The Product Of Persecution
Book of Acts Chapter 8
With the death of Stephen, persecution increased for the church in Jerusalem. The religious rulers of Israel wanted to totally eliminate Christianity!
So what was the product of this persecution?
The Word of God began it’s journey to the uttermost parts of this world!
No matter how things appear to us, it is God who who sits in control of this earth and the things that happen on this earth.
We should never forget this verse:
Rom 8:28 And we know that “all things” work together for good to them that love God, [to them who are the called according to his purpose].
The “Gospel” of Jesus Christ is much, much, more than an idea or some new religion that can be stopped!
The “Gospel” is the Power Of God!
Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: [for “it is the power of God unto salvation”] to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
The “Gospel” of Jesus Christ is the “Doctrine of Christianity” and those that believe and have faith in the “promises” that God makes to each believer shall be saved.
You see Satan is “forced” to remove his hold on those that believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
2Ti 2:24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
2Ti 2:25 In meekness instructing those that “oppose themselves”; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the “acknowledging of the truth”;
2Ti 2:26 And that they may “recover themselves” out of the snare of the devil, [who are taken captive by him at his will].
*****Act 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.
The Church at Jerusalem had grown large by this time. It began with those 120 and in addition to those 3000 early converts we know of at Peters sermon we just recently studied over 5000 more were added and women and children were not even mentioned.
They were called a great multitude of believers who were in one heart and one soul.
It is said that they multiplied greatly “But” they were all staying in Jerusalem!
What had God commanded?
Act 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
They had not even started to do this. So, we can see that God allowed some things to happen. We will soon see that they indeed began to scatter and they first stayed close again which was Samaria.
We can see that God’s “will” will be done!
We can be willing participants or unwilling participants but God will see that His Word is fulfilled!
A church that is willing to send and support missionaries to wherever God sends them may grow and remain large enough to provide that support!
BUT, a church that is not willing and refuses to support those that are called of God and the Men, God has chosen, has little purpose for remaining in great numbers and if they will not even work in their local community there is little need in that church existing.
We can see what this leads to:
Rev 3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
Rev 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
Rev 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Rev 3:17 [Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked]:
And we know that this is the direction that the church is headed in our day!
It is more efficient for the church and more Christ honoring, for members to be scattered and form new churches in other areas where they are more needed!
But is was not the right time for the Apostles to be scattered!
Here again we can see that God preferred the Apostles to stay in Jerusalem and protect the flock at this time.
The Bible teaches us:
1Pe 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
1Pe 5:3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, [but being ensamples to the flock].
*****Act 8:2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
Lamentation is an expression of sorrow, and is usually accompanied with cries of grief. We should have this expression every time a man of God is called home and Stephen had fulfilled his purpose set forth of God and “only his body” went into the ground awaiting the resurrection or what we call the “Rapture of the Church”.
2Co 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
The soul of Stephen had departed out of this world. The interval between death and the resurrection, is a state of absence from the body, during which time the soul exists in a separate state “with the Lord” and the body in a state of inactivity and “sleep” waiting on the resurrection when “both will be reunited together again” but in a glorified body as that of the Lord.
1Th 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are “asleep”, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
1Th 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, [even so them also which “sleep” in Jesus “will God bring with him”].
*****Act 8:3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
Saul was a young man full of zeal about his religion:
Php 3:6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Gal 1:13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that “beyond measure” I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
Gal 1:14 And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
Saul went into every dwelling where it was reported that a Christian lived and into every house where they gathered and physically dragged these believers out into the streets and then into the prisons.
It can be said that “making havoc” would be like treating these believers as “the filth of the world” especially of Jerusalem.
*****Act 8:4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
And what were the results of this persecution?
It would still be wrong to believe that God caused this persecution but it could be said that God allowed this persecution to take place.
Our God is a righteous and a God who is also Holy!
AND, These believers that were scattered abroad went preaching the Word of God!
The Greek word “diasperio” used for the English word “scattered” means to “sow throughout”.
These believers of the early Church in Jerusalem were “God’s spiritual seed” and “persecution” was used of God to “plant this seed in new soil” so it could bear fruit!
It is in the best interest of every house of God to be sure to teach the entire truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which should also include all the Old Testament.
Because every child of God must be “rooted and grounded” in the entire truth of God’s Word!
Col 2:6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
Col 2:7 “Rooted” and built up in him, and “stablished” in the faith, as ye have been taught, “abounding” therein with thanksgiving.
*****Act 8:5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
Philip’s glad reception in Samaria is proof of all these truths!
Most of these Samaritans, [with no disrespect], were a half-breed people, a mixture of Jew and Gentile. This was brought about many years earlier when the Assyrians had captured the ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel.
In 732 BC many of these of Israel were deported into foreign lands and many Gentiles were imported who then inter-married with the Jews that were left behind.
These Samaritans openly opposed the Jews!
It is interesting to note that Israel, gained possession of Jerusalem and most of the old remnant of Samaria during the Six Day War of 1967, which at that time the nation of Jordan “had claimed but were not a part of”.
The nation of Jordan was never the owner of these lands as they belonged to “Israel”.
It should also be noted that Jordan, no longer had any power of this region which we now call the “West Bank”, but they ceded that land “that they never owned but just claimed” to the Palestinian Liberation Organization or the PLO. This happened at two times in 1988 part A and 1994 part B.
Jordan had no authority to do these things and the PLO had and has no right to claim these lands!
The true owners, “Israel” had regained their land in 1967!
Philip was one the seven chosen men and what we now call a Deacon but after the death of Stephen and this persecution, he fled to Samaria probably in fear of his own life.
Here Philip preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That word “Christ” means In Greek, “The Anointed One or “The Messiah”.
It seems even many of the Church of today reject that Jesus is the “Christ” or Jesus is the “Messiah”, God in the flesh!
The “lost” cannot be saved if they reject this truth!
*****Act 8:6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
When God calls someone to go to a specific place of ministry, God will also soften the hearts of those in that place He is sending that person. We will see this over and over again in our study of the Book of Acts.
We can also see that God had given Philip some of those powers that only the Apostles had. All these powers and gifts of these sort, disappeared at the death of the Apostles and only God Himself uses these powers today and most of them go unnoticed.
Salvation did not then nor will it ever come from a miracle or a wonder!
Salvation can only come from the heart of that once lost person!
*****Act 8:7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.
Act 8:8 And there was great joy in that city.
Nobody can ever be saved simply because of some miracle!
These people paid more attention to the Word of God that Philip was preaching than they did the miracles that came about through him!
When Philip mentioned that he had left Jerusalem “because the hatred showed to him”, he was probably received with open arms in Samaria and his message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ brought great joy to these people.
Maybe not all of them had forgotten that day Jesus had stropped by and converted that woman at Jacob’s well.
Joh 4:7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
While the church in Jerusalem was suffering misery because of persecution, Samaria was having great joy!
*****Act 8:26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
We have skipped many verses to stay with the theme of this lesson but that does not mean they are not very important.
Peter and John “had been sent” to confirm Philip’s work.
This would be the first steps in removing the walls of separation between the Jew and the Samaritan!
We see that Peter and John had been sent as messengers of the Gospel and not in any function as a ruler.
Not one Apostle was regarded or elevated above any of the other Apostles!
And by this time of this verse, Peter and John had returned to Jerusalem and shared, with enthusiasm, the good news that God also would save those that were lost in Samaria.
The Bible says that the truth is:
Act 2:21 And it shall come to pass, that “whosoever” shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
But while revival was going on in Samaria, Philip was called of God for a more important task.
There was a single individual on his way home that was under conviction by the Word of God and needed to be shown how to make application of God’s Word.
We must realize that no angel has ever experienced God’s “Grace” therefore, they can never bear witness of what it takes to be “Saved”!
1Pe 1:12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; [which things the angels desire to look into].
The angels desire to know the salvation that “Grace” provides and also the feeling of the “indwelling” of the Spirit but they will never know these things on a personal level.
But they do have great joy for everyone of God’s creation that does when they see the pleasure on God’s face.
Luk 15:7 I say unto you, that likewise [joy shall be in heaven] over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
Gaza was the southern most city “of Israel” and a route between Syria and Egypt. This road was well traveled by visitors to Jerusalem.
*****Act 8:27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
Act 8:28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
As we witness for the Lord we should also realize that God will direct us to the right person at the exact right time.
This eunuch was a man of great authority and that word “Ethiopia” is given to us to tell us that this was a black man.
This is one of the places where God shows us that the Gospel is for “whosoever” and through this man the “Gospel” would be spread to this area of the Gentile world as well as all others.
That word “Whosoever” means exactly what it says!
Not only was this man black but being a eunuch for whatever reason, which could have been his own choice but probably not, he could have “never” been accepted into Judaism and though he was allowed to worship in Jerusalem, he would never have been accepted into the family of God “by the standards of the Law”.
AND, it would be hard to question a man’s love of God who had traveled more than 200 miles alone to worship Him.
In “type” this man represents all people who are religious, and read the Bible, and seek the truth “but do not know the saving faith in Jesus Christ”.
Philip had been among the first to go to Samaria and now he was of the first of Jerusalem to witness to the outside world!
*****Act 8:29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
It had been an angel of the Lord who had directed Philip to this location in Gaza but now the Holy Spirit was giving Him direction to lead this man to Jesus.
Joh 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, [he shall testify of me]:
It is the Holy Spirit that leads every believer to where God sends!
It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is to be preached upon arrival to that place!
It is the Holy Spirit of God that brings conviction to that one that hears the Word of God!
It is “faith” in God’s Word that brings Salvation!
The Word of God is already in this chariot with this man and he is reading from the Old Testament book of Isaiah. “There was no New Testament at this time!”
*****Act 8:30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest
thou what thou readest?
Act 8:31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
This Ethiopian was reading the Word of God out loud and God had already prepared this man’s heart to receive a Christian witness and God had specifically sent Philip!
When we obey the leading of the Holy Spirit we can be sure that God has gone on before us to prepare the way!
This man was reading this passage:
Isa 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the
slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
Isa 53:8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
*****Act 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
All the Old Testament scriptures relate to Jesus one way or another!
The Bible says of our Lord:
Heb 10:7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.
This Book of God had been written in Heaven long before it was given to men by the Holy Spirit!
Psa 119:89 For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.
1Pe 1:18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
1Pe 1:19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
1Pe 1:20 [Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world], but was manifest in these last times for you,
Christ Jesus came into this world specifically to do the will of God!
And what is the will of God?
Joh 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world [through him] “might be saved”.
Isaiah 53 describes our Lord as the willing Sacrifice for all sinners even to the point of “loosing all His human rights”!
And it takes the Holy Spirit to open our minds to this truth!
*****Act 8:36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
Act 8:37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
This verse clearly shows that baptism is to take place only after the “saving faith” of the believer.
It is not enough for a lost person to desire salvation!
Everyone must understand God’s plan of salvation!
AND, It must come from the heart!
Mat 13:23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, [and understandeth it]; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
Jesus Christ is the “fulfillment” of the prophesies of the Bible!
Rom 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and “hearing by the word of God”.
Rom 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God
hath raised him from the dead, “thou shalt be saved”.
Rom 10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
*****Act 8:38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and “they went down both into the water”, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
It is obvious that these verses refer to a “complete immersion” into the water used for this baptism!
If we recall the time of Noah we know that the world was repopulated by his three sons, Ham, Shem and Japheth.
God has now reached out to the descendants of Shem which is the Jews.
God has now reached out to the descendants of Ham, this Ethiopian and those with him.
God in our next chapters God will reach out to the descendants of Japheth, the Gentiles, through the Apostle Peter and then the Apostle Paul.
ALL, These things began to happen because of the persecution of the early Church!