Monday, June 22
We have been seeing how the Holy Spirit operated in the early church. There was change after change, except for the unchanging mission to disciple the nations. In Jerusalem they prayerfully waited for the Holy Spirit and then powerfully preached the risen Lord in the temple courts. They forged a new community that merged the Hebraic Palestinian Jews and the multicultural, cosmopolitan Jews of the diaspora. Their bonds were tighter than family; they sold property to buy food for the their poor. They established new forms of leadership which were servant oriented, as Jesus had instructed. They refused to comply with restraining orders from their own Jewish authorities, and kept preaching Jesus in spite of threats and retributions. When this led to severe persecution, they scattered. But they did not stop talking about Jesus and his glorification by the Father.
The watershed event that scattered them, of course, was the mob execution of Stephen, the first martyr. With his dying breaths, in imitation of the Lord Jesus himself, he prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Was there any connection between this prayer and the subsequent conversion of Saul? And who else was praying for Saul? His relatives, Andronicus and Junia, must have been part of that earliest Christian church in Jerusalem, since they were “in Christ” before him (Romans 16:7). While the Bible mentions nothing of their relationship until this reference some twenty years after the fact, we might wonder about some of the tension in the extended family when some family members followed Jesus and another one was arresting and imprisoning Christians. But Christ had taught his disciples to pray for their persecutors. It is safe to assume that Andronicus and Junia were praying for Saul. Fervently, given their relationship. Of course, we understand that by God’s sovereignty Saul had been “set apart from his mother’s womb,” but that does not mean that his conversion was not an answer to prayer. God’s providence takes into consideration the participation of his people in his mission. Your prayers for unbelievers and enemies of the faith are part of God’s mission.
Prayer: Lord Jesus you told your followers to pray for workers in the harvest (Luke 10:2). Lord, please send more workers into the harvest field. Lord Jesus, you told your followers to love enemies and pray for those who persecute believers (Matthew 5:44). Lord, bless those who are enemies of the cross, bring them into your family. Lord, is there anyone else for whom you would have me pray today?