The birth of the church
Fifty days after Jesus’ last Passover, a tremendous miracle occurred. On the day of Pentecost His disciples gathered together, waiting as instructed for “the promise of the Father.” First they heard a sound from heaven as of a “rushing mighty wind,” and then tongues of fire sat upon each of them filling them with the Holy Spirit. Devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem were drawn to the source of the commotion, astounded to hear the disciples proclaiming the wonderful works on God in the listener’s own language.
This event marked the beginning of the New Testament church and the spreading of the Gospel message . It also marked the beginning of a concerted effort by Jewish authorities to stamp out this movement before it gained traction.
Reactions to Peter’s powerful sermon recorded in Acts 2 didn’t help matters. Three thousand were baptized (verse 41). Jewish authorities watched and fretted as the apostles continued preaching and 5000 more believed (Acts 4:4). Multitudes in Jerusalem became disciples, including priests (Acts 6:7). And eventually converts became churches that spread throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria (Acts 9:31). Something had to be done!
To start with, the Sadducees, angered by what Peter and John were preaching, had them arrested. This only served to galvanize the believing multitude and fueled its determination to stay together and care for one another’s needs (Acts 4:32-37).
The Sadducees and the high priest, indignant at the signs and wonders done by the apostles and at the continuing increase of converts, again had the apostles put in prison. God responded by miraculously setting them free (5:19-25).
The Jews’ frustration and outrage grew murderous, and human lives were on the line.
The first martyr
Stephen, one of seven men selected to administer the care of poor widows, was full of faith and power, and did great wonders and signs among the people (6:8). He also was a powerful speaker and apologist, which ultimately led to his stoning and death. His martyrdom signaled the beginning of great persecution on the church, often at the hands of a man named Saul (Paul). Relentlessly he wreaked “havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (8:3).
A change in direction
God had other plans for Saul. Acts 9 contains the account of God’s intervention and Paul’s conversion. His misguided, hurtful zeal quenched, Paul himself began to further the spread of the Gospel, giving welcome relief to the persecuted fledgling church. The Bible says, “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied” (9:31).
It is possible that Dorcas was among those converted during this time. The Bible doesn’t say.