On the very day that Stephen was stoned, “there arose…a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1). Remember the words of Jesus just before He ascended into heaven; “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (1:8). For about seven years, the church in Jerusalem had grown and become focused on themselves, forgetting these words. It took the stoning of a valuable servant and the rise of persecution to push the gospel out of Jerusalem.
There is no indication that the church started Bible schools or special programs to prepare anyone for evangelism or expansion. But God had built an inherent instinct into the church to ‘devote themselves to the apostles teaching’ which came through the indwelling Holy Spirit (2:42). Thus, when this persecution caused a scattering, it was only natural that “those who were scattered went about preaching the Word” (8:4). Luke selects one primary example of this movement of God in a man named Philip who “went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ” (8:5). He had been one selected by the church in Jerusalem to care for the Hellenists widows because he was a man “of good repute, full of the Spirit and wisdom” (6:3, 5).
Whether we realize it or not, there is a weakness in church leadership today in being able to trust the work of God through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. The proof of what God was doing through ordinary persons who were filled with the Spirit was that “the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip…so there was much joy in that city” (8:6, 8).
If this is what God can do through the witness of an ordinary man like Philip, what will He do today through you and me as we are yielded to the Holy Spirit for witness in the places God ‘pushes us to’? Not only would the church be renewed through the Word of God, but it would experience an amazing expansion through the power of the Spirit in our witness.
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