Scripture Reading: Acts 8:1-3
“And Saul approved of his (Stephen’s) execution. And then there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” (Acts 8:1)
Following the death of Stephen, a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem. Prior to this persecution, those early believers experienced times of great fellowship and worship together. They were of one heart and soul (4:32). They met regularly with one another in worship and in fellowship in their homes (2:46). The church was growing rapidly (2:47).
But the time had come for believers to get out of their comfort zones. So a great persecution came and the early Christians were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. I’m sure the apostles reminded those who were being persecuted and scattered the words of Jesus: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (1:8). Now that the early church was founded, it was time for believers to begin fulfilling the commission Christ had given His Church. They were pushed out of Jerusalem and were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
It is interesting to note that the apostles remained in Jerusalem while the “lay people” were being scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. These “lay people,” as they were being scattered, began preaching the word in fulfillment of Christ’s command that believers are to be His witnesses. God brought persecution upon the church to achieve His purpose of sending witnesses into the world. He sent ordinary people to do the extraordinary work of the Spirit.
The evangelical church is failing in its calling to evangelism and discipleship today. Christians enjoy their “holy huddles” and are failing to reach out to lost people. Will it take another persecution to push us out of our comfort zones and to make us take seriously Christ’s calling to be His witnesses? We are to gather ourselves for worship and fellowship; but we must also be scattered in order to be Christ’s witnesses. We come together to be equipped to go out into our neighborhoods, workplaces and classrooms. It is the love of Christ that compels us to take the message of the gospel to those who do not know Jesus.
Lord Jesus, I confess that I often enjoy my time with fellow believers more that I enjoy developing relationship with unchurched people. Forgive me for failing to be a witness for You. Give me the opportunity today to reach out to someone and share the good news that salvation is found in a relationship with You.
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