Saul Ravages the Church
And 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. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria
Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And 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. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city. (ESV)
- Suffering and the sovereignty of God.
In Acts 1, Jesus promised his disciples that they would be his witnesses in Judea and Samaria (Acts 1:8). Up until this point, the Gospel was exclusively located in Jerusalem. But after the death of Stephen, a great persecution broke out which caused Christians to move to Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1). And where Christians went, the Gospel went with them, to the very places Jesus had promised it would go (Acts 8:4).
- Demonic oppression.
Many people tend to ignore the reality of demons and dark spiritual forces. Conversely, some overemphasize this spiritual reality. Luke, however, makes it clear that demons do exist and that they do torment people. Just as Jesus delivered people from demonic torment during his earthly ministry, so this work continued in the early Church as people were delivered from demonic influence and torment.
- Physical healing.
As we saw earlier in Acts, miracles served to confirm the Gospel message. This was also the case as the Gospel entered into the new region of Samaria. Luke, a trained doctor, reports that people were healed of physical sickness, including those who were paralyzed and lame, which demonstrated the immediate and miraculous nature of the healings. The result of these healings was joy in the city.
- The stoning of Stephen and the following persecution was the vehicle that moved the Gospel out of Jerusalem and into the surrounding regions. What does this teach us about God’s sovereignty as it relates to the mission of the Church? How might this affect the way we view suffering, persecution, and “failure”?
- Do you tend to neglect or overemphasize dark spiritual realities? How should this text shape the way we think about spiritual oppression?
- What was the purpose and effect of supernatural healings in this text? How does this text affect the way you think about praying for miraculous healings?
Call to Worship
Tell of All His Wondrous Works
Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of Abraham, his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones! (ESV)
Prayer of Confession
Gracious Lord, you alone are righteous and holy, and in your presence, no one can stand. Your gracious mercy is our only hope and we ask for your forgiveness. We pray for your cleansing touch to wash away our corruption, clothe us in righteousness, and for your hands to rework our lives anew. We pray these things in Jesus Christ's holy name. Amen.
Family Discipleship Weekly Resources
Family Discipleship Weekly Resources are tools for families to use to help connect Sunday’s sermon to the rest of your week, fostering conversations and habits of worship.