Incidents of Persecution and Dispersion
Acts 8:1-13
And Saul was consenting to his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem…

I. A GLIMPSE OF SAUL THE PERSECUTOR. Though brief and passing, it is very significant. He was a party to the execution of Stephen. Saul was full of ignorance and blind passion. What he afterwards felt about his conduct is expressed in 1 Timothy 1:3. This example should be a standing warning to us against trust in mere feeling and enthusiasm. The fumes of anger and violence are no signs of pure glowing zeal for the truth, but rather of the spirit that is set on fire of hell. It is when we are most passionately excited in the cause of party conflict that we have most need to be on our guard. Bitter was the remorse of Saul of Tarsus for his complicity in the murder of Stephen. Hard was it for him to forgive himself. It was the triumph of Divine love in his heart when he could trust that through it he had been forgiven.

II. THE EFFECTS OF PERSECUTION. It leads to dispersion, and dispersion to the dissemination of the truth. Through the country of Judaea and Samaria the scattered ones went, leaving in every village, in every house and heart, stirring memories, new thoughts. And Saul, like a ravaging wolf, went on his blind course. There is a general historical lesson here. Persecution is ever the symptom of intellectual change. The old dragon is ever ready to devour the child of the woman. The hellish Python would wrestle with the glorious Apollo. Herod would put to death the child Jesus. Saul would slay the infant Church. But the victory of eternal light and love is not doubtful. "They that were scattered in different directions went in different directions evangelizing the world." How beautiful is this! The true weapon with which to meet the sword is the Word. The policy of the persecutor is of all the blindest. He stimulates the movement he aims to crush. In every manly spirit opposition rouses new energy. We love more dearly the truth for which we have to fight and suffer. It is in the laws of the spiritual world that persecutions should ever bring a violent reaction in favor of the principles of the persecuted. When Christianity is patronized it becomes corrupt. When through persecution it is thrown back upon the ground of its first principles, it springs up with new life and vigor.

III. THE WORK OF PHILIP. Well does it stand in contrast with that of Saul in this glimpse of early Christianity. Saul, the wolf amidst the fold, breathing out threats and slaughter; Philip, as the shepherd, feeding and healing and comforting. Again and again we have the repetition of the true effects of Christianity. Good words are spoken, which command attention and do good to the soul; good deeds are done to the suffering body, which are evident "signs" of a Divine presence and power to heal, and therefore of a Divine and loving will. And joy ever breaks out - the reflection of recovered freedom in the body and the soul - in every city. These, then, are the constant evidences of Christianity. No other "apologetic" can be needed, for this is invincible. Without it the subtlest arguments are unavailing.

IV. THE TRIUMPH OF CHRISTIAINITY OVER SUPERSTITION. Simon the Magus is the type of those who work upon the imagination of the people, as contrasted with the true Christian teacher who appeals to the conscience. What was to decide between the genuine teacher and healer and the eloquent and skilful quack? Close is the shadow to the light in all the course of the gospel. In the individual conscience lies the test. To that God speaks; that in every age is the mirror of the truth. And to the truth and to God the conscience of the impostor bears witness. Simon believed in the word of Philip, and became by baptism a professor of the new creed. It is said that he was astonished at the signs and peat wonders which occurred. What we call" sensationalism" in the mind, the craving for the wonder, is the spurious form of a true instinct. Men must see in order to be convinced; when conviction is attained, they can afterwards walk by faith in regions where sight is not possible. We never change the habit of our thought until we find something inexplicable where before all was plain and simple - something wondrous where we only recognized the commonplace. To ask for belief without giving evidence is to insult the conscience, to refuse belief when the evidence is clear is to deny to one's self the possibility of guidance when the evidence is not altogether clear. Let men take the evidence which is clear to them, and act upon it; that is safe for the time, and the rest will become clearer by-and-by. But the case of Simon shows how void is any kind of mere conviction unless it be followed by the corresponding act of will. Simon was convinced, but not converted. The light penetrated his intelligence, but failed to move his heart. - J.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

WEB: Saul was consenting to his death. A great persecution arose against the assembly which was in Jerusalem in that day. They were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except for the apostles.

Discordant Elements Obedient to the Accomplishing of One Purpose
Top of Page
Top of Page