Online Bible Commentary
Christianity Brings Great Joy
Acts 8:1 Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. 4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. 5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. 6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city. (NKJV)
The New Testament Church has just begun to form itself. The disciples of Christ were led by the apostles as they preached the gospel in the temple and met in private homes in Jerusalem. The time is A.D. 30 0r 31.
Peter and John have been previously harassed by the Jewish religious leaders. But now the persecution has become very grave. Stephen has been stoned to death by these religious leaders, and Saul, later to be renamed Paul, witnessed the event.
Saul consented to the death of Stephen (v.1a). He may not have helped in the stoning but he did not intervene. He was consenting at the very least by not objecting to the stoning.
The stoning of Stephen began “a great persecution” of the church (v. 1b). Many of the disciples in Jerusalem fled to other lands to preach the gospel. The persecution actually spread the gospel.
While the apostles stayed in Jerusalem, other disciples fled to Judea and Samaria (v. 1c). Samaritans were looked down upon by the Jews because they had intermarried, Jews with Gentiles. But the New Testament church welcomed these Samaritans. Meanwhile Stephen had been buried by “devout men”, while his loved ones mourned (v. 2).
Saul led the charge in persecuting the disciples. He “made havoc of the church”, causing ruin and devastation (v. 3a). He would enter the homes of believers, “dragging off men and women” to prison where they would await trial (v. 3b).
This persecution caused the scattering of believers as they “went everywhere preaching the word” (v. 4). The persecution by Saul and the Jewish religious leaders brought on the opposite of its intent. Instead of quashing the movement it spread the movement.
Philip, an original deacon with Stephen, was one of those who spread the gospel in Samaria (v. 5). The Lord was with Philip and worked miracles through him causing many to believe (v. 6).
The miracles provided both spiritual healing, as “unclean spirits”, demons, were driven out of the people, and physical healing as the “paralyzed and lame were healed” (v. 7). The Lord brought “great joy” to the city of Samaria (v. 8).
Those who do not understand something, often try to demonize it. Saul did not understand this new movement, later called Christianity, so he demonized it in his own mind and attempted to suppress it.
Saul may have initially not understood Christianity, but when he did, Paul became its biggest supporter. He saw that Christianity brings great joy to people.
Today, many people attempt to demonize Christianity, out of their lack of understanding. This is totally unjustified. Christianity is a “religion” of peace. It does not suppress people but rather lifts up people.
In reality, Christianity is not a religion at all. It is a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a relationship that brings great joy to those who embrace it.