The Church Expands

Intro to the Early Church

Week 2

  • Acts 6:8 - 9:31

This week we look at the church moving beyond Jerusalem and how persecution began to drive early Christians into foreign lands. We also see the first introduction of Paul, who would go on to write an enormous portion of the New Testament.

People & Places

  • Stephen
    With the expansion of the church comes specialization in labor. Several men were prayed for and chosen by the apostles to help distribute food to the needy. Stephen would go on to give a powerful speech in defense of Christianity to the government. His subsequent execution could be considered a catalyst for the expansion of the church outside Jerusalem.

  • Philip
    Not to be confused with Philip the Apostle, Philip the Evangelist was one of the men chosen alongside Stephen to assist with the church's expanding ministries and distribution of food. Philip would later go on to help spread Christianity throughout Samaria and many Gentile towns.

  • Saul
    A Jewish Pharisee with Roman citizenship, Saul is highly educated, literate, and very motivated. He was certainly part of the social elite of his time. Later referred to by the Greek version of his name, Paul.

  • Samaria
    This region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea was described by the historian Josephus as agriculturally rich in fruit trees and pasture land for animals. Despite being a part of the Roman empire, the divisions between citizens of Judea and Samaritan remained as antagonistic as ever.

  • Damascus
    The capital city of Syria. Damascus is about a week's travel by foot, north from Jerusalem. The city has an extremely long history but at the time of the New Testament, it was part of the Roman empire. Much Roman architecture can be seen in the city to this day. See below for a photo of modern-day “Straight Street” referenced in this week's text.

Straight Street, Damascus, Syria

Historical Context

Around the years AD 36 - 39:

  • Pilate's governorship over Judea ends and Rome replaces him with Marcellus. There are indications he was a weaker ruler, as the Sanhedrin carried out Stephen's death sentence (Acts 7) apparently without first seeking Roman approval as was the case with Jesus.

  • Emperor Tiberius dies and Caligula is appointed as emperor of Rome.

  • Jews protest against Emperor Caligula's order that statues of himself be placed within the temple. These protests add substantially to the tension between Jerusalem and Rome.

  • The future roman emperor Nero is born.