The early members of Christ’s church met with hostility for sharing the good news of Jesus. Then, after the stoning of Stephen, the religious leaders became even more zealous to imprison and kill new believers. Alistair Begg shows how this persecution actually helped the church spread throughout the Roman world. Everywhere the believers went, they shared their faith. We can imitate them not just by preaching but also in casual conversations with people we meet.
1And Saul approved of his execution.
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
4Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. 5Philip went down to the city1 of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8So there was much joy in that city.
9But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles2 performed, he was amazed.
14Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, 19saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23For I see that you are in the gall3 of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” 24And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”
25Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.
Copyright © 2021, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Text provided by the Crossway Bibles Web Service.