Persecution Response

(NKJV) 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.

Acts 8:6-8 (NKJV) 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.

In a time when it surely seemed like the status of the church was in peril, there was a response in the Spirit that was apart from a natural one. With Stephen’s stoning there was an obvious uptick in boldness to bring this same oppression to any remaining believers. While these believers were seated together with Christ far above the principalities and powers of the world, it wasn’t against the government or the oppressors that their response was demonstrated. They didn’t go into intercession for the removal of the existing authorities and speak to the undermining of the spiritual leadership inflicting all of the damage. They simply scattered before the physical threats, but in their scattering was a response, wherever they went, of the goodness of God. They did not cease to bypass social or political issues and directly address the much greater message of God’s love demonstrated in Jesus. With their bold beckoning to follow the Master there were also confirmations in signs and miracles that effectively turned the hearts of the people, not against the oppressive forces, but to God. They never brought about the removal of physical threats, but per the Spirit’s leading they accomplished Jesus’ directive of going into all the world and preaching the Gospel.

In the time of peril, when authority would seem to be needed in effecting social and political change, there is a temptation to step away from the commission for which this authority was given. The treading on the enemy that we’ve been promised is surely for every step taken in sharing the gospel of the kingdom to a world in need of eternal salvation, and not necessarily for tribulation (Jesus’ promise) prohibition. While there will always be a place for projecting and defending the freedoms that have been fought and bought for us, to abandon the post of the higher calling in Christ to do so would be something quite apart from what was patterned for us in the early mentorship of Philip. The joy that came from his efforts had nothing to do with eased governmental oppression, but it was rather the acceptance of truth that set free from a much greater and long-lasting oppression.  

We have been given a great commission, but as great as the purpose of this commission is, so there must be a great opposition to it. Most effective in this opposition is often simply diversion to other apparent areas of need. Getting caught up with obvious threats to earthly security will occupy precious moments in prayer with areas that may not have any part in really promoting the commission. How greatly our example was given in the newly-birthed church who new, above all else, that Jesus must be preached and his works demonstrated for the acceptance of Him as their Savior. Their oppressors only served to embolden their Spirit-led response.

Acts 4:29-30 (NKJV) Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, [30] by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”

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