LIFE IN THE SPIRIT: Acts—Week 6 (Persecution)

Acts 6:8-15; 7:54-8:3; 12:1-5 

We are in a study of the book of Acts, focusing on the Person of the Holy Spirit—a co-equal Member of the Godhead with the Father and the Son—and how He empowered, inspired, led, and molded ordinary men and women into a movement that turned the world upside down, and how He continues to do so today.  This week we will be examining a topic about which we typically do not like to think—persecution.

For most of us in America, persecution for our faith is something that is difficult for us to even conceptualize, especially on the level portrayed in this week’s passages.  Sure, we may have heard of a missionary who experienced persecution in a foreign country hostile to the gospel, or we may have seen a news report of a coach, teacher, or businessperson engaged in a lawsuit because they allege their religious liberties were infringed, but for most of us, the worst we have to deal with is a snide comment from a co-worker or a negative post on social media.  Nevertheless, persecution, and the Holy Spirit’s work in the midst of it, is still an important topic for us to address.

First, it is important for us to be aware of persecution because it is still a very real issue for many of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  According to a November 14, 2022, research briefing for the British Parliament, there were 360 million Christians worldwide who experienced “high levels of persecution and discrimination” in 2022.  According to that same report, 5,898 Christians actually lost their lives because of their faith in 2022, a 24% increase over 2021.  I personally have friends in Haiti who live under the threat of violence and murder because, as Christians and pastors, they stand up against the gangs for the sake of their communities and their faith.  We need to remember that we are one Church, one Body of Christ.  Just as it would be foolish for you to ignore a pain in your foot because the pain did not impact the rest of your body, so too it is negligent for us to ignore the pain experienced by our brothers and sisters around the world.  To the extent we have the opportunity and ability to alleviate their suffering and advocate for their rights, it is imperative that we do so.  When we turn a blind eye to their suffering, we do so at our peril.

It is also important for us to be aware of persecution because persecution, or the lack thereof, can be a good barometer of how we are doing in living a life fully devoted to Jesus.  The more we are like Jesus, the more our lives will be in opposition to the course and culture of this world.  Jesus warned His followers in Matt. 10:22 that they would be hated by all for His name’s sake.  Jesus went on to warn in Matt. 24:9 that they would be handed over to tribulation and death, and that they would be hated by all nations.  Conversely, if we are not facing opposition from the world and its culture, that might be a good indication that we are not doing so well at living like Jesus.  Satan’s not that interested in messing around with Christians who pose no threat to his kingdom.  It’s a good bet that a church that is not facing opposition has lost its impact on its community.

There’s good news in all of this: God has not abandoned His people to face such persecution alone.  In the story of Stephen, we see the grace and peace the Holy Spirit brings to God’s precious ones in the direst of circumstances.  In Romans 8, Paul tells us the Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes on our behalf with groanings too deep for words.  Paul goes on to tell us that we can face persecution knowing that we are more than conquerors because nothing can separate us from God’s love.  Paul even speaks of his own experience with the grace of the Holy Spirit in 2 Cor. 12:1-10, explaining that it is in the moments that we are most weak that we give God the space to show just how strong He is. Let us be like Paul, determined to boldly stand for the gospel, no matter the calamity we might face, for the greater the persecution, the greater the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to show just how powerful and faithful He is.


  1. Have you ever experienced persecution?  What were the circumstances surrounding the persecution?  How did the Holy Spirit move in that situation?  If you have not personally experienced persecution, do you know of someone who has?  What was their experience?
  2. Why might it be a negative that we are not experiencing persecution?  Why does living for Jesus necessarily bring conflict with our culture?
  3. What are some ways that we can support our brothers and sisters around the world who face intense persecution?
  4. Read 1 Peter 2:13-25.  How does Peter’s admonition apply to suffering/persecution?  As we evaluate the persecution we might face, what must we guard against?