Acts 8:1–3: Saul Ravages the Church
In this passage we meet Saul, whom we’ll see a lot more of later. (We’ll also see that Saul commonly goes by the name of Paul, which is the name we normally know him by.) In fact, not only will he feature prominently in the book of Acts, he ended up writing about half1 of what we now know as the New Testament!
These few verses are just a bit of foreshadowing, however: we’re told that Saul was at the stoning of Stephen, approving it, and then we’re told that he is now “ravaging” the Church, dragging Christians off to prison. After this the narrative is going to leave Saul for a while, but we’ll see him again when we get to Chapter 9.
Saul’s intent was to eradicate the Church but he ended up having the opposite effect: his actions—actions he’d come to regret later—spurred the Church to grow! Because of his persecution the members of the Church end up scattered, but as they scatter they do what Christians are supposed to be doing: spreading the Gospel.
There are a couple of takeaways we can get from this:
- God is going to do what God is going to do. We can try to oppose Him, but we can’t ever hope to actually succeed in doing so. Who and what am I, in comparison to Him? How could I possibly hope to outsmart Him, outmaneuver him, or overpower Him?
- Along those same lines, when Christians face rough times—even persecution—especially persecution—the takeaway is not that God has abandoned us; He will never abandon us. When such times come into our lives it could be that He is testing us, or it could be something very significant: perhaps He is growing His Church through these hardships! Either way, my response is always to be the same: I should trust Him.
Saul ended up greatly regretting his actions. In 1 Corinthains 15:9 he says that even though he was an Apostle he considered himself the least of the Apostles because of his persecution of the Church. Does that mean that he didn’t have proper perspective? Should he have looked back on his actions, seen how the Church grew as a direct result, and decided that his actions weren’t so bad afterall? No!
Sin is sin. When we sin we need to repent of it and understand the seriousness. Yes, God will sometimes use our sin to advance His plan, but that doesn’t mean the sin wasn’t bad; how bad the sin was, and what God accomplishes through the consequences, are two separate things. Saul understood that; we in the modern world sometimes forget it in our quest to oversimplify the world and Christianity.
Saul/Paul wrote the books/letters of Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. It’s a very unscientific measure but if I hold up a Bible and look at the number of pages for Paul’s books and the number of pages for the rest of the New Testament, it looks like about half. ↩︎
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