1. Persecution and Scattering of the Church - v. 1-3
Why was there persecution of the church in Jerusalem? From the very beginning the Jewish leadership was opposed to Christ and His followers. They did all they could to stop their message. In Chapter 7 of Acts, we see that because of the preaching and the accusations of Stephen against the Jews for killing Jesus, everyone seemed to go after the followers of Christ and seek to do them harm. Because of the man named Saul, who participated in the death of Stephen and his wild rage against the followers of Christ, all those who claim the name of Jesus, except the apostles, left the city in fear of their lives.
The Bible Exposition Commentary talks about the persecution that came to the church and that persecution was to the church what wind does to seed: it scatters it and only produces a greater harvest. The word translated "scattered" (diaspeiro, Acts 8:1,4) means "to scatter seed." The believers in Jerusalem were God's seed and the persecution was used of God to plant them in new soil so they could bear fruit (Matt. 13:37-38). Some went throughout Judea and Samaria (see Acts 1:8), and others went to more distant fields (Acts 11:19ff). Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) - New Testament - The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1.
In reading about the church in China today, we see that the persecution is so great and destructive, much like the first century persecution, the government thinks this is the best way to control Christianity but God’s work is growing in great numbers in spite of the harm the government of China seems to inflict. Someone recently said to me that the Chinese Christians don’t want the Western Christians to pray for the end of persecution but to ask for God’s great hand of power to be used to grow the church more, reaching more people for Jesus. They basically said they didn’t want to be like the American church, which is weak and less effective in reaching people for Christ.
We see God’s leadership in the persecution and the scattering of the church recorded in Acts 8 so the seeds of the Gospel can be sown as Jesus called for when He told the disciple,