Yesterday, we saw how persecution of the church got started in the book of Acts. We’ll close out the week by looking a little deeper into that terrible trend and how the church responded to it.
Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. (Act 5:17-20)
Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them. (Act 5:28-33)
And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. (Act 6:8-14)
Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. (Act 7:57-59)
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.
As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. (Act 8:3-4)
Persecuted, By All Means
Those who shared the gospel were persecuted by all means. They were arrested. They were jailed. They were threatened. But God set His seal of approval on what they were doing by releasing them from jail and sending them back to the scene of the crime to do it again. These courageous souls didn’t back down when the Jewish leaders interrogated them, either. The leaders were so mad they wanted to kill them.
No Surrender, No Retreat
In Stephen’s case, they did kill him. God was working through Stephen in amazing ways, and some of the Jews challenged him. They couldn’t overcome his wisdom, so they arranged for some folks to lie about him. Then they bounced rocks off his head until he died. Ugly. But through it all Stephen didn’t back down and or shut up. He thought the gospel message was worth giving his life for.
Scattered Abroad, Speaking Out
Saul’s persecution didn’t silence the scattered saints. He came into their homes and carted them off to jail. Even though many of them escaped, they were still vocal witnesses. They … went every where preaching the word.
What About Your?
- Are you a bold witness?
- Are you silent about the gospel because you’re afraid of how others will react to it?