next up previous contents
Next: About this document ... Up: Delayed Reaction Previous: The Demoniac of the

The before and after of Paul

Another case of a delayed reaction begins with the story of Stephen in the book of Acts.

6:2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.

6:3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

6:4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

6:5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:

6:6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.

6:7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

6:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.

Steven was opposed, however by ``certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines''[*]. They eventually framed him (``set up false witnesses'' v13). Stephen used the occasion of his trial to preach a sermon that condemned his accusers. In acts ch 7, this sermon is recorded. The highlight is at the end, in verses 51-53.
7:51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

7:52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:

7:53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

But this accusation and condemnation was more than they could take. They attacked Stephen and killed him.
7:54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

7:55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

7:56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

7:57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,

7:58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.

7:59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

7:60 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.

8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. 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.

8:2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.

8:3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

8:4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.

This is the first record in the Bible of the apostle Paul, then known as Saul of Tarsus. He wrote most of the New Testament. Here we see him before he became a Christian, killing a Christian, and making ``havock of the church''.

But Stephan prayed, ``Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.'' Saul was the main one Stephan was praying for. The prayer certainly worked, but only after Stephan had died. But it worked nonetheless! Paul was converted on Damascus Road and became the apostle to replace the disciple Judas, who had betrayed Jesus.

I could go on to talk about Abraham and the promise of a son. That took quite a while to happen too.

And how about the annointing of David to become King? He had years of avoiding Saul's javalin until Saul died and David could take the throne. David could have hurried things, but he would not harm Saul, who was God's annointed. He had a chance to kill Saul himself, but he refused to do it because Saul was annointed of God to be king.

Or how about Paul, when he was on his way to Rome? He was shipwrecked, snakebitten, and all sorts of unexpected delays came up, but he knew he was going to get to Rome.

23:11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.
Paul knew that God's word is sure. We all have prayers that we pray, but we don't always seem to get the answer we are looking for. Sometimes we don't seem to get any answer at all. Take heart, the answer is there, just waiting to happen. Sometimes God delays his response. This is always the best thing, and we can understand it in retrospect, but we can't usually understand it while we are in the middle of it.

Just remember: if God did not delay the punishment for sin, we would all have been dead years ago. We never would have lived long enough to repent, and there would then be no need for salvation.

8:11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
Thank God for delayed reactions!

next up previous contents
Next: About this document ... Up: Delayed Reaction Previous: The Demoniac of the
Robert J. Brown