Here we are introduced for the first time to a man who will soon turn into a student of Jesus. Even an apostle of Jesus Christ!
Under a new name – Paul - this man will perhaps do more than any other to carry the Good News of Jesus to the world.
But for now his name is Saul, and he violently opposes Christianity. He sanctions the stoning of Stephen and is the de facto leader of the forces now fully mobilized against the believers in Jerusalem.
Stephen’s martyrdom becomes a flashpoint. The enemies of faith launch an offensive designed to eradicate this new movement. Saul is the spearhead.
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria…Saul began to destroy the church.
Saul personally leads a house to house search for students of Jesus. Those who do not get away are imprisoned. In a few short days, a community numbering perhaps over 20,000 is disrupted and scattered.
The enemies of Jesus intend to destroy the church in Jerusalem; instead their persecution actually causes the message of Jesus to break out beyond the borders of the city.
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there…So there was great joy in that city.
Saul didn’t understand the real consequence of his actions, but his persecution actually caused the spread of Christianity. Moved the comfortable and insulated group of believers out of Jerusalem with the message of Jesus to the world!
The enemies of God very often fulfill His plans in spite of their evil motives. Such were those who crucified Jesus. Now it is Saul’s turn…