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Devotional Hours with the Bible, Volume 8: Chapter 9 - The Disciples Dispersed

By J.R. Miller

      Acts 8:1-17

      The first glimpse we have of Saul is in the martyrdom of Stephen. The record is that he was consenting unto Stephen's death. He was present, not merely as a spectator--but as one who approved of what was done and was instrumental in it. Yet this is the man who afterwards became a glorious apostle, the most influential of all, who wrought in the founding and extension of Christianity. We know it was Paul's conscience that made him a participator in this martyrdom. In another place he tells us that he truly thought within himself that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus. We learn that one may be very conscientious--and yet very wrong. Conscience needs a guide--the Word of God.

      Evidently Saul's zeal as a persecutor was terrific. It is probable that Stephen's speech made him more bitter for the time. He was driven by it to the fiercest frenzy in his determination to crush out Christianity by destroying every follower of Christ. He spread desolation everywhere. His activity as a persecutor is indicated in the words, "Saul laid waste the church, entering into every house, and dragging men and women committed them to prison." His name became a terror to Christians everywhere it was heard. This terrible bitterness magnifies the grace of God, which saved such an enemy and made him afterwards such an apostle of Christianity. Paul during his ministry continually referred to his own salvation, as assurance that no one can be so far away from Christ, that upon repentance and faith he would not be saved.

      "Those who were scattered abroad went about preaching the Word." We would say that men driven away from their homes by persecution would be so frightened that they would not think of preaching--but would try only to hide from those who sought to kill them. But these men did not try to hide. They had the peace of God in their hearts, even amid all the dangers. Their earnestness in behalf of Christ grew the more intense--the more they suffered for Him. We are reminded of that wonderful verse in the Twenty-third Psalm, which tells us of God spreading a table for His people in the presence of their enemies. They were not afraid to speak of the gospel, which had cost them so much. They were compelled to leave Jerusalem--but their voices were not silenced. They had suffered for Christ's sake--but they would not give up Christ. The life of Christ in a true Christian, cannot be quenched or suppressed. It is like a bubbling fountain, which flows everywhere. We should be so full of love for our Savior that in school, at work, at play, in the quiet of our own home, and wherever we may go--our faces shall shine with the brightness of the indwelling peace, and the love of Christ shall find expression in our words.

      We come now to an important point in the history of the development of Christianity. Until persecution began, there had been no effort made to carry the gospel out into the world. But the dispersion of the disciples became a great missionary movement. Philip was one of the seven men chosen to assist the apostles. He became a great preacher and had an important place in carrying the gospel to the world.

      "And Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed Christ unto them." Philip was one of the coals of the holy fire, which the winds of persecution scattered. The fire was not quenched, however, by the winds--but was only fanned into intenser flames and greater brightness. The enemies of Christ thought to put out the fire of Pentecost, but they only scattered it far more widely. Philip considered the misfortune, as men would have called it a providence. Perhaps he had heard the word of Jesus, which said to the disciples, "When they persecute you in this city, flee into the next." They were to flee--but not to cease their work. When Philip could not preach longer in Jerusalem, he went and preached in Samaria. He had a religion that could travel and not lose its energy and force. We ought to get the lesson, that wherever circumstances send us--we must continue our work for Christ. The captive maid in Syria still witnessed among the heathen for the God of her land, and the captive boys in Babylon did not forget their religion.

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - Christ's Ascension
   Chapter 2 - The Holy Spirit Given
   Chapter 3 - A Multitude Converted
   Chapter 4 - The Lame Man Healed
   Chapter 5 - The Trial of Peter and John
   Chapter 6 - The Sin of Lying
   Chapter 7 - The Apostles Imprisoned
   Chapter 8 - Stephen the First Martyr
   Chapter 9 - The Disciples Dispersed
   Chapter 10 - The First Ethiopian Convert
   Chapter 11 - The Conversion of Saul
   Chapter 12 - Peter and Cornelius
   Chapter 13 - Gentiles Converted at Antioch
   Chapter 14 - Peter Delivered From Prison
   Chapter 15 - The First Christian Missionaries
   Chapter 16 - The Council at Jerusalem
   Chapter 17 - Paul Before King Agrippa
   Chapter 18 - Paul's Voyage and Shipwreck
   Chapter 19 - Justification by Faith
   Chapter 20 - The Life-Giving Spirit
   Chapter 21 - Christian Living
   Chapter 22 - The Law of Love
   Chapter 23 - Abstaining for the Sake of Others
   Chapter 24 - A Lesson in Self-Denial
   Chapter 25 - The Lord's Supper
   Chapter 26 - Paul on Christian Love
   Chapter 27 - The Risen Christ
   Chapter 28 - Paul on the Grace of Giving
   Chapter 29 - The Flesh and the Spirit
   Chapter 30 - The Imitation of Christ
   Chapter 31 - A Call to Christlike Living
   Chapter 32 - The Christian Armor
   Chapter 33 - Christ's Humility and Exaltation
   Chapter 34 - The New Life in Christ
   Chapter 35 - Paul's Counsel to the Thessalonians
   Chapter 36 - Paul's Charge to Timothy
   Chapter 37 - Sober Living
   Chapter 38 - The Priesthood of Christ
   Chapter 39 - Heroes of Faith
   Chapter 40 - Believing and Doing
   Chapter 41 - The Power of the Tongue
   Chapter 42 - The Heavenly Inheritance
   Chapter 43 - Beneficial Warnings
   Chapter 44 - Sin and Salvation
   Chapter 45 - God's Love in the Gift of His Son
   Chapter 46 - Jesus Appears to John
   Chapter 47 - Heavenly Worship
   Chapter 48 - The Saints in Heaven
   Chapter 49 - The Heavenly Home
   Chapter 50 - The Great Invitation


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