Letters to the Family of God

by Joe Franzone | November 17, 2022 | Pastor's Blog

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November 17, 2022


And Saul approved of their killing him.


On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.


Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed, or lame were healed. So, there was great joy in that city.Acts 8:1-8


Now I am calling you to broaden your view, to exercise “a divine-like clemency” by loving your pagan neighbors. Visit them, too; encourage them; provide bread and water for them. I know that in recent months some pagans have been involved in persecuting you. Pray for them; “pray for their salvation,” and help them. You are God’s children: the descendants of a good Father should “prove the imitation of his goodness.”


Alan Kreider, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of the Christianity in the Roman Empire.

Dear Friends.


The eighth chapter of Acts is telling. It begins with Saul's approval of the murder of Stephen by religious people. Hate seemed to be everywhere. However, the response of the persecuted was simple and straightforward. They preached the word. Consequently, in the four chapters following chapter eight, the true story moves from the persecution of Christians to Christianity spreading by the persecuted, seeing God make new Christians of different ethnic groups unbound by borders or blockades.


The wonder of this is striking. The mass persecution we read of in Chapter eight, in which all but the Apostles were forced to leave Jerusalem, did not hinder the gospel growth but increased it.


Here, the power of the Holy Spirit in the believer's life was evident. They responded to the hate with grace, just like their Savior.



Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there.


Samaritans, though “half” Jewish, were considered non-Jewish. They were thought to be, by the Jews, on the low end of the social scale. How low? None of the promises of God to His people were for the Samaritans to enjoy.


However, the gospel hurdles over every social and ethnic barrier and saved sinners in Samaria. (Acts 8:5; fulfilling Acts 1:8) Not only this, in a few more verses, you have Phillip explaining Scripture (Isaiah 53:7,8) to an Ethiopian who comes to faith and is baptized. (Acts 8:26-40)


By the power of the Holy Spirit, nothing stops the advancement of the Gospel. No race, no person, no personality, is beyond the reach of the Gospel. The Gospel breaks through every barrier, even the most difficult one, human sin.



Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.


Saul, who was persecuting the church, would soon become Paul, who preached and saw Jesus build His church. God shows us condemning anyone who is lost beyond hope, including ourselves, is terribly wrong. He can reach the most distant dirty, defiant, debased of his enemies and lovingly convert them into beautiful instruments, friends, and ornaments of the good news. Beauty from ashes, light from darkness, dead to alive—these are God’s specialties.


Saul was blinded by the brilliance of Jesus, coming to grips with who he was. (Acts 9:1-31) He would know himself as powerless, weak, and unable to rescue himself. It is here that the power of the Holy Spirit breaks down Saul’s self-reliance and humbles him so that He might save him through the gospel of Jesus Christ. In saving him, peace and converts came to the region.

The whole Church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria now enjoyed a period of peace. It became established and as it went forward in reverence for the Lord and in the strengthening presence of the Holy Spirit, continued to grow in numbers.—Acts 9:31

This Holiday season, keep reminding yourself as you proclaim Christ that no race and no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace in Christ because no race and no one is beyond the need of God’s grace in Christ. Our best words to society begin and end with Christ and Him crucified.


People will be people. But God will be God, and God is gracious.



May He bless you and help you in public and in private.


Pastor Joe