Summary: THis is a study the waves of persecution following after the Jewish persecution of the church chronicled in Acts.
History of Opposition without: There were about 10 waves of persecution following after the Jewish persecution of the church chronicled in Acts.
Marcus Aurelius (161-180)
Decius (249-251) thousands died for refusing to sacrifice to the imperial name
Diocletian (284-305) Four edicts to stamp out Christianity, order churches to be burned, Scriptures confiscated, clergy tortured, Christian civil servant to be deprived of citizenship and executed if unrepentant of their faith. He even had a medal imprinted: “The Chrisitian religion is destroyed, and the worship of the gods is restored.” Tertullian said, “kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust...the more you mow us down, the more we grow; the seed is the blood of Christians (Apology 50).
John Wycliffe had a tremendous ministry as the morning star of the Reformation. Roman church dug him up and burned him and poured his ashes in the river.
Over the three year and nine month reign of the so-called “Bloody Mary” there were about 300 martyrs. Whereas only 30 had been burned for heresy in the hundred years prior. John Foxe provided a powerful and influential hagiography for Protestantism in his, Book of Martyrs (1563), or as it was originally titled as the Acts and Monuments.
God has His own purposes for persecution, then of Bunyan imprisoned for 12 years - and in that time wrote the masterpiece, Pilgrims Progress
Jesus promised - this 29 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 "and say, ’If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ 31 "Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 "Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 "Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 "Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 "that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 "Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
TURNING TO ACTS - THERE ARE AT LEAST 2 THESIS VERSES - If you know these two verses you know trajectory of the kingdom and the dynamics of the kingdom.
ACTS 1:8 "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
ACTS 2:42: And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
The Previous Passage OUTLINE
2) The Spirit testifies to the uniqueness of Christ - no other name! (John 14:6)
In Acts 4:23-31
WE MUST PRAY IN SOLIDARITY - ONE ACCORD
WE MUST PRAY TO A SOVEREIGN LORD
WE MUST PRAY FOR SPIRITUAL EMPOWERMENT
Corruption from Within - Ananias and Sapphira
The Challenge of Internal Corruption
The Cause of Internal Corruption
The basic issue is really spiritual pride: Ananias and Sapphira wanted to be highly regarded by believers, they coveted that position, they envied, no doubt, Barnabbas.
Calvin draws out a powerful application: this account "is [given to us] to reflect upon how one day we shall come to stand before His judgement-seat....In the bodily punishment of these two, there has been set before us, as in a mirror, the gravity of spiritual judgement which it still hidden."
From Without: Persecution and Interrogation
Gamaliel’s Counsel - Did Not Cease
THE RESULT OF SWIFT DISCIPLINE - 4:11-18
GODLY FEAR WITHIN AND WITHOUT
GROWTH OF BELIEVERS
GOOD WORKS THROUGH THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT
GREAT INDIGNATION FROM POWERFUL UNBELIEVERS (v 17)
11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
Literally - great “Phobos” - ecclasia - first usage by Luke
12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch.
13 Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly.
Join is kallao - it is used in
Matthew 19:5 "and said, ’For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and [cleave] be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?