The unintended consequences caused by the persecution of the early church. In life, we find that with whatever we are attempting to accomplish, often times we end up with some unintended consequences. For instance:
In the 1950s, a malaria outbreak occurred among Borneo’s Dayak people. The World Health Organization (WHO) tried to alleviate the problem by spraying the Dayak people’s thatch-roofed huts with DDT. The DDT killed the malaria-bearing mosquitos but also killed the parasitic wasp that kept thatch-eating caterpillars under control. At nightfall, the buzz of the malarial, bloodsucking mosquitoes was stilled, but sharp cracks and then wild screaming followed as people’s roofs caved in.But this was hardly the end of the problem. The geckos ate the toxic mosquitos. Normally these lizards can race over water for yards. They reeled like drunks on a DDT Saturday night. The neighborhood cats, after seeing all these drugged geckos couldn’t help but stuff themselves full of geckos.Then the cats died.Thus the rats rejoiced. With their primary predators gone, their population exploded. Rats were everywhere and they were all scurrying over and through the Dayak’s roofless hut. The rodents were a greater threat than the mere skin-crawling, toe-biting mosquitoes. The rats are known to carry diseases like bubonic plague – a condition that’s more serious than malaria. (hundreds of millions of people in Europe died because of this plague.)So what was the World Health Organization to do? They were afraid of additional disasters that might occur if they poisoned the rats.Someone finally had the bright idea that what was needed was to reintroduce the natural predators of the rats. They needed cats. New cats. A lot of new cats. But how could the WHO transport thousands of cats into a remote section of Borneo?Introducing: Parachuting cats!
One morning as the Dayak people awoke and came out of their dwellings, they heard the droning of a low-flying aircraft. Soon the sky was littered with parachuting pussycats. Operation Cat Drop rained 14000 felines down on Borneo. As soon as the cats hit the ground — undoubtedly, on all four legs — their ears went up, and they raced to an undisclosed location (for reasons known only to cats — or the aliens who control them). Before too long, the cats got around to the business of mousing, or in this case, ratting and the Dayaks were saved from mosquitoes, rats and the World Health Organization!–Paraphrased from The good life by Charles Colson.
The unintended consequences caused by the persecution of the Church:
And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. 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. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. - Acts 7:54-8:6
1. Consenting to the death of Stephen
The first thing that we notice about Saul, is that he was consenting to the death of Stephen. Stephen was the first New Testament Martyr and the Bible says in Acts 6:8, that he was full of faith and power. We can see from Acts 6:7 that the church in Jerusalem was growing, but in so doing an opposition sprang up.
Notice who was disputing with Stephen. The Alexandrians (only occurrence in the Bible), these would be people from Alexandria. The first mention of Alexandria in the Bible is found in Acts 18:24-26:
And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.
This lost Bible teacher had an incomplete revelation and had to be straightened out on his doctrine. All of the “modern Bible translations” come from the line of manuscripts that originate from Alexandria. They are filled with omissions and errors. For instance:
- 2 Timothy 2:15 – The command to study the Bible is removed
- Mark 1:2 – The new versions indicate that one prophet is quoted when it is actually two different prophets (Isaiah and Malachi)
- Matthew 17:21 – missing completely from these “new” versions
Let’s contrast this information with the first mention of Antioch. We first find Antioch in this same chapter Acts 6:5. Where we find those that are referenced as being of an honest report and full of the Holy Ghost (Acts 6:3). The Disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26), and Antioch is the first place that sent out missionaries (Acts 13:2-4).
The King James Bible comes from the line of manuscripts that originate from Antioch (Syrian-Byzantine). So the question that you need to ask yourself is this:
Do you want a Bible that comes from the people who murdered Stephen?
Do you want a Bible that is connected with sending out missionaries?
Stephen gives the third and final offer for Israel to repent and accept the Messiah
John the Baptist, the forerunner to the Lord Jesus Christ, called for Israel as a nation to repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:2), but they would not.
Jesus called for the nation of Israel to repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17), again they would not.
Stephen called for the nation of Israel to repent and to accept their Messiah (Acts 7:56), but again they refused.
Israel permitted John to be beheaded, they demanded that Christ be crucified (Luke 23:23-24), and they committed the murder of Stephen (Acts 7:57-60).
Jesus was standing at the right hand of God
Jesus was standing, ready if accepted to usher in the Kingdom right then and there, but he was refused, therefore, he sat down (Hebrews 1:3,13).
The death of Stephen caused to scattering of the Church
Because of the persecution that followed Stephen’s death, the church was scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. Only the Apostles remained in Jerusalem. The Apostles still believed that they were to prepare for the KIngdom, which would be set up in Jerusalem, therefore, they stayed faithful to their commission, regardless of the persecution.
2. Saul made havock of the Church
The second thing that Saul did that caused the gospel to be published is that he made havock of the church.
Havock= waste, devastation, wide and general destruction.
- Saul persecuted the Church of God (Galatians 1:13)
- Saul put believers in prison (Acts 8:3)
- Saul punished and compelled believers to blaspheme (Acts 26:9-12)
- Saul pursued and chased believers (Acts 9:1-2)
- Saul purposed to arrest as many believers as possible (Acts 22:4-5)
- Saul was prominent in the persecution (Acts 9:13-14)
The above list shows just how committed Saul was to his cause. He wanted to wipe the Christian Church off of the map. But with all of this havoc that he caused he actually caused the church to spread out and grow!
3. Saul caused the word of God to be preached everywhere
Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word - Acts 8:4
The very thing that Satan used to stop the church, actually caused it to grow!
Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. - Acts 11:19-21
Come what may, nothing can rob us of the Gospel! They can:
- Persecute us
- Incarcerate us
- Confiscate our stuff
- Even take our very lives
But they can not take our message away (2 Timothy 4:2).
The unintended consequences of Saul’s actions culminate in the picture of New Testament Salvation
And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
Phillip was in Samaria and then in the desert as a direct result of the actions of Saul and the persecution of the Church.
Phillip preached unto him, Jesus
This is the first occurrence of the gospel of the blood atonement being preached. Phillip preached the blood atonement of Christ (Ephesians 1:7) out of Isaiah 53:10-11.
First person to be saved just as we are
This Ethiopian Eunuch was saved just as we are:
- No Tongues
- No Laying on of hands
- No Sacraments
- No Church membership
Just by putting his faith and trust in the blood atonement.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10, For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. - Romans 10:9-10
Whatever you are going through in your life, know that the Lord can use it to further the Gospel. Don’t allow the persecutions, personal issues and struggles of life to keep you from doing what you are supposed to do for the Lord.
Our hope at Irvington Bible Baptist Church is that this podcast provided some encouragement and has helped you to develop a closer relationship with the LORD Jesus Christ.