Saul persecuting Christians; Simon, the sorcerer; Philip and the Ethiopian.
And Saul was consenting unto his (Stephen's) 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 Judea and Samaria, except the apostles (Acts 8:1).
The stoning of Stephen marked the beginning of great persecution against the church. God permitted this persecution so that His Word might be preached across the world as the Christians were scattered abroad. This first scattering abroad began the fulfillment of the Lord's words: Ye shall be witnesses unto Me . . . in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). As you can see, this initial persecution forced the disciples out of staying in Jerusalem and its surrounding areas. They ended up in varying places. They began to preach and set up house churches wherever they went. Even in the face of persecution, they continued doing what God had instructed them to do. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42).
Philip, one of the seven deacons, was driven to minister in Samaria because of the persecution. As a result of Philip's preaching there, many believed and were baptized (8:12). Even though the Christians were forced to travel to new locations, like Jeremiah, they found that His Word was in mine (their) heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones . . . and I could not stay (Jer. 20:9). They had to tell the Gospel message. Thus, churches began to be established in other areas. By the end of the first century, churches populated large areas of Asia Minor. This included Ephesus, Corinth, Galatia, Pergamos, Smyrna, etc. They also began to branch out into Europe, establishing churches in Greece and Rome. God used these circumstances for the upbuilding of His Kingdom. Many would have thought this scattering would be the end of the church. However, it was only the beginning. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty (I Cor. 1:27).
We make a serious mistake when we say that all our misfortunes and sufferings are caused by sin or Satan. We need to recognize that God often uses our blighted hopes to bring out the fulfillment of His will. So when the valleys of life come, look for God there. He may have a great work that He is doing in your life. The lesson may possibly only be able to be learned in difficult times.
But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled (I Peter 3:14).
Thought for Today:
You can find special delight in God's peace after you have encountered some of life's storms.
For Acts 7:3: See Gen. 12:1. Acts 7:27-28: See Ex. 2:14. Acts 7:32: See Ex. 3:6. Acts 7:33-34: See Ex. 3:5,7-8,10. Acts 7:37: See Deut. 18:15. Acts 7:40: See Ex. 32:1. Acts 7:42-43: See Amos 5:25-27. Acts 7:49-50: See Is. 66:1-2. Acts 8:32-33: See Is. 53:7-8.
7:19 subtilly, shrewdly, treacherously took advantage; 7:51 stiffnecked and uncircumcised, stubborn, deaf to the truth, and unrepentant; 8:9 sorcery, witchcraft, magic arts.
Pray for Government Officials: Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA), Rep. Corrine Brown (FL), Rep. Pete Stark (CA), and Rep. Tim Huelskamp (KS) • Country: El Salvador (5.9 million) in Central America • Major language: Spanish • Some intolerance of Protestants by government officials • 75% Catholic; 20% Protestant; .5% Baha'i; 2.5% Other; 2% None • Prayer Suggestion: Ask the Lord to make you willing to go wherever He wants to send you (Is. 6:8).
Memory Verse for the Week: Titus 2:12