persecution is a tool to weed out false Christians and false churches. 2) Persecution cannot bust down the walls of Jesus’ church. 3) Persecution can cause horrible, temporary pain. 4) In times of persecution, God is calling us to intimacy. 5) Let us hold firm our confession (Heb. 4:14).

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