Saul Begins where Stephen Ends, But So Does Philip
And Saul approved of [Stephen’s] execution.
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him.
But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ.”
Acts 8:1–5 ESV Read More
If you hadn’t read the Bible and you were just going through from beginning to end, that statement “Saul approved of his execution” would be a little confusing. Clues like this show us when some of these things were written. Luke knows that the people reading this already know about Saul – that he would have a conversion experience with Jesus and the go by the name of Paul.
While Acts 8:1 records the evil of Paul, Romans 8:1 reflects that he finally got it:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. After this, a great persecution broke out. It wasn’t a persecution of inconvenience, like many of us complain of today in modern America. This was the real deal.
The great thing, like all persecutions, is that God used the evil of men to fulfill His purposes. Jesus had told the disciples that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
But the early church was having a blast just chilling out in a corner of the temple. In Jerusalem.
Once they fled Jerusalem, they realized that while they needed each other, as a group, they didn’t need to stay in Jerusalem.
Phillip going to Samaria is a big deal. This is a lot like Daryl Davis, an African-American man, befriending KKK members. Phillip wouldn’t have taken to the Samaritans naturally. It was because he first saw Jesus reach out to them that he knew he could do it.
From there, the pattern followed all over the world.
Jesus said “As you go, make disciples of all nations.” Jesus knew they would be going out from Jerusalem, one way or another.
We may not be persecuted, but we do go places. As we go, let us make disciples and encourage believers. We may be going to Costco or the gym, or our work may take us to Kansas City or New Jersey. In all of those places, the Lord goes before us to prepare the soon-to-be church.
We do not need to fear the Sauls of the world. God will take care of them. Saul isn’t likely to arrest everyone in Samaria anyway.