A Great Persecution Against the Church

Acts 8:1 ESV

“And Saul approved of his execution.”

Saul (later called the Apostle Paul) approved of the execution of Stephen, who was a man of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom – a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. For, some people hated Stephen, and so they plotted evil against him. And they spoke lies against him (See Acts 6-7).

Stephen was given permission to defend himself, so he gave a synopsis of the history of the physical nation of Israel, who were then God’s chosen people. He talked about Moses and the wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness, and of their idolatry, and of Solomon, who built the temple of God, and of how God does not dwell in houses built by human hands.

Then he accused his persecutors of being stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart, who always resist the Holy Spirit. And he accused their fathers of persecuting and killing the prophets. And he accused them of betraying and murdering the Righteous One (Jesus Christ), and of not keeping the law.

And then Stephen’s persecutors stoned him to death. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And Saul approved of his execution.

Acts 8:1-3 ESV

“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.”

In America, we have known little of this kind of persecution, but it is here, and it is coming. Our persecutors have been plotting evil against us for some time now, too, and they have slowly and calculatingly been moving more and more that direction.

The gospel and its messengers have already been snuffed out in most of today’s modern market-driven “churches.” They still call what they teach the gospel, but it is a half-truth (lie), diluted, adulterated cheap grace gospel, which is not the true gospel, but a gospel created in the minds of human beings.

They are not teaching the true gospel of grace as Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles taught it, because it offends people. It offends people in the same way Jesus and Paul and the other apostles offended people, and that is by telling them the truth about their sins.

And it appears that most people who profess faith in Jesus Christ, at least here in America, have bought into this cheap grace gospel because it doesn’t confront people with their sins or make any demands for them to change how they are living.

They have reduced our salvation to a mere acknowledgment of Christ or to a prayer prayed once, or to some public verbal confession of Christ as Lord. And then they tell the people that they are saved, that they are now children of God, that heaven is their eternal destiny, and that it can’t be taken away from them no matter how they live from this point forward.

So, there is no death to sin, no dying with Christ to sin daily, no repentance, no submission to Christ as Lord and no walks of obedience to his commands. For, they call that “Lordship salvation” or “works-based salvation.” And so, they convince many people not to repent, obey or submit to God.

And many of them are persecuting those of us who are still holding to the truth of the gospel, and to the whole counsel of God, and we are being rejected, cast aside, falsely accused, ostracized, and thought of as evil while they promote evil as good.

And those in high places have been making progress towards censoring us even more, so this is coming. They are working towards censoring the Scriptures just as they are presently censoring other books and toys and names of organizations, etc., in the name of “it offends people.”

Now, I am certainly not saying that it is okay to go around offending people on purpose for no good purpose other than to be hateful. But I am saying that the message of the cross of Christ is an offense to those who are perishing and to many who think they are not perishing but who are.

So, as we watch all this censorship taking place in the name of it offends people in some way or another, we must realize that their prime target is Jesus Christ, his gospel, and his messengers, for what we are teaching offends, but it offends in a way that is good and that brings healing.

For, one of the kindest and most loving things we can tell people is to tell them the truth about their sins and about what Jesus did to free them of their slavery to sin so they can walk in purity and holiness, in living lives which are pleasing to God, so they will have true hope of eternal life.

Acts 8:4-8 ESV

“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.”

Persecution and rejection, though it is painful to go through, is ultimately for our good. It helps us to be humble, to trust the Lord in all things, to mature in our walks of faith, and to become passionate about getting out the message of the gospel while we still can.

Right now, with the church in America largely not under much persecution at all, many who profess faith in Jesus Christ are rather worldly and complacent about their relationships with Christ. And many have been convinced that God is okay with them continuing to live in their sins, too.

So, when the church in America comes under serious persecution, it should bring the complacent to repentance and to renewed faith in our Lord, and it should lead them to be passionate about getting out the gospel to as many as possible while we still can.

And I pray that many who are now giving lip service only to the Lord, but who have not ever truly died with Christ to sin, will then realize the error of their ways, and that they will be turned from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God so they will receive forgiveness for their sins and a place among those sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (see Acts 26:18).

Send the Light

By Charles H. Gabriel, pub. 1888

There’s a call comes ringing o’er the restless wave,
“Send the light! Send the light!”
There are souls to rescue, there are souls to save,
Send the light! Send the light!

We have heard the Macedonian call today,
“Send the light! Send the light!”
And a golden off’ring at the cross we lay,
Send the light! Send the light!

Let us pray that grace may everywhere abound,
“Send the light! Send the light!”
And a Christlike spirit everywhere be found,
Send the light! Send the light!

Let us not grow weary in the work of love,
“Send the light! Send the light!”
Let us gather jewels for a crown above,
Send the light! Send the light!

Send the light, the blessed Gospel light;
Let it shine from shore to shore!
Send the light, and let its radiant beams
Light the world forevermore!

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