WHEN PERSECUTION SERVES TO GROW THE CHURCH
After Stephen was stoned to death in Jerusalem for preaching the risen Christ, a “severe persecution broke out against the church.” As a result, all but the apostles fled Jerusalem and were “scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria.” Surely, the enemies of the church meant this for harm, but the Lord used it for good.
Remember the last instruction that the Lord Jesus gave to His disciples before His ascension? He told them not to leave Jerusalem until they received the “Father’s promise” (Acts 1:4), which was the Holy Spirit. Then He said to them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Thus giving them the strategy for spreading the gospel to the whole world.
He had told them to carry the gospel out of Jerusalem, but it wasn’t until the church experienced persecution that the saints began to move out to “Judea and Samaria” as the Lord had commanded. Perhaps they had grown too comfortable in Jerusalem and had forgotten the Lord’s command. It must have been wonderful having all the apostles together in one place and experiencing the explosive growth of the early church, which began with 3,000 being saved on Pentecost. Yet, Christ is the Head of the church and it was time for the saints to scatter.
“Scatter.” That’s an unusual word to describe how they fled. It’s a word usually used to describe how one sows seed. And that’s exactly how the early Christian author Tertullian saw it. In his work, “Apologeticus,” written in 197 AD, he said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
Jesus has commanded us to carry the gospel to the nations. What will it take for us to forget our comfort and begin to “scatter” as He commanded?
PRAYER: Dear Father, forgive us our love of comfort and safety. We have made them idols in our time. Yet we know that You have called us to scatter the gospel seed to the whole world. Strengthen us with Your power and encourage us with Your zeal to get moving. In Jesus’ name, amen.