- Stephen’s death was only the beginning of the persecution. This was the first persecution of Christians as a whole. Suffering and persecution is something that Christians throughout the ages have suffered and something we must learn to handle with love and forgiveness.
- In 1956, in the reality-based film End of the Spear, five missionaries go to the Waodani tribe in Ecuador, a tribe marked by blood vengeance. 60% of all deaths were due to murder. When the missionaries arrive, they are almost immediately murdered with spears. At a later date, the children and wives return to the dead missionaries to witness Jesus to the tribe. The new missionaries became good friends with the murderers and the gospel spread through the tribe. Today there are Bible schools, the tribe has stopped killing each other and many have become Christians.
- In Communist China there were thousands of Christians. The Communists knew that the Christians used to gather for services etc., so they decided to spread them out over the country. This created a missionary wave.
- When Jesus left earth and returned to heaven, he commissioned the disciples to “be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth. ” (Acts 1:8b)
- The disciples had not yet fulfilled this mission, apart from a great success in Jerusalem. For the time being, all the Christians on earth were in Jerusalem, and almost all of them were Jews.
- Without this persecution, might the Christians have been content with the comfortable life of the congregation in Jerusalem? Sometimes God needs to shake us up to get us out of our comfort zone and do what God has commissioned us to do (Romans 8:28).
- The disciples were “scattered” in the same way that seeds are cast over the fertile soil to eventually grow up and produce a harvest.
- Around the year 200, the Church Father Tertullian wrote: “The blood of the martyrs is the best seed of the Church”.
- Although there were hardened persecutors among the Jews, not all Jews wanted to participate in the persecution. Here we see that there were God-fearing Jews who obviously strongly disapproved of the persecution of Christians.
- This was a very difficult time for the early Christians. Paul was not content to persecute men, he also put women in prison.
- When he later became a Christian, he deeply regretted this terrible persecution of Christians. In Corinthians, Paul writes: “For I am the least of the apostles. I am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I have persecuted the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9)
- The sins we happily commit today, we will probably deeply regret in a few years.