The spirit of religion is lethal. Religious spirits strive to punish, penalize, discredit, crackdown on, and ultimately execute anyone and everyone who disagrees with them and who refuses to bow to their tyranny. They hate dissension and they reward bullies who keep people in line.
Enter Saul of Tarsus in Acts chapter 8:1-8. He was the chief persecutor of the early church. He was blood-thirsty for new converts. Saul made Stephen's martyrdom a trophy.
The unjustified martyrdom of Stephen set in motion open persecution against the courageous community in the book of Acts. Stephen's stoning caused a dispersion of believers throughout Judea and Samaria. An all-out war broke out against the formation of the first church. The religious leaders of the day were not going to allow a new sect to rise up.
2 Corinthians 3:6 says: " He alone makes us adequate ministers who are focused on an entirely new covenant. Our ministry is not based on the letter of the law but through the power of the Spirit. The letter of the law kills, but the Spirit pours out life."
THE LETTER OF THE LAW KILLS, BUT THE SPIRIT POURS OUT LIFE.
To illustrate this, on the day when the law was given by Moses, three thousand people were killed, but on the day the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, three thousand people received new life. (Exodus 32:28, Acts 2:41)
"The religious spirit turns discipleship into a soul-killing exercise." - John Elridge
You know when you have been victimized by a religious spirit when you feel so oppressed that you can't move. You become immobilized.
The more the early church was afflicted the more they multiplied.
The early church did not waste the crisis. They capitalized on their displacement and turned it into a great opportunity for spreading the gospel. The new converts boldly witnessed Samaria healing the sick and casting out devils.
Labels Produce Limitations
Labels produce limitations but identity causes you to rise up.
The first church did not have a name and they were not organized, but they knew they were filled with the Holy Spirit and called to continue advancing the kingdom in the footsteps of Christ.