Study Guide

Acts of the Apostles Suffering

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"The God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One […] and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses […] In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer." (Acts 3:13-15, 18, NRSV)

The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just[…] And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses[…] But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. (Acts 3:13-15, 18, KJV)

Yikes. This is a pretty harsh condemnation. God knew that Jesus would have to suffer because God knows that people can be jerks sometimes. Murderous jerks that is.

"Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus." When [the apostles] had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:29-31, NRSV)

Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:29-31, KJV)

Even in the face of threats and mortal danger, the apostles still pray for the strength to keep going. Good thing, too, because they're gonna need it.

They had [the apostles] flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. (Acts 5:40-42, NRSV)

When they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. (Acts 5:40-42, KJV)

Woo-hoo! A flogging! High fives all around! The apostles get brutally beaten because of the things they've been saying about Jesus. Do they stop? Nope, they just give thanks and keep on trucking.

They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him […] While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he died. (Acts 7:58-60, NRSV)

And cast him out of the city, and stoned him […] And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:58-60, KJV)

Stephen is the first Christian (aside from Jesus) to pay the ultimate price. He makes it super classy by going out forgiving instead of cursing. Suffering doesn't have to make you mean.

That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria[…] Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison. (Acts 8:1, 3, NRSV)

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 Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles[…] As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. (Acts 8:1, 3, KJV)

After Stephen is killed, things get a bit tense for a while. Those who can't stand the heat (which is almost everyone) leave town and lay low for a bit. But that doesn't stop Saul, who is determined to make these Christians suffer.

The Lord said to [Ananias], "Go, for [Paul] is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." (Acts 9:15-16, NRSV)

The Lord said unto [Ananias], Go thy way: for [Paul] is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. (Acts 9:15-16, KJV)

It's time for some payback. God chooses Paul, who made the church suffer, and promises to inflict a little suffering on him in return. Oh irony, we love you.

The Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night so that they might kill him; but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. (Acts 9:23-25, NRSV)

The Jews took counsel to kill him: But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. (Acts 9:23-25, KJV)

Pretty quickly Paul starts making people mad with this whole Jesus thing. He narrowly escapes from this murderous plot using a really big basket. Hey, why suffer if you've got escape pods on hand?

They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the city. (Acts 14:19-20, NRSV)

Having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city. (Acts 14:19-20, KJV)

Paul was thisclose to being the second Christian martyr. He decided to hold out for a better position though.

They strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, "It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:22, NRSV)

Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22, KJV)

Paul and Barnabas head to Antioch and reassure everyone that suffering is just part of the game. You want the keys to the kingdom? Then you've just got to tough it out.

The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. (Acts 16:22-24, NRSV)

The multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. (Acts 16:22-24, KJV)

Trouble and suffering just follow Paul wherever he goes. This little episode ends safely, but it can't be fun to be stripped naked and beaten in the street.

[Paul] said to them: "You yourselves know how I lived among you the entire time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears, enduring the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message to you and teaching you publicly and from house to house, as I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus. And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God's grace." (Acts 20:18-24, NRSV)

[Paul] said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, Serving the LORD with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:19-24, KJV)

Paul is so hardcore. Here he explains how all that suffering was just part of the package. He's done it before and he's willing to do it again. Some might call it manning up, but it just means Paul never backs down from doing what God wants.

[Agabus] came to us and took Paul's belt, bound his own feet and hands with it, and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'This is the way the Jews in Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.'" When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." Since he would not be persuaded, we remained silent except to say, "The Lord's will be done." (Acts 21:11-14, NRSV)

[Agabus] come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done. (Acts 21:11-14, KJV)

Paul has accepted his fate. Though Acts doesn't record it, he knows that he's gonna end up dying for his faith in Christ. Paul doesn't seem to think it's too high of a price to pay.

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