The notes this week have been supplied bu Andy Hallett. As usual, the passage can be read online here.
The result of church persecution was church growth. Saul tried to destroy God’s church, many more have tried since, but they have all failed. Whoever, tries to destroy God’s church shall fail! God has said so. He told Peter that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against God’s church. Psalm 108:13 reminds us that With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies. And Paul reminds us who gives us this assured victory;
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)
It is good to be reminded that we really are on the victory side.
In China in 1949 when the communists came to power 637 China Inland Missionaries were forced to leave, what happened to the church? The number of Christians grew by thirty to forty fold in their absence in spite of severe persecution. God knows what he is doing, we need to trust him! What will happen in North Korea and Syria? ‘Open Doors’ website gives us a great clue!
After Stephens death, persecution broke out leading to the church being scattered. Jesus had said at his ascension;
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Jesus had foretold what was now happening.
The death of Stephen had really got to Saul, he gets frantically busy, attempting to shake off the experience in persecuting the church. He had seen and probably heard how Stephen had dealt with the mob. Perhaps he knew that Stephen had prayed that the mob would be forgiven as they stoned him. Saul’s reaction is to round the Christians up and put them in prison.
Godly men buried Stephen with much mourning. This went against Jewish law, those stoned were to be buried in silence. These men were brave to go against the Jewish authorities especially considering what had just happened to Stephen.
Philip a Greek not Philip the apostle preaches in Samaria. Great joy is present in the city as some are healed and some become Christians.
We need to trust God at all times. We really are on the victory side!
Pray for God’s persecuted church that what happened in Acts 8:4, ‘those scattered will preach the word’ will be repeated.
When trouble comes talk to and about the Lord Jesus.