How ought the brethren to have handled the sudden, violent death of Stephen in Acts 7? “Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him” (Acts 8:2). Naturally the initial response was emotional.
The biblical record however does not dwell on their emotional turmoil. In 31 AD (Williams 1964:33), straight after the initial persecutions, “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ” (Acts 8:5). How did Phillip handle persecution? By confidently confessing Jesus Christ and him crucified.
In 33 AD (Williams 1964:33), after Saul’s conversion, “the Jews plotted to kill him” (Acts 9:23). Yet their scheme was thwarted. As soon as he was delivered out of their hands “he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord” (Acts 9:28). How did Paul handle persecution? By valiantly declaring the whole counsel of God.
In 44 AD (Douglas 1962:523), “Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:1 – 3). Yet after Peter was miraculously released “the word of God increased and multiplied” (Acts 12:24). How did Peter handle persecution? By becoming increasingly more bold to speak the word without fear.
“How did they handle persecution?” We must answer: every persecution levelled against the early church was used by God to fan into flame the zeal of His Church.