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Summary: Those who were scattered preached the Gospel everywhere they went. Hundreds of individual evangelists were giving the Gospel to thousands of souls, and the message became known over the whole area.

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February 8, 2014

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

Lesson II.E.4: The Church is Scattered (8:1-3)

Acts 8:1-3 (KJV)

1And 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.

2And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.

3As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

Introduction

There are only three verses to this lesson, yet it is a very important passage, because it records the first missionary outreach of the Church of Jesus Christ. It is impossible to overstate the importance of individual witness in the spread of the Gospel. Those who were scattered preached the Gospel everywhere they went. Hundreds of individual evangelists were giving the Gospel to thousands of souls, and the message became known over the whole area. When the preaching of the Word of God becomes ‘professionalized’, a large part of the Christian vitality is lost.

Jerusalem had been thoroughly evangelized under the protection and leadership of the Holy Spirit. God fulfills His purposes in many ways, even passing through the wrath of men. Now it was time for phase 2 of God’s plan—to take the Gospel to Judea and Samaria (Acts 1:8).

“There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world,” wrote Victor Hugo, “and that is an idea whose time has come.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ is much more than an idea. The Gospel is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). It is God’s ‘dynamite’ for breaking down sin’s barriers and ‘setting the prisoners free.’ Its time had come and the church was on the move. The ‘salt’ was now leaving the churches ‘saltshaker’ to be spread over all Judea, and Samaria, just as the Lord had commanded (Acts 1:8).

Commentary

1And 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.

Some believe that the words ‘Saul was consenting’ (expressing hearty approval), means that Saul was a member of the Sanhedrin. This is not necessarily true. However, since he was from Cilicia, he was undoubtedly a member of the synagogue that debated with Stephen—“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” (Acts 6:9). [The synagogue of the Libertines; or free men is a Roman name, and signifies the sons of free men. They were Jews whose parents were born free, or had obtained their freedom at Rome, or in some free city under the Roman government, which is the case with Saul of Tarsus.]

Saul’s zeal for the Law of Moses was displayed most vividly in his persecution of the church—“For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.…” (Gal. 1:13-14; see also Phil. 3:6). When he said, “I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it,” the meaning is that he persecuted the saints in a most violent and outrageous manner, beyond all others that were also persecuting Christians. He really thought that persecuting believers was one way of serving God, so he did it with a clear conscience (2 Tim. 1:3). He obeyed the light he had and, when God gave him more light, he obeyed that and became a Christian!


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