Summary: Philip heads North and finds that Non-Jews are eleigible to receive the grace of God.
I want what you have
Last week we had a large section of scripture covering the very brief ministry of Stephen. I described it as being like some of the fireworks we may have witnessed. The story starts out starting with some of Stephen’s character traits. Then it was not long before they explode with the story of Israel then makes the accusations that they murdered the messiah. The repot the loud boom of truth makes the leaders, the Sanhedrin explodes and murders Stephen. We ended with the mention of an observer named Saul…sort of a precursor to the story that would later develop around him.
This week we have only the remainder of the chapter but it is still a lot of material to cover.
We will be taking out scripture is sections again this week. I hope you are doing the reading. It will help you to keep up with where God is leading us on the walk through the Book of Acts.
The first little part of Chapter 8 mentions that Saul is giving approval of the treatment of Stephen. And it is the beginning of a dramatic change.
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.
Saul is zealous to get rid of theses blaspheming people. You just don’t go around making comments about his faith or else you will pay the consequences.
This little hint of Saul’s actions helps us to make a mental note of who this man is and we already know that we will hear about him again. This snapshot of the story helps us to make up out mind about the Saul person…
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like him very much. He is a destroyer of the church and hunts down men and Women and throws them in prison.
He is the one in charge of the lynch mob….He wants religious purity….In a way, he is a little like Hitler in his actions and beliefs.
It seems to me that the main point of this section of chapter 8 is that the persecution started the same day Stephen was stoned.
Fear, gripped some, some that could leave easily started packing. But, what if you owned a house, or had a business. You can’t just leave…until they start taking families off to jail….Now there is a little more motivation.
Honey, just get the photo albums and any cash we have and let’s get out of town.
They are heading away from Jerusalem. It mentions Judea and Samaria, basically North and South.
The church is being scattered in all directions, again like a fire work that fills the sky. It talks like everyone left except the apostles. The persecution drives folks away except the leadership. The ones that were so chicken at Jesus trial and execution stay to potentially face the lynch mob. We talked about how much people changed at Pentecost.
Let’s read the next section of scripture,
4-13 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city.
The people that were scattered preached the word everywhere they went.
Wait, a second, do you think that they really meant EVERYBODY? Because everybody is a lot of people. Over 5 Thousand men….
Let me say that I am not sure that they waked into town and started preaching on street corners. Perhaps, when they went to synagogues they were invited to explain scripture and explain the obvious references to the messiah. It could simply be that they really believe what they learned and just shared it with the people they met on the road or the places they settled.
Then our story jumps to the story of one man. The scripture says he went down from Jerusalem to Samaria. Since Samaria is North of Jerusalem it seems strange to say that, but we need to remember that when you leave Jerusalem in any direction you always go down. Jerusalem sits on a ridge with the temple at the highest point. So even when you head North, first you go down from the city - Just a little trivia.
This is the same Philip that we heard about last week that was on them Meals on wheels team with Stephen. We have made a bit of an assumption that he met the same criteria of being filled with faith and spirit.