Perversion and Restoration
Acts 8:1-4
And Saul was consenting to his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem…

These verses suggest -

I. HOW FAR FROM RIGHT FEELING WILL WRONG THOUGHTS LEAD MEN ASTRAY. Saul was consenting [rejoicing] unto his death (ver. 1). "Saul made havoc of [was ravaging] the Church," etc. (ver. 3). The death of the first martyr, which was so utterly shameful to those who compassed it, and so deeply regrettable from a human estimate, was, in the eyes of Saul, a thing in which to triumph with savage pleasure. And this dreadful satisfaction of his grew out of strong religious convictions - he hated Stephen so passionately because he clung to "the Law" so tenaciously. Nor was this his only manifestation of distorted feeling. He was not satisfied with the stoning of Stephen; he joined heartily in the persecution which broke up Christian families and caused their general dispersion (ver. 2), himself being the most prominent agent of the council; neither ordinary humanity, nor the gentleness which should come with a liberal education, nor the tenderness which is due to womanly feeling, laying any restraint upon him. Every wiser, kinder, more generous sentiment was lost in a violent, relentless, unpitying fanaticism. So does error pervert the mind and distort the impulses and abuse the energies of the soul. Before we lend ourselves to any cause, before we plunge into any strife, let us very carefully and devoutly weigh the question whether we are really right, whether our traditions are not leading us astray as men's inherited notions have led them astray from the truth, whether, before we act with a burning zeal, we must not alter our position or even change our side. Not till we have an intelligent assurance that we are in the right should we act with enthusiasm and severity; else we may be cherishing feelings and doing actions which are diabolical rather than Divine.

II. How MUCH HOLY EARNESTNESS MAY BE CALLED TO SUFFER, The Christians of those early times were called:

1. To sympathize, with painful intensity, with a suffering man. If Saul was consenting to his death, with what lacerated and bleeding hearts did his Christian friends see the first martyr die! They" made great lamentation over him" (ver. 2).

2. To be distressed for a bereaved and weakened Church. The cause of Christ could ill spare (so they would naturally feel) such an eloquent and earnest advocate as he whose tongue had been so cruelly silenced; they must have lamented the loss which, as men bent on a high and noble mission, they had sustained.

3. To endure serious trouble in their own circumstances. There was "great persecution... and they were all scattered abroad" (ver. 1). This must have involved a painful severance of family ties and a serious disturbance in business life. Holy earnestness has similar sufferings to endure now.

(1) Its personal attachments are peculiarly deep and its sympathies peculiarly strong. When injury or death comes to the objects of them, there is corresponding pain and sorrow of soul.

(2) It is often deeply distressed for the cause of Christ in its times of loss, weakness, wrong.

(3) It suffers, in virtue of its fidelity, from the scorn, the opposition, the persecution, in some form or other, of those who are the enemies of God and truth. But, thus doing, it treads closely in the footsteps of the best of men, and in those of the Divine Master himself. And thus suffering with him, it will be crowned with his honor and joy (Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:12; 1 Peter 4:13).


(1) used the machinations of the enemy and

(2) recompensed the faithfulness of the suffering Church by causing the dispersion of the disciples to result in "the furtherance of the gospel." What misguided men hoped would be a death-blow to the new "way" proved to be a valuable stroke on its behalf, increasing the number of its active witnesses, and multiplying its adherents largely. So shall it be with the evil designs of the wicked; they will be made to subserve the gracious purposes of God.

1. How vain and foolish, as well as guilty, is it to fight against God!

2. How confidently may we who are co-workers with him await the issue! The angry and threatening storm which is on the horizon will perhaps only speed the good vessel of the truth and bring her sooner to the haven. - C.

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.

Incidents of Persecution and Dispersion
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