Today’s persecution is not a new thing for the Christian church; in the first century when the church began there was great persecution. Jesus knew the church would be persecuted from the start, that is why He cautioned His followers. He knew the Jewish leadership felt that way because He had proclaimed the truth of God, that He was the Son of God and was called to save men from their sin by dying on a cross. But the most controversial event was resurrection from the dead; the Jews and the Romans could not overcome what He taught or stop His disciples from proclaiming this new Gospel of His death, burial and resurrection. In this first century the Romans became more of the persecutors of the Christian faith and not only did many Jews convert to Christianity but many Romans too, in spite of the great amount of persecution.
Looking at the scripture today, Stephen, the lay preacher, had been killed because of Jewish prejudice and hatred against him and what he believed and taught. As a result of his death, much more persecution was to come to those who believed in Jesus as Savior and Lord. Because of the death of Stephen many of those who believed in Christ left the confines of Jerusalem, mourning Stephen as they went, out into the world around them, Judea and Samaria. The interesting thing was that the apostles did not leave, they stayed in Jerusalem, inspite of the persecution. The Christians that stayed in the area were found out and were arrested and put in prison by one named Saul. Acts 8:1 says that Saul approved of the death of Stephen and then went out to destroy the church itself. In the 12th chapter of Acts we read that the disciple James, John’s brother, was put to death by the sword at the orders of King Herod.
Radical religious views seek to persecute others who do not believe like they believe, hence we have today Christians being beheaded, blown up, burned alive and crucified for their faith, not just in the Middle East but in many countries in the East as well. Persecution is alive today and threatens Christians and other minority religious beliefs in the world.
2. Proclaiming the Gospel wherever they went - Acts 8:4-8