Acts 8:1-11, Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. (So, there was much rejoicing in that city. Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.” And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts.
In the infancy of the church the members would gather in the temple courtyard and pray. It seemed innocent and above reproach, but it wouldn’t take the world long to take issue with this practice. Religious leaders began to threaten the disciples, among them Peter and John in regard to their teaching of the Gospel. They were not to do that on Temple grounds or anywhere else. I’m sure it seemed so logical that a group of people, who had waited tirelessly for the Messiah, would welcome the announcement that their long wait for the Savior was over. He had come and access to the kingdom was now attainable, but the name of Jesus was banned from the temple. Interestingly, the promises of the Old Covenant ended when God delivered Jesus. He was the fulfillment of all that God had promised. The promise began from the fall of the garden; they were defined through the covenant with Abraham, and culminated in the Son of God – Jesus. (Galatians 3:16) God now looks to those found in Christ as His children and heirs according to the promise. That wall was torn down.
Ephesians 2:11-18, Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands — remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.
Persecution of Christians would increase as these early days would draw on. Stephen was an example of the current mob’s intentions toward the children of God. Paranoid souls will often go to drastic extremes. If they had actually killed the Son of the Living God, they would do anything to silence His advocates.
The Sanhedrin had vastly underestimated the dedication of Christ’s uneducated and enormously average followers. Our early forefathers were unrelenting and LOUD! The beginning verse of Acts 8, (vs. 1-4) exposes the plan of God for spreading the Word. Persecution was the impetus for the movement of God’s people. Their love for the Lord, their reliance on their faith, and the persistent pummeling from their adversaries drove the Word throughout the world. Wherever they stepped, they left a trail of hope. Where they trod salvation followed on the heels of the oppressed. Salvation had been brought down!
If you have walked with God in this world, you must be aware, by now, that the faithful are still persecuted. There are times when the negativity we face simply pushes us to greater efforts for Him. It’s possible that our commitments have allowed God to do great things in our most painful circumstances. God is always good. The question for us will always be how far we are willing to go to follow our dear Savior. How far…