Faith Baptist Church
4258 Botetourt Road
Fincastle, Virginia 24090
(540) 473-2325

When Persecution Becomes a Motivator

The Bible teaches in Acts 8:1-8 that persecution against the church in Jerusalem was intense because the word of God was being presented in its purest form. The message was direct, accurate and condemning. Unbelievers in Jerusalem came from the Gentile communities (Hellenist) as well as Jewish communities (Hebrews). Pagans as well as common folks were being saved. A few of those who held to the practices of Judaism repented.

Saul had the task of rounding up rebel factions within the Roman Empire and as a Pharisee he got quite a bit of satisfaction when it came to rounding up and committing Christian men and women to prison.

8:1-3

Saul approved of Stephen’s death. With the persecution being so strong many of the believers fled the city. They scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. The apostles, however, stayed in Jerusalem to stabilize the souls of those believers who made Jerusalem their home. Those who scattered were most likely the Hellenistic Jewish believers, those who came from regions outside of Jerusalem. The time had come for them to depart their fellow believers in Jerusalem and return to their homelands to spread the gospel.

v.2 Stephen was buried by devout men and it is most likely his burial occurred before the saints were scattered.

v.3 Saul brought utter devastation to the church. Made havoc, is an [imperfect middle of lumh], and means to defile or devastate or ruin. Its the picture of a wild pig rooting out a vineyard. The imperfect tense means he continued doing what he was doing before Stephen was stoned. Saul took great pleasure in inflicting his self-righteous agenda against the Christians, Rom.1:32; Acts 22:20, cp.

With authority from the Sanhedrin and the Chief Priest, Saul entered into every house rooting and dragging out any men and women who acknowledged Jesus Christ as Savior,[the church]. He would not have bothered law abiding citizens who paid allegiance to the Roman government and to Judaism. He would not have bothered sorcerers and that sort as Rome approved of the many gods the people worshipped.

But any one who crossed the line in the name of Jesus Christ was found in contempt of the Sanhedrin court and the practices of the acceptable religion of Judaism. Saul committed [imperfect active of paradidwmi, to hand over]. Saul kept handing the Christians over to be imprisoned. The Sanhedrin and the scribes were a part of the appointed civil authorities in that region of the Roman Empire, and they handled most matters concerning the Jewish people.

v.4 We might ask why God allowed this persecution to become so intense in Jerusalem. Many theologians believe it was because believers were not taking the gospel beyond Jerusalem. They had an initial gospel message given at Pentecost wherein many were saved and returned to their home lands far away, but the Lord said he wanted the gospel spread where people want it, and it was obvious it was not wanted in Jerusalem.

God used persecution to strengthen the church and He used it to force believers to take his word elsewhere. P/D If Bible doctrine is not wanted in a city or a community, God will take a doctrinal pastor and put him with teachable people who do want the word.

Therefore, they that were scattered [aorist passive participle of diaspeirw, dispersed] abroad went everywhere preaching the word. They did not scatter on their own accord, God had to use persecution to scatter them.

If the seed of the word of God is refused then sow it elsewhere. Do not cast your pearls before the swine. The word for preaching here is, euaggelizomenoi, and refers to the glad tidings of the gospel.

To not tell people the good news that Jesus Christ died on the cross as a ransom payment for their sins; that he arose bodily from the dead and offers eternal salvation to any one who accepts him as Savior is just plain crazy. No greater message can be given to mankind. So the message spread and one of the motivators to spread the word abroad was persecution. When the word is pushed away it is pushed somewhere else.

v.5-8

Next we see Philip’s ministry, a ministry of preaching the good news and healing those who came to him. Again notice the phrase in v. 6 “And the people with one accord,”. These folks were of one mind when they heard the good news of Christ. They were drawn to God through their positive volition to his word. It says in v.8 there was great joy, megalh cara.

When the soul is relieved of its guilt and shame there is always great joy. And it is through the steady inculcation of Bible doctrine that joy is sustained, though the joy will take on a more mature nature as we grow. The great initial elation we experience at salvation is not the norm for everyday living though some believers attempt to duplicate this feeling each week. Joy matures into consistent inner happiness and spiritual stability as we grow to spiritual maturity. It is still joy, but it is more contemplative because as we reach spiritual maturity through conformity to Bible doctrine we come to learn lessons in the Christian life. These lessons include phases of discipline, and phases of testing and trials. When we think back on our Christian life now, after many years, our joy is much deeper than emotional elation.

The Pastor
October 2011

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