The apostles continue to preach widely and boldly amid great persecution.
3. Persecution drives Christians out of Jerusalem
God turns evil into good. (Romans 8:28)
- The apostles remain in Jerusalem.
- Some godly Jewish* men (not believers) were horrified at Stephen’s murder, gave him a proper burial, and mourned and wept over him. *According to several commentaries, the Greek word translated godly or devout men is only used three other times in the NT. Each time it refers to a Jewish man or men – Simeon (Luke 2:25), Jews present on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:5), and Ananias (Acts 22:12).
- The church scatters into Judea and Samaria, an instruction Jesus gave his followers in Acts 1:8.
Scattered: According to Boice, there are two different words in the ancient Greek language for the idea of “scattered.” One has the idea of scattering in the sense of making something disappear, like scattering someone’s ashes. The other word has the idea of scattering in the sense of planting or sowing seeds. This is the ancient Greek word used here. (Enduring Word)
- They spread the gospel everywhere they went.
Great awakening among the Samaritans
- Philip, another non-apostle like Stephen*, went to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to the people there. *(Acts 6:5)
- The whole crowd listened intently and heard and saw the miracles he did.
- Unclean spirits came out screaming.
- Many who couldn’t stand or walk were healed.
- Great joy spread through the city.
Many if not most believers who owned property in Jerusalem felt compelled to sell all and share with each other before intense persecution began, so they left little of value behind. Forty years later, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed and the streets filled with blood. As Jesus warned them, when you see these things happening, run.
Those who became believers while visiting Jerusalem during Pentecost possibly went back to their home cities and took others with them.
4. God didn’t give up on Samaria.
600 years before this, the Assyrians conquered this area of northern Israel and deported all the wealthy and middle-class Jews from the area. Then they moved in a pagan population from afar. These pagans intermarried with the lowest classes of remaining Jews in northern Israel, and from these people came the Samaritans. (see 2 Kings 17-6-41) (Guzik)
Generally speaking, the Jews of that day hated the Samaritans. They considered them compromising half-breeds who corrupted the worship of the true God. “There was deep-seated prejudice, amounting almost to hatred, standing between the Jews and the Samaritans.” (LaSor)
When a Samaritan village rejected Jesus (Luke 9:51-56) James and John suggested, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”
In John 4 Jesus and his disciples passed through Samaria, and he spoke to woman who was also a Samaritan. Jesus showed grace and mercy without prejudice for her gender, race, religion, or social class. She responded by treating all of them with kindness, and many were saved on that day, too.
5. a. I shouldn’t assume people unlike me won’t listen.
b. Love, serve, give, and pray for everyone without prejudice.
I’m thankful my parents modeled Christ-like attitudes and behavior. We visited prisons, children’s homes, a mental institution, an Indian reservation, and the sick and elderly where we sang and shared the gospel. I wish I could report that we saw miracles and revivals. Only heaven knows the impact.
A friend of mine works with a Turkish evangelist who sees weekly salvations in her homeland.
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My answers to BSF Bible Study Fellowship questions Acts + Letters of the Apostles Lesson 6 Day 2