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Persecution Starts Again and James is Murdered – Acts 11:19-12:25

Today’s study starts a new division in the Book of Acts, which chronicles the spread of the gospel beyond Jerusalem and Judea.  Pastor Kevin begins with a brief recap of prior divisions, tracing the history of the early church and how God used the early Christians – even through persecution and martyrdom – to begin spreading the gospel to peoples beyond Jerusalem.  As the news spread that many Gentiles outside Judea were being saved (without first converting to Judaism), the church leaders in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to investigate.  “When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.” (Acts 11:23 NKJV).  Now Barnabas finds Saul in Tarsus and brings him back to the ministry for the first time since being sent out of Jerusalem nine years earlier.  “So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26 NKJV). At the conclusion of Chapter 11, Scripture records how Gentile believers sent relief to the church in Judea during famine, foreshadowing how the primarily Gentile Church would aid and support the Jews and the nation of Israel to the present day.  Chapter 12 records how King Herod, likely in partnership with the Jewish religious leaders, resumes persecution of the church in Jerusalem, slays James the brother of John, and imprisons Peter, whom God miraculously delivers from jail.

As we reflect on how God used persecution to spread the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth, Pastor Kevin exhorts us to, with grateful and willing hearts, continue to seek the Holy Spirit’s power to preach the gospel in our individual parts of the earth while there is still time.


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