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Summary: The persecution ended when Saul, its most ardent advocate was converted and became a witness for Christ. The “church” was at peace.

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March 19, 2014

By: Tom Lowe

Title: A Summary Report of the Church (9:31)

Scripture

31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.

Introduction

Verse 31 concludes Luke’s narrative on the conversion of Saul (the apostle Paul) and the entire persecution story which began in 8:1b. The persecution ended when Saul, its most ardent advocate was converted and became a witness for Christ. The “church” was at peace.

Commentary

31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.

This verse summarizes a period of almost 10 years in the life of the early Jewish churches, during which peace and prosperity prevailed, and about which the Book of Acts is otherwise silent. It is a very important verse because it marks a new departure in the story of the development of the early church.

Let us take time to consider the essential meaning of the word “Church.” The Greek word for church, “ecclesia,” literally means called out. The picture of the Church suggested by the word is that of a company of those who are separated from the nation, and from the race—an entirely new company. There are two ideas evoked by the word; the Hebrew idea which was that of a God-governed people; and the Greek idea, which was that of a governing community. On the pages of the Book of Acts, it refers to the confederation of those who are following the name of Jesus; and are first, the God-governed people; and secondly, the governing people; the people who hold the keys, not of themselves, the church, but of the Kingdom; the moral interpreters, those who are to state the standards of life, and who are to insist on the ethical ideas of Jesus. Therefore, these people are seen as turning away from the temple as a center, and becoming themselves the temple, wherever they are.

The Church was still confined to Jews, half-Jews (the Samaritans), and proselytes to Judaism who became Christians (with the one exception of the eunuch from Ethiopia, 8:26-40), but all was in readiness for the extension of the church to a new segment of the world’s population.

Luke’s use of the word “churches” should be taken as the local body of believers throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, assemblies, and not in the “universal sense” as the whole body of Christians. Perhaps the church Luke focused on here is the Jerusalem church which he pictures as witnessing throughout all these regions. This is the only mention of Galilean Christians in Acts. Galilee is probably to be included within the reference to “all Judea” in Acts 1:8{1]. Luke mentioned it separately to emphasize how the commission to “all Judea” was being fulfilled. Already the witness had reached Galilee. The next two chapters comprising verses 9:32-35 and 91:36-43, will show its extension to the coastal towns of Judea. The “peace” of the church is described in terms of the encouragement of the Spirit, the growth of the church, and its reverence and worship (“the fear of the Lord”), terms reminiscent of the earlier summaries in Acts (2:43-47{2]) It is a familiar pattern. The Lord brings his people through a time of crisis. Through His deliverance the church finds peace and continues to flourish (5:42{3]). In this case the respite would last until a fresh outbreak of persecution occurred under Herod in Chapter 12


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