Text: Acts 8:1-3:
Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death.
And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.
Stephen’s death causes a real shift in the church. Namely that because persecution get truly aggressive the church begins to move away from Jerusalem to escape it. The notion that the earliest church was trying achieve some martyrdom fantasy does not wash when you look at their reaction to Stephen’s death and the persecution that followed. Many of them began to head to other parts of Judea and Samaria.
It was true that the Christian message had already left the city probably by converts of other nations who were in Jerusalem and then left but tis persecution lead by Saul seems to have been a catalyst for it going forward with more force to other nations. It is the event that seems to drive forward Jesus command to be witnesses in Judea and Samaria for sure and will lead to the other parts of the earth as well.
Saul is also giving to Luke the story of Saul’s persecution of the church. He had not actually stoned Stephen but he was in hearty agreement with his death. He then takes a more active role in being the police of the Jewish faith and rounding up and imprisoning Christians. This will actually have a two-fold effect. It will cause Christians to move away from his persecution but also it becomes a true turning point in the relationships between the disciples and the Sanhedrin. After this, the two groups of Jews will not get along very well at all.
Next: Phillip in Samaria