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AARON

From the time Moses set out to free Israel from Egypt, Aaron his brother played an important part in the young nation's development. He remained in a position of influence and responsibility until the day of his death, forty years later (Exod 7:7; Num 33:39).

Early developments

Although Aaron was three years older than Moses (Exod 7:7), he willingly accepted Moses' supreme leadership of the nation. He became Moses' chief spokesman and personal assistant (Exod 4:10-16; 4:29-30; 7:1-2,10,19; 8:5,17,25). As Moses grew in confidence, he became less dependent upon Aaron in his public activities (Exod 9:13,22,33). Aaron, however, continued to support Moses, especially in prayer (Exod 17:12).

Aaron was one of the privileged few who went with Moses up on to the mountain of God. He was also one of those to whom Moses entrusted the leadership of Israel during his absence (Exod 24:1-2,9,14). Aaron proved to be a weak leader, and was easily persuaded to build an idol as a visible symbol of the invisible God (Exod 32:1-6,21-25). When Moses challenged the faithful to fight against this idolatry, the men of the tribe of Levi responded. God rewarded them by promising that in the new religious order, the Levites would be his chosen religious servants (Exod 32:26-29).

Levi was the tribe to which Moses and Aaron belonged (Exod 6:16-20). God had already told Moses that in the new religious order, Aaron and his sons were to be the priests, with Aaron the high priest (Exod 28:1-4). In the generations to follow, although all Levites were to be religious officials, only those of the family of Aaron could be priests (Num 3:3-10; see Levites; Priests).

Troubles along the way

In spite of his devoted service to God, Aaron had his disappointments and failures. His two older sons made an offering contrary to the way God had instructed them, and were punished with instant death (Lev 10:1-3). On another occasion, he and his sister Miriam showed some jealousy against Moses because of Moses' supreme position in Israel. When Miriam, who had led the criticism, was punished with leprosy, Aaron confessed his wrong and asked God to heal her (Num 12:1-2,9-12).

Just as Aaron had been jealous of Moses' position as supreme leader, so other Levites grew jealous of Aaron's position as high priest (Num 16:1-11). God destroyed the rebels (Num 16:31-35) and sent a plague on the people who had supported them; but Aaron prayed for them and the plague stopped (Num 16:47-48). By the miraculous budding of Aaron's rod, God emphasized afresh that only those of the family of Aaron were to be priests (Num 17:1-11).

Moses and Aaron were guilty of disobedience to God when, in anger at the people's constant complaining, they struck the rock at Meribah. God punished them by assuring them that they would never enter the promised land (Num 20:2,10-13). Soon after, when the journeying Israelites reached Mt Hor, Aaron died. Before he died, however, there was a public ceremony to appoint Eleazar, Aaron's eldest surviving son, as the replacement high priest (Num 20:22-29).

ABARIM

Bordering the Jordan River on its eastern side was a region that in the south was commonly known as the Plains of Moab. Within this region was a mountainous area known as Abarim, which contained the prominent peak, Mt Nebo. Israel camped on the Plains of Moab while making final preparations to cross Jordan and conquer Canaan. From Mt Nebo Moses viewed the land on the other side of the river before he died (Num 33:47-48; Deut 32:49; 34:1,7).

Plains of Moab

ABBA

Abba was a common word in the Aramaic and Hebrew languages, and meant 'father'. It was a warm and informal term used in the everyday language of family life.

Jews of Old Testament times never used abba when addressing God, but Jesus used it when praying to his Father (Mark 14:36). The early Christians also addressed God as Abba; for, through Christ, God has adopted believers as his sons and made them joint heirs with Christ of his heavenly inheritance (Rom 8:15-17; Gal 4:5-6; cf. 3:26; see Adoption).

ABEL

The second son of Adam and Eve, Abel was a keeper of sheep. Like his elder brother Cain, he made an offering to God of things God had given him (Gen 4:1-4). Abel was a righteous man (Matt 23:35), and he offered his sacrifice in a thankful attitude of sincere faith (Gen 4:4; Heb 11:4). Cain was an unrighteous man (1 John 3:12) and offered his sacrifice in the wrong attitude. God therefore rejected his sacrifice (Gen 4:5; for further details see Sacrifice).

In envy and anger, Cain killed Abel (Gen 4:8). But God gave to Adam and Eve another son, Seth, who helped maintain the sort of faith in God that Abel had shown (Gen 4:25-26).

ABIATHAR

When Saul ordered the slaughter of Ahimelech and the other priests at Nob, only one person escaped, and that was Ahimelech's son, Abiathar (1 Sam 22:18-20). He joined David and the others who were fleeing from Saul, and acted as priest for them (1 Sam 23:6,9; 30:7).

Later, when David became king, Abiathar and and another priest, Zadok, became part of David's royal court (2 Sam 8:17). At the time of Absalom's rebellion, when David was forced to flee Jerusalem, the two priests stayed behind to become spies on David's behalf (2 Sam 15:24-29,35; 19:11). At the time of Adonijah's rebellion, however, the two took different sides, Abiathar supporting Adonijah, and Zadok supporting Solomon. Upon becoming king, Solomon promoted Zadok to chief priest, but sent Abiathar into exile (1 Kings 1:5-8,43-45; 2:26,35).

ABIGAIL

Two women named Abigail are mentioned in the Bible (1 Sam 25:3; 2 Sam 17:25). The better known of the two is the wife of the foolish farmer, Nabal. Nabal almost brought disaster upon his household by his insulting refusal to supply David and his men with food in return for their service in protecting his farmlands against the raiding Philistines. Only quick thinking and wise words from Abigail saved the situation (1 Sam 25:2-35).

When Nabal unexpectedly died, David married Abigail (1 Sam 25:39-42). She became the mother of David's second son, Chileab (2 Sam 3:3).

ABIJAH (ABIJAM)

The Judean king Abijah (or Abijam) was one of several people of that name in the Bible. He was the second king of Judah after the division of the kingdom, and reigned from 913 to 910 bc (1 Kings 15:1-2).

Abijah was not wholly loyal to Yahweh, for he tolerated false religion in Judah (1 Kings 15:3). However, he was not as bad as his contemporary in Israel, Jeroboam, who had set up an official rival religion in the northern kingdom. When Abijah went to war with Jeroboam, he presumed God would give him victory because his kingdom was based on the Davidic dynasty and the Levitical priesthood (2 Chron 13:1-12). He did, in fact, defeat Jeroboam, not because God was in any way obliged to help him, but because his soldiers fought in an attitude of genuine reliance on God (2 Chron 13:13-22).

ABIMELECH

It seems that 'Abimelech' was used both as a royal title (among the Philistines) and as a personal name (among the Israelites). The meaning of the word was 'father-king'. The Bible mentions three Philistine rulers by this name and one notorious Israelite.

Among the Philistines

After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham and Sarah moved through the south of Canaan and settled 'in the Philistine district of Gerar. Abraham, fearing that the Philistine king Abimelech might kill him in order to take Sarah for his own wife, preserved his life by saying that Sarah was his sister (Gen 20:1-2,13; cf. 12:11-13). Abimelech did indeed take Sarah, but before he had any sexual relation with her, God warned him that she was Abraham's wife (Gen 20:3-7). Abimelech avoided God's judgment by giving Sarah back to Abraham, along with compensation for the damage he had done to Sarah's honour (Gen 20:8-18).

Abraham remained in the region by Abimelech's permission (Gen 20:15), but his increasing prosperity made Abimelech wary. At Abimelech's suggestion, the two men made a treaty to ensure peaceful cooperation; but before entering the treaty, Abraham insisted that Abimelech's herdsmen return to him a well they had seized. The arrangement was sealed by Abimelech's acceptance of a gift from Abraham (Gen 21:22-32).

Eighty or so years later, when Abraham's son Isaac settled for a time in Gerar, he created tension with a later Abimelech through the same sort of deceit as Abraham's (Gen 26:1,7-11). In spite of opposition from Abimelech's men in repeatedly denying Isaac water, Isaac continued to prosper (Gen 26:17-22). This made Abimelech fear him, and on Abimelech's suggestion the two men renewed the treaty between the former Abimelech and Abraham (Gen 26:26-32).

The other Philistine ruler whom the Bible calls Abimelech was Achish, ruler of the city of Gath (see Introduction to Psalm 34). David, in fleeing from Saul, had looked for safety in Gath, but when Achish was warned that David could be an Israelite spy, he decided to kill him. When David acted as a madman, Achish was easily deceived and drove him out of the city (1 Sam 21:10-15).

Among the Israelites

During the period of the judges, an ambitious Israelite named Abimelech was the cause of much unnecessary bloodshed. He was one of Gideon's seventy sons, and his mother was a Shechemite. Upon Gideon's death, Abimelech killed all his brothers (except one who escaped) and established himself 'king' in Shechem (Judg 9:1-6). When, after three years, the Shechemites plotted to assassinate him, Abimelech discovered the plot and slaughtered the plotters (Judg 9:22-41).

With his pride hurt, Abimelech was now driven on in senseless fury. He massacred the innocent citizens of Shechem, along with those of another town whom he thought might have been opposed to him. But his blind rage led to a lack of caution, and this in turn brought about his death (Judg 9:42-56).

ABISHAG

When David was old and sick, the nurse chosen to be with him constantly was Abishag. One of her duties was to lie with him in bed to give him warmth. Although she was not a concubine, some people apparently thought she was (1 Kings 1:1-4). After David's death, his son Adonijah asked the new king Solomon for Abishag as a wife. Since a new king inherited the concubines of the former king (cf. 2 Sam 3:7-10; 12:7-8; 16:22), Solomon considered Adonijah's request to be an attempt to gain David's throne. He therefore executed Adonijah for treason (1 Kings 2:13-25).

ABISHAI

With his brothers Joab and Asahel, Abishai joined David during David's flight from Saul. The brothers, though related to David and strong supporters of him, were a constant worry to David because of their hotheadedness. Abishai seems to have been the most violent of the three (1 Sam 26:6-9; 2 Sam 2:18-24; 3:30,39; 16:9-10; 19:21-22; 21:16-17). He became one of the highest ranked officers in David's army, being commander of that group of 'mighty men' known as The Thirty (2 Sam 23:18-19). In battle he commanded large divisions of the fighting forces (2 Sam 10:9-10; 18:2).

ABNER

When Saul, the first king of Israel, established his administration, he appointed his cousin Abner as commander-in-chief of his army (1 Sam 14:50-51). Abner first met David on the occasion of Goliath's defeat (1 Sam 17:55-57). David served under Abner as a loyal officer (1 Sam 18:5), but later Abner led Saul's troops in trying to capture the fleeing, yet innocent, David (1 Sam 26:5,14-15).

After Saul's death, Abner appointed Saul's son Ishbosheth as king in opposition to David (2 Sam 2:8). Although Abner was a strong leader, his troops were not as good as David's and they steadily lost ground over the next two years (2 Sam 3:1,6). Meanwhile Ishbosheth became increasingly jealous of Abner, who was the real power supporting him. When Ishbosheth accused Abner of wanting the throne for himself, Abner deserted Ishbosheth and joined David (2 Sam 3:7-11).

Abner then set to work to win allegiance to David from all the previous supporters of Ishbosheth (2 Sam 3:17-21). But he was treacherously murdered by David's commander Joab, in retaliation for Abner's earlier killing of Joab's brother in battle (2 Sam 3:24-30; cf. 2:12-23). Without the leadership of Abner, Ishbosheth's 'kingdom' quickly collapsed (2 Sam 4:1-5:1).

ABRAHAM

Originally called Abram, Abraham received his new name from God in confirmation of God's promise that he would be father of a multitude of people (Gen 17:5-7). In fulfilment of this promise, Abraham became the physical father of the Israelite nation (Matt 3:9; John 8:37). Because he accepted God's promise by faith, he is also the spiritual father of all who accept God's promises by faith, regardless of their nationality. As God in his grace declared Abraham righteous, so he declares righteous all who trust in him (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:11).

Response to God

Abraham was brought up in Mesopotamia, and the people among whom he lived were idol worshippers (Gen 11:28-31; Josh 24:2). Yet he worshipped the one true God (Gen 14:22; 18:25; 21:33). Abraham gave proof of his faith by obeying God when God told him to move out from his family group to a new land to which God would direct him (about 1925 bc; Gen 12:1,4; Neh 9:7; Acts 7:2-4; Heb 11:8-10).

God's purpose in choosing Abraham was to produce through him a nation (Israel; 2 Cor 11:22), to give that nation a land to dwell in (Canaan; Gen 12:5-7), and to bring from that nation one man (Jesus Christ; Rom 9:4-5) who would be saviour of the world. Through Abraham, people of all nations would receive the life-giving blessing that God had prepared for mankind (Gen 12:1-3; Gal 3:14,29).

At the time of their migration to Canaan, Abraham and his wife Sarah (originally Sarai) had no children. Abraham was at that time seventy-five years of age. He and Sarah were accompanied by Abraham's nephew, Lot, and a large household of labourers whom Abraham needed to look after his flocks, herds and working animals (Gen 12:4,16; 14:14). A drought in Canaan convinced Abraham that he should look for better pastures in Egypt. But the Egyptian ruler found him deceitful, and Abraham was forced to leave Egypt in disgrace (Gen 12:10,20; 13:1).

Nevertheless, Abraham and Lot continued to prosper. In fact, they became so wealthy that when they returned to Canaan, they had to settle in different parts of the land to prevent trouble between their households (Gen 13:1-2,6). Lot settled in the fertile region east of the Dead Sea (Gen 13:10-11). Abraham settled in the centre of Canaan, and received God's reassuring promise that one day his descendants would possess Canaan as their national homeland (Gen 13:14-18). Later he rescued Lot from an invading army of Mesopotamians. He demonstrated his belief that God alone controlled Canaan's affairs, when he made a sacrificial offering to God's priest (Melchizedek) and refused to accept any reward from the Canaanite rulers (Gen 14:1-24; cf. Heb 7:1-2,4,6).

God's covenant

God's promise to Abraham (namely, that he would be the father of a great nation) originated entirely in the sovereign will of God. God chose Abraham, Abraham believed God's promise, and in response God accepted Abraham as righteous (Gen 15:6). In confirmation of his promise, God told Abraham to prepare a covenant ceremony where normally the two parties to the covenant would pass between the parts of slaughtered animals. In this case, however, only God (symbolized by a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch) passed between the animals, showing again that God alone took responsibility to fulfil the covenant promises. All that Abraham had to do was believe (Gen 15:7-10,17-21).

After ten years in Canaan, Sarah and Abraham had not been able to produce a son. Sarah therefore suggested that Abraham obtain his son through their slave-girl, Hagar (Gen 16:1-3). But the son born of this relationship was not the one God had promised. Abraham's promised heir would come through his wife Sarah. It was at this time that God gave the names 'Abraham' and 'Sarah'. The new names emphasized that they would yet be the parents of a multitude of people (Gen 17:1-7,15-19).

In further confirmation of his covenant with Abraham, God commanded Abraham and all future male descendants to make a permanent mark in their bodies. This mark, circumcision, was both a symbol of God's faithfulness to his covenant and a sign that Abraham believed God's promises and acted upon them. Circumcision sealed Abraham's faith and demonstrated his obedience (Gen 17:9-11; 17:23; Rom 4:9-12; Acts 7:8; see Circumcision; Covenant).

Sarah found it difficult to believe that she would yet have a child. God had just reassured Abraham (Gen 17:17-19), and now he sent heavenly messengers to reassure Sarah (Gen 18:9-14). The same messengers told Abraham that judgment was about to fall on the wicked cities of the region where Lot lived (Gen 18:16-21). Abraham hoped that God might spare the cities, but he did not realize how bad they were. The cities were destroyed, though Lot escaped (Gen 18:32; 19:29).

Abraham's heir

Upon moving with his flocks and herds into the Philistine region, Abraham again brought disgrace upon himself when he deceived the ruler in whose territory he dwelt (Gen 20:1-3). This failure of Abraham, particularly at a time so close to the birth of the promised son, showed again that God's blessing upon Abraham depended entirely upon divine grace, not upon human good works (Rom 4:1-5).

The promised heir, Isaac, was born to Abraham and Sarah when Abraham was about one hundred years old. Abraham had accepted God's promise by faith, in spite of the apparent impossibility of such an old couple producing children. God was faithful to his promise (Gen 21:2-3; Rom 4:17-21).

An even greater test of faith came when God told Abraham to offer his son as a human sacrifice. If Isaac was killed, God could no longer fulfil his promise of a multitude of descendants for Abraham through Isaac. Yet Abraham obeyed, believing that God could bring Isaac back to life (Gen 22:1-2; Heb 11:17-19). Abraham's obedience proved the genuineness of his faith. Though he offered Isaac, he did not kill him. God provided a substitute, and Isaac's life was given back, as it were, from the dead (Gen 22:13; Heb 11:19; James 2:21-24).

When Sarah died, Abraham bought a piece of ground within Canaan as a burial place for her. In doing so he showed once more his faith in the ultimate fulfilment of God's promise concerning his descendants' permanent homeland. He now legally owned part of the territory which they would one day possess (Gen 23:1-4,16-20; cf. 49:29-33).

Since Isaac was to succeed Abraham as heir to Canaan and ancestor of the promised nation, Abraham required Isaac to remain in Canaan but not to marry one of the Canaanite women. He therefore sent his chief servant north to find a wife for Isaac among Abraham's relatives (Gen 24:3-6).

The Genesis account of Abraham concludes with the note that he had other descendants through minor wives, but these were not part of the promised nation (Gen 25:1-6). One hundred years after first moving to the promised land, Abraham died (Gen 25:7). He was buried in the burial ground with Sarah, as a final demonstration of his faith in God's promises (Gen 25:8-10).

Example of faith

Repeatedly, the New Testament refers to Abraham as an example of the truth that God accepts people and declares them righteous on the basis of faith. The Jews had to learn that physical descent from Abraham was no guarantee of salvation (Matt 3:9; John 8:39-44; Rom 9:7). The case of Abraham shows clearly that salvation has nothing to do with personal good works (Rom 4:1-5), religious rituals (Rom 4:9-12) or the law of Moses (Rom 4:13; Gal 3:16-18). It is entirely dependent upon God's grace and is received by faith (Rom 4:16).

The promises given to Abraham find their ultimate fulfilment in Jesus Christ, through whom people of all nations are saved (Luke 1:72-73; Gal 3:8,14,16). When believers become Christ's people, they become, through him, Abraham's descendants also, and so share in the blessings promised to Abraham (Rom 4:16-17; Gal 3:9,29; Eph 3:6).

Abraham's faith is a further example in that it is not only a faith that saves, but also a faith that the true believer lives by. Abraham's offering of Isaac showed that faith proves its genuineness by obedience (Heb 11:17-19; James 2:21-23). Always Abraham looked beyond his immediate circumstances, believing that God would give him a better and more lasting dwelling place (Acts 7:5; Heb 11:8-10,13-16).

ABSALOM

Absalom, the third son of David, first features in the Bible story when his sister Tamar was raped by Amnon, their older brother by a different mother (2 Sam 3:2-3; 13:1-22). Absalom was determined to have his revenge, no matter how long he had to wait. After two full years he found a suitable opportunity, and had Amnon murdered. He then fled into exile (2 Sam 13:23-27).

After three years without a recognized heir to David in Jerusalem, David's army commander Joab was worried about the stability of David's dynasty. He therefore worked out a cunning plan to reestablish Absalom in Jerusalem, without the necessity for Absalom to face trial for murder (2 Sam 13:38; 14:1-24). Although Absalom returned from exile, David refused to receive him into the palace. But after two years Absalom forced his way in (2 Sam 14:28-33).

Over the next four years Absalom built up a following for himself among the country people, particularly those from the south (2 Sam 15:1-7). He then launched a surprise attack, seizing the throne and forcing David to flee for his life (2 Sam 15:8-18; 16:20-23). But one of David's chief advisers stayed behind as a spy in Absalom's court. By appealing to Absalom's vanity, he was able to persuade Absalom to ignore the wise words of Absalom's chief adviser (2 Sam 15:32-37; 17:1-14). As a result Absalom decided to glorify himself in a full-scale battle with David's army. His troops were no match for David's hardened soldiers, and he himself was killed (2 Sam 18:1-15).

ACHAIA

In the days of the Roman Empire, Achaia was the southern of two Greek provinces, the other being Macedonia (Acts 19:21; Rom 15:26; 2 Cor 9:2; 1 Thess 1:8). Formerly, in the days of the Greek Empire, Macedonia was the centre of Greek power, but under the Romans the political situation had changed and the name Achaia was usually identified with Greece (Acts 18:27; 20:2; see Greece). The administrative centre of Achaia was Corinth, and the educational centre, Athens (Acts 17:21; 18:1,12; 2 Cor 1:1).

A church was founded in Corinth during Paul's second missionary journey, and another at the port of Cenchreae nearby (Acts 18:1-18; Rom 16:1; 1 Cor 16:15; see Corinth). There were also Christians in Athens (Acts 17:34; see Athens). Paul revisited the area during his third missionary journey (Acts 19:21; 20:1-3), when he collected money that the churches of Achaia, like other churches, had put aside to help the poor Christians in Judea (Rom 15:26; 2 Cor 9:1-2). Some years later, Paul planned to spend a winter at Nicopolis, on Achaia's west coast, but the Bible does not record whether he was able to fulfil his plans (Titus 3:12).

ACTS, BOOK OF

Evidence from early Christian records, as well as from the book itself, indicates that Luke wrote the book of Acts. The book was the second of two volumes that Luke wrote, the first being Luke's Gospel.

Luke wrote for a person named Theophilus, with the purpose of giving Theophilus an account of Christianity from the birth of its founder to the arrival of its greatest apostle in Rome (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-2). Sections of Acts that are written in the first person show that Luke was with Paul on some of Paul's missionary travels (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-37; 21:1-17; 27:1-28:31). (For further details concerning the author see Luke.)

The value of Acts

Acts provides a good base for an intelligent understanding of much of the New Testament. Paul wrote his earlier letters during the period covered by Acts, and the present-day reader will have a better understanding of those letters, and other letters of the New Testament, once he is familiar with Arts. The book is also an important document for an understanding of significant developments in world history. Secular historians acknowledge Luke to be an accurate and reliable writer, and the findings of archaeology confirm the exactness of the technical expressions he uses in relation to places and officials (Acts 13:7; 16:12,35; 18:12,16; 19:31,35).

From the title of honour that Luke gives Theophilus, it seems that Theophilus was an official in the Roman government (Luke 1:3; cf. Acts 23:26; 26:25). Whether he was or not, there is no doubt that at the time Luke wrote his Gospel and Acts (in the early ad 60s), the Roman government was paying increasing attention to Christianity. Luke is therefore concerned to point out that Christianity was not in any way rebellious to Roman rule and was not a threat to law and order.

Christians were sometimes involved in civil disturbances, but Luke shows by one example after another that the Christians were not the cause of the trouble. Consistently the Roman authorities acknowledged the Christians to be innocent (Arts 16:37-39; 18:12-16; 19:31,37; 23:29; 25:18; 26:31-32; 28:30-31). In almost every case where there was trouble in connection with the Christians, the Jews were to blame (Acts 9:23,29; 13:50; 14:2,5,19; 17:5; 17:13; 18:12-17; 21:27). Christianity was not an illegal religion according to Roman law. On the contrary it was the legitimate continuation of the religion established by Abraham and developed through Moses, David and the Israelite nation (Acts 2:31-33; 13:26-33; 15:15-18; 26:22-23; 28:23).

This progression from the old Jewish era to the new Christian era came about through Jesus Christ. He was the Messiah of whom the Jewish religion spoke and for whom it had prepared the way (Acts 2:36; 3:18; 9:22; 17:3; 18:5,28). Though he had now physically left the world and returned to his heavenly Father, he was in a sense still in the world. Through the Holy Spirit he indwelt his followers, and through them he continued to work (Acts 1:4-5; 2:33; 3:6,16; 4:30-31; 5:31-32). The spread of the gospel and the growth of the church was the ongoing work of Christ, acting by his Spirit through his followers (Acts 8:29,39; 9:17,31; 10:19,45; 13:2,4; 15:28; 16:6-7; see Holy Spirit).

Summary of contents

Continuing the story from where Luke's Gospel ended, Acts begins by recording Jesus' promise of the Holy Spirit, his ascension, and the appointment of an apostle to replace Judas (1:1-26). On the Day of Pentecost, Jesus' promise was fulfilled when the Christians received the Holy Spirit (2:1-36). That same day three thousand people responded to Peter's preaching of the gospel and were added to the church (2:37-47). Thousands more were added a few days later (3:1-4:4). This rapid growth brought opposition from the Jewish leaders (4:5-31).

The rejoicing among the Christians was interrupted by God's severe judgment on two people who deceived the church (4:32-5:11). Nevertheless, the church increased its numbers, though at the same time the Jewish leaders increased their opposition (5:12-42).

Until now the Christians had been popular with the common people, but this changed when one of the leading Christians, Stephen, made it clear that Christianity was not simply an improved form of Judaism. The Jews killed him (6:1-7:60) and began a violent program of widespread persecution against the Christians (8:1-3). As a result of the Christians' being driven from Jerusalem, the gospel spread to Samaria and Caesarea (8:4-40). Meanwhile Saul, the chief persecutor, repented and believed in Jesus (9:1-31).