Saturday in the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time

Acts 8:1-8

They Were All Scattered

While they were stoning Stephen, they laid their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul who approved of his execution.  That’s an important line in the Book of Acts, for it is this Saul, later known as the Apostle Paul, who dominates the Book from chapter thirteen following.  But at this point, he is a Pharisee blinded by zeal, who, “ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.”  Meanwhile, “Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him.”  I say this only to remind us that the expression of grief over the death of loved ones, especially the righteous, is no sin.  In a way, it is an expression of a longing for heaven, away from this world of sin and brokenness, a longing to be reunited with loved ones in a world where righteousness dwells under the dominion of our Lord.  As Christians, we do not grieve because “it’s healthy”; we grieve because we long for a better city, a heavenly one (Hebrews 11:13-16).

But most important in this passage is what happened after Stephen’s death.  We are told that a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem such that the church was scattered.  That sounds bad.  And so it would have been had all they did was run away.  But they did more than run, for “those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”  Please note: It is no sin to flee persecution; indeed, it should become a means of spreading the gospel.  Anyway, Philip, whom we met along with Stephen in Acts 6, went down (north) to the city of Samaria.  You will remember from John 4 and our Lord’s interview with the “woman at the well,” that “Jews [had] no dealings with Samaritans.”  These were Jews but of mixed blood over the centuries from the Assyrian invasion of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 721 B.C.  To the Jews in Judea, they were impure both spiritually and genealogically.  So Jews and Samaritans hated each other with a pure hatred.

But Philip, a Jew, doesn’t care about this.  He is aware that Christ “has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” between Jew and Samaritan, and soon the church would discover between even Jew and Gentile.  So Philip preaches Christ in Samaria, and “the crowds with one accord paid attention” both to his words and his signs.  Samaritans responded to the gospel in faith, just as many of the Jews had done, and embraced Christ as Savior and Lord.  And here is one major purpose of persecution: that the church may scatter and spread the seed of the gospel and thereby defeat her enemies by sharing the faith.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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