Daily Word

Persecution spreads the Gospel | Acts 8:1-3

1 Now Saul approved of putting [a]Stephen to death.

And on that day a great persecution [b]began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except for the apostles. 2 Some devout men buried Stephen, and mourned loudly for him. 3 But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house; and he would drag away men and women and put them in prison. 

Acts 8:1-3 (NASB) 中文

Stephen martyred

Stephen’s trial is over. His trial of life is also over. He’s been stoned to death for proclaiming Jesus is God and risen from the dead. His persecutors also didn’t appreciate being compared to their ancestors who killed the prophets who foretold Jesus. And they didn’t like being called out for killing Jesus. Luke, the author of Acts, pointed out that a young man, Saul, was at the stoning, holding the cloaks of the murders.

Who is Saul?

Now Luke picks up the story. Saul not only approved of the stoning, he became the persecutor of this new sect. Paul later testifies to this in his letter to the Galatians. “For you have heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.” (Galatians 1:13-14)

He was extremely focused and serious about his work. I think of the German Gestopo in WWII who went house-to-house looking for and arresting Jews to take them to concentration camps. You might say Saul (who becomes Paul in chapter 9) was the first Nazi. Thankfully, Christ changed him and he later deeply regretted his role in opposition to the church of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:9).

Persecution spreads the Gospel

Luke describes the stoning of Stephen as the beginning of a “great persecution” of Christians. They, it seems, ran for their lives. Only the apostles stayed in Jerusalem; maintaining the Head Quarters so to speak. Those who went were fulfilling Acts 1:8, Jesus’ command to go.  God surely has His own ways of fulfilling His promises!


  • Is there a “Saul” in your life that you should be loving and praying for? Someone who is vehemently opposed to the Gospel. Could it be God has called them, as Paul, to be an advocate and faithful servant of the Gospel? We don’t know. God does. Read the account in Galatians 1 to see Saul’s change to Paul.
  • How are we responding to persecution? Do we avoid it? Or do we embrace it as God’s call and purpose for us? He wants to use us for His glory. He wants to build us up to be more like Christ.
Sri Lanka church attack. Image from newsweek.com *

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