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"And at that time there was great persecution against the church which was at
Jerusalem, and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and
Samaria, except the apostles" (Acts 8: 1).
"And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the
Lord, went into the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues,
that if he found any of this way, whether he might bring them bound to Jerusalem"
(Acts 9: 1, 2).
The result of the opposition, instigated by the Jewish leadership, was that the bulk of
believers were scattered abroad. Even though the miracles continued, they failed to
convert large numbers to the truth of Christ. They continued, however, to have some
"And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and
widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa, and many believed
in the Lord" (Acts 9: 41, 42).
"Many believed" but the days of several thousands or, occasionally multitudes of
converts were over. There was "a great number" (Acts 11: 21) at Antioch and "much
people were added" (Acts 11: 24) but the persecution increased:
"Now about this time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the
church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it
pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also" (Acts 12: 1-3).
Even the outstanding conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus did not stop the
persecution. He suffered it himself.
"But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women and the chief men of the
city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas" (Acts 13: 50).
"And there came thither certain Jews . . . . . who persuaded the people, and having
stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead" (Acts 14: 19).
If God had not already cut off the Jewish nation for rejecting and crucifying the
Messiah, surely He would finish with them now! But, "Thou art a God ready to pardon,
gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness" (Neh. 9: 17) "The Lord . . .
is long suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to
repentance" (II Pet. 3: 9). Thus in an attempt to stimulate the olive tree of Israel into
bearing fruit (Rom. 11: 11) some of its branches were broken off and parts of the wild
olive (the Gentiles) were grafted in.
"And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert
grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree,
boast not against the branches" (Rom. 11: 17, 18).
Thus the Gentiles who were to stimulate Israel were to partake of "the root and fatness
of the olive tree", part of which consisted of the miracles of that period. The second half
of the book of Acts sees the Gentiles participating in the wondrous blessings of Israel but
did that stimulate the Jewish nation to bear fruit? Did it provoke them to emulation? No!
Sadly they were provoked to envy, as in, for example, Acts 13: 45, 50 and 14: 19.