Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven.
Thoughts for Today:If you remember back to Acts 6, there was a problem in the Jerusalem church with the fair and equitable distribution of food to Greek widows. As a result the Apostles appointed seven men (who met certain qualifications) to oversee this and other administrative functions. You can deduce by the fact that the word Seven is capitalized in our passage today, twenty years laterthese men were not only highly thought of, but also widely known by the church as a whole.
Stephen, you will recall was one of Phillip's contemporaries and was also identified as one of the Seven. It was Stephen's death by stoning and the ensuing "great persecution" that scattered the church and ultimately resulted in Phillip's coming to reside in Caesarea. Who was the one who approved and held the coats of those who stoned Stephen? Who was the one who led the aggressive persecution of the church -- literally throwing countless Christians in jail, and forcing Phillip to flee Jerusalem? None other that Paul -- the same Paul who now stayed at the home of Phillip in Caesarea. Wouldn't you have liked to be a fly on the wall to listen in on their conversation?
It is difficult to imagine how two former arch enemies had become so close that one would be invited to stay in the home of the other. No matter what he did Paul could never make up for the death, pain, and suffering he had caused; and conversely Philip would have difficulty on his own finding true forgiveness for Paul. The only way brotherhood would be possible is with and through the atoning sacrifice and cleansing blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This example and lesson is as relevant for us today as it was two thousand years ago. He who has ears let him hear!
Questions to Ponder:The Bible tells us to forgive because we have been forgiven. It does not say to forgive only reluctantly and if the opposing party has begged for our forgiveness. Unfortunately few of us will ever experience a Paul/Philip experience -- one in which we observe the other person becoming so completely transformed that it would make it easier to forgive him. Forgiveness comes both first and last. Understand that Jesus has already paid the price for every transgression. Who do you need to forgive? What bitterness do you need to let go of? Even if the other person never asks for forgiveness will you forgive them?