1And Saul approved of their killing him.
That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. 2Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. 3But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.
4 Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. 5Philip went down to the city* of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah* to them. 6The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, 7for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralysed or lame were cured. 8So there was great joy in that city.
Stephen was stoned, becoming the first martyr of the church, and a young man named Saul was standing by, holding the coats of those who stoned him, and he approved of their killing him. After that Saul began ravaging the church, dragging people from their homes and sending them to prison. He was zealous for the God of Israel, to protect the religion of the faithful from the heresy of these followers of Jesus – he really thought he was right! But we will hear more about what God will do with this evil man later!
Because of the persecution, the church in Jerusalem was scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. And those who fled the city, proclaimed the word to the villages and towns where they went. Jesus had warned his followers (Luke 21:12) that they would be persecuted. God used the persecution to spread the word. God did not enter into people’s hearts and make them evil, cause them to persecute the followers of Christ, but when it happened, God used it to spread the word of his Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Philip was among those who left Jerusalem, going to Samaria. Remember the words of Christ in Acts 1, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea, and in Samaria, and to all the ends of the earth.” Here, Philip fulfills the charge to take the word out from Jerusalem, all the way to Samaria, which does not seem very far to us, but was, in fact, a world apart culturally for the Jews. There was racism in the Jews’ attitude towards Samaritans, who were not “pure”, having intermarried with foreigners during the years of exile. But Philip carries the word of Christ to these, whom Jesus himself had included. And crowds in Samaria listened eagerly to Philip, and he did great signs, healing the sick, casting out demons, and making the lame to walk. Because of the message Philip brought, and the miracles he performed in the name of Christ, there was joy throughout the city.