God’s Acts of Providence (32)

flameThe Way that Refused to Go Away (9)

The Persecution

Saul was the equivalent of a specialist enforcer, brought from out of town to clean up a particularly difficult problem.[1]  He had no history of failure in dealing with this cult.  He had no connection to previous decisions.  He was a new agent, free to act with confidence and ruthlessness.  And act he did, with the brutality of one who saw a hateful human contagion of heresy that must be crushed into oblivion.

Acts 8:1-3

8 1And Saul was consenting to his death.

Yes, Saul gave approval.  But for his approval to have any meaning a deal would have had to been struck with the Roman authorities.  Only they could legally condemn a man to death.[2]  Saul and the religious leaders must have laid their plans with precision.

The Roman authorities would have also reacted with great concern when the followers of Jesus refused to slink back to their pitiful villages.  It appears likely that a new man had arrived with a plan to stop this madness in its tracks.  And so, authority was given to do whatever must to achieve the agreed end.  The man to whom this authority was given was Saul.  So, when he gave approval to the mob stoning Stephen, they knew that they were in the clear.

And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea and Sama’ria, 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.

Finally, the rising tide of this cult is checked!  They are sent fleeing; the slow are arrested and thrown into prison.  Their flock abandons the so-called apostles.  An example has been made of Stephen that will finally still the tongues of these fool Jesus-Way preachers.  Saul is executing on his mission with all of the excellence and comprehensiveness that they had hoped for!

Acts 9:1,2

9 1But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Note the violence in the language.  The very breath of this man Saul was a horrid vapor of murder.  Not content to rout the Way in Jerusalem, he was determined to chase them down and bring them back to face punishment.  Damascus was likely only the first of numerous cities to which Saul was planning to bring his campaign of annihilation.

[1] Although never said in Scripture, this is my opinion based on the facts at hand.

[2] Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.” (John 18:31)

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