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Satan (Part 19) - The Epic War: Satan Persecutes the Early Church (Part A)

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A. The apostles are threatened and beaten
i. The church/kingdom of God was entrusted to the apostles (Mat 16:18-19; Luk 22:29-30).
a. Satan's first attacks on the church were therefore aimed at them.
b. Jesus had warned the apostles that Satan wanted to sift them as wheat (Luk 22:31).
c. Jesus told them that they would be persecuted, beaten, and killed by men (Mat 10:16-23).
(i) Who do you suppose inspired these men to persecute and murder the apostles?
(ii) Remember that Satan is a murderer (Joh 8:44).
ii. Shortly after the day of Pentecost when 3000 Jews were converted, Peter and John healed a lame man and preached the gospel to those who witnessed it (Act 3:1-26).
a. The rulers of the Jews were grieved by this and interrogated them (Act 4:1-7).
b. Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, preached the gospel of Christ unto them (Act 4:8-12).
c. They marveled at the boldness of Peter and John and then realized that they had been with Jesus (Act 4:13).
d. When they could not deny the miracle they did, they threatened them that they should not speak or teach in the name of Jesus (Act 4:14-18).
e. When Peter and John refused to obey, they further threatened them (Act 4:19-21).
f. The threatenings only further emboldened them (Act 4:29).
g. Satan was trying to sift them as wheat, but was so far unsuccessful.
iii. Peter kept preaching and healing people which incensed the high priest and the Sadducees (Act 5:12-17).
a. They laid their hands on them and put them into prison (Act 5:18).
b. Satan had finally shut them up.
c. That didn't even last a day until the angel of the Lord opened the prison and led them out and told them to keep preaching (Act 5:19-20).
d. Since threatening them didn't work, they beat them and again commanded them to not speak in the name of Jesus (Act 5:40).
e. Satan's abuse backfired and only caused them to be more zealous (Act 5:41-42).
B. Ananias and Sapphira were killed for lying to the Holy Ghost
i. Satan tried different methods of attack in the early days.
ii. Threatening the apostles was not successful, so Satan tried another line of attack which was to get the disciples to sin so that God would judge them.
iii. Satan filled the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira and enticed them to lie to the Holy Ghost which resulted in their deaths (Act 5:1-10).
iv. This tactic was not something that Satan would be able to replicate since a great fear of God came upon the church afterwards (Act 5:11) which causes men to depart from evil instead of follow it (Pro 16:6).
C. Stephen is killed
i. Satan's persecution of the church had only resulted in more evangelism and converts at this point, even among the priests who had been enemies of the faith (Act 6:7).
ii. Stephen was ordained a deacon and did great miracles among the people, which made him a prime target in Satan's battle against the church (Act 6:8).
iii. Threatenings and beatings had been unsuccessful thus far, so Satan tried another avenue: argumentation by the scholars.
iv. Some men of the synagogue of the Libertines, Alexandrians, and others began disputing with Stephen (Act 6:9).
a. Libertine - 1. Rom. Antiq. A freedman; one manumitted from slavery; also, the son of a freedman. 2. a. pl. The name given to certain antinomian sects of the early sixteenth century, which arose in France and elsewhere on the continent. b. Later, in wider sense: One who holds free or loose opinions about religion; a free-thinker.
b. Alexandrians were known for their learning and knowledge (Act 7:22).
(i) Who do you supposed inspired these worldly wise men to contend with the truth?
(ii) Remember that the wisdom of this world is devilish (Jam 3:15).
(iii) Devilish adj. - 1. Of persons: Having the nature or character of the devil; like a devil in character or actions. 2. Of things, actions, or qualities: Characteristic of the devil; worthy of or befitting the devil; diabolical; execrable.
(iv) Satan has been using worldly philosophy to spoil Christians since the first century (Col 2:8 c/w Jam 3:15).
(v) Satan still uses this tactic to this day to try to wage war against God's people.
(vi) Satan tries to corrupt our minds from the simplicity that is in Christ (2Co 11:3).
c. Despite all their education, they could not resist the wisdom and the spirit by which Stephen spoke (Act 6:10).
(i) The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God (1Co 1:19-20; 1Co 3:19).
(ii) God loves to use the little Christians who are fools in the eyes of the world to confound the wise (1Co 1:25-28).
(iii) The means to fight against worldly wisdom and philosophy is with the gospel and the world of God (1Co 1:17; 1Co 2:1-7; 2Co 1:12).
d. Satan was again defeated, but not finished.
v. When Stephen's faith couldn't be destroyed by argument, another tactic was employed: lying.
a. When the scholars couldn't win the argument, they suborned men, arrested Stephen, and brought false charges against him (Act 6:11-14).
b. Suborn v. - 1. trans. To bribe, induce, or procure (a person) by underhand or unlawful means to commit a misdeed. 2. spec. To bribe or unlawfully procure (a person) to make accusations or give evidence; to induce to give false testimony or to commit perjury.
c. Who do you suppose inspired these men to falsely accuse Stephen?
d. Remember that Satan is the father of lies (Joh 8:44).
vi. Stephen gave his defense (Act 7:1-53).
vii. This enraged the Jews (Act 7:54).
viii. They killed him, but were not able to extinguish his faith and love (Act 7:55-60).
ix. Satan gained a small victory, but it did nothing to stem the tide of the growth of the church.