1 Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
consenting (v.1) = full consent of the will, approval
persecution (v.1) — Hebrews 10:32-34
church (v.1) = assembly, congregation — still not the Body of Christ
scattered (v.1) — from a word meaning the act of sowing seeds
In the opening verses of Acts 8 we find the Jewish believers going from Jerusalem to Judaea and Samaria. This has led some to conclude that this passage records progress in the carrying out of the “great commission.”
The very opposite, however, is the case. These disciples did not leave Jerusalem in response to any command of our Lord. They were scattered and fled for their lives. And the twelve apostles, the very ones our Lord had commanded to go from Jerusalem to all the world, stayed at Jerusalem. — Stam, page 244
except the apostles (v.1) — no reason is given, but it appears that Hellenistic Jews suffered greater persecution.
The reason the twelve stayed at Jerusalem is that they had been sent to proclaim, not the gospel of the grace of God, but the kingdom rights of Christ. These twelve had been promised thrones in that kingdom (Matthew 19:28). That kingdom was to be established at Jerusalem and could not be established until Jerusalem had accepted Messiah.
Had not God promised Abraham that in his multiplied seed all nations should be blessed? (Genesis 22:17-18). How then could the nations be blessed through Israel when Israel herself would not receive the blessing? Is it not clear from all Old Testament prophecy that Christ was to reign in Jerusalem on David’s throne? Had not our Lord Himself made it clear that He would not return until Jerusalem would say: “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord”? (Matthew 23:37-39).
How could the apostles complete their commission by going on from Jerusalem now? How could the kingdom be established on earth if Jerusalem and the nation Israel did not turn to Christ? — Stam, pages 245-246
In this passage, then, rather than seeing the Great Commission (which would have brought in the kingdom) further carried out, we find that program stalled. True, God permitted the twelve to continue their labors at Jerusalem for some time after that, but this was because He would leave Israel without excuse. After this the kingdom rights of Christ still continued to be proclaimed for some time: the apostles — even Paul — continue to remind Israel of His qualifications and credentials, but there is no record of another offer of the kingdom. Already God is preparing to usher in a new dispensation while the establishment of Messiah’s kingdom on earth is held in abeyance. — Stam, page 248
devout men (v.2) — apparently pious Jews, perhaps not believers, who regretted Stephen’s death
lamentation (v.2) = wailing and beating the breast
he made havoc (v.3) — continuing action — a word used of ravenous wild beasts — Acts 22:4, 19-20; 26:10-11
dragging (v.3) = forcing away
preaching (v.4) = evangelizing — still about the Kingdom (Acts 11:19). Paul hadn’t even been given the mystery yet.
“I will show him how great things he must suffer for My Name’s sake (Acts 9:16). What was done unto Stephen was done unto Saul. The Jews and Saul with them, as we believe, disputed and resisted Stephen in the synagogue. The Jews disputed with Paul, resisted him, and rejected his testimony. Stephen was accused of blasphemy; so was Paul (Acts 19:37). Stephen was accused of speaking against Moses, the holy place and the customs; so was Paul (Acts 21:28; 24:6; 25:8; 28:17). They rushed upon Stephen with one accord and seized him. The same happened to Paul (Acts 19:29). Stephen was dragged out of the city. So was Paul (Acts 14:19). Stephen was tried before the Sanhedrin; so did Paul appear before the Sanhedrin. Stephen was stoned and Paul was stoned at Lystra. Stephen suffered martyrdom; so did Paul in Rome. — Gaebelein, page 141.