Jews from Cilicia had opposed Stephen. One of these was Saul of Tarsus who had approved of Stephen’s being stoned to death. After this a persecution had broken out and the followers of Jesus were scattered. Gamaliel, Saul’s teacher, had previously urged moderation. Gamaliel had cited the examples of Thaddeus and Judas the Galilean who had gathered followers, then been killed, and their followers scattered – their movements coming to an end. Jesus, likewise, had been killed and now his followers were scattered – would this bring his movement to an end? The answer is ‘no’ because unlike Thaddeus and Judas the Galilean, Jesus had been raised from the dead and continued to direct the good news proclamation. Despite Saul’s going from house to house to restrain the word of the LORD, the scattered followers of Jesus preached the gospel wherever they were scattered. This was illustrated by Philip’s activities in the previous chapter.
Luke tells us that Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. The high priest, Caiaphas, who had been so instrumental in Jesus being crucified, continues his jealousy against the true high priest of Israel. Letters are given to Saul from Caiaphas authorizing the binding of Jesus’ followers even in synagogues so far away as Damascus.
For the first time in Acts, Christianity is given a name – “the Way” as in the way to life in God’s kingdom.
What made Christianity so different from the movements that failed? A resurrected sovereign Lord.