In continuation of my last post, Thrown in the Furnace, I’d like to highlight what kind of world and the persecution the early church faced. After reading Acts 6-19 last night, I found some things I wanted to share with you all. I’ll start with the verses and then share my thoughts on that section. WARNING: It’s a long one…
And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
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. (…) As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.Acts 8:1,3
And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.Acts 8:11-17
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, (…) And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:Acts 9:1,7,15
Let’s Take a Break
Perhaps I should stop here before dumping the rest on you. The first one, Acts 6:7, shows that the movement of the church was spreading and influencing the religious sects of their day. Acts 8:1,3 shows that Christians were dragged from their homes for imprisonment. Acts 8:11-17 tells the account of a sorcerer who believes because of his astonishment towards the Holy Ghost’s power. In these six verses, I’d like to highlight something. They hadn’t received the Holy Ghost yet; why? That question was in my mind as well. I kept reading and discovered that the apostles had to come up and lay hands on them because the new believers had been baptized in the name of Jesus only. When I read this, I had a little scripture thought and followed it. Matthew 28:19 says we are to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Yet throughout the book of Acts, they only baptize in the name of Jesus. Why? The apostles and elders were there to lay hands on them. Now, we baptize in all three names as the Lord Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19. The last scripture of the above section talks about the well-known persecutor of the early church: Saul. Saul was the one in charge of imprisonments, home break-ins, etc. But the whole point I’d like to share is this: Saul, the one who did not have a good reputation with the church, was called by Jesus to share the gospel. Get this: Jesus says He had chosen Saul “to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.” Saul was called to this life by God before he was chosen. Don’t give up praying for those who blaspheme the faith. They might be like Saul. Later in that same chapter, the Jews now turn on Saul to kill him.
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. (…) To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. (…) When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.Acts 10:34-35,43; 11:18
And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.Acts 12:4-6
All of chapter 12 is good, but I won’t put all of it down for the sake of space. Take a moment and look at the bold words. Four quaternions– what’s that? After looking it up, I found it meant 16 soldiers. A quaternion is four soldiers. When four units are employed, it is for a night watch. One quaternion per night. Look at the following phrases; Peter, bound by chains, sat between two soldiers while his cell was guarded outside by two more soldiers. If you open your bible (hopefully it’s been opened as you follow), you will see in the following verses that when the angel touched Peter, his chains dropped. Furthermore, as they walked out, the iron gates opened by themselves! FYI: There weren’t any automated doors like today.
And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.Acts 13:44
In this chapter, I found a new favorite short verse: “But God raised him from the dead (v.30).” Reading further to v.48 says, “… and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”
I’ll stop here for now. Watch for Part II on chapters 14-20 later today.