Suffering sparks the growth
In Acts 8:1-8 the very day of Stephen’s sermon and death, the Early Church was persecuted and all the believers (except for the apostles) had to spread to Judea and Samaria. Persecution is a terrible thing, yet the persecution of the Early Church seemed to fulfill Jesus’ command in Acts 1:8, “... you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” So what can we learn about persecution from the Early Church? What does this suffering bring?
Persecution serves the Great Commission (verse 1-2)
In Matthew 28:19-20, the recently resurrected Jesus charges his followers with the Great Commission; to go and make disciples of all nations, baptising and teaching them. As we see for the Early Church, persecution was the catalyst for the spread of not the apostles, but the lay men; the everyday men and women believers! It was these lay evangelists who brought the message across to Judea and Samaria and fulfilled the Great Commission.
Persecution brings proclamation (verse 4)
In the original Greek, the word ‘scattered’ (used in verse four) refers to the sowing of seeds. Like seeds being sown, the lay men (and women) believers were scattered and went around preaching. Preaching in the original text didn’t look like what we would imagine today (assuming you’re thinking of a preacher in a pulpit). Preaching simply meant to bring good news. And generally, when we hear good news (50% off sales, anything with the word ‘free’, etc), we want to share it. Like in Romans 1:16, the Gospel should be no exception!
Persecution brings honour to Christ (verse 5)
Philip, one of the lay men believers who had been scattered, became a preacher and evangelist. Originally chosen as part of the seven to serve tables, Philip chose to herald the message (proclaim) Christ. He even performed miraculous signs and people paid close attention to whatever he said, bringing honour to Christ.
Persecution brings joy (verse 8)
“There was great joy in that city.” It’s hard to believe that persecution could result in great joy, or even glorious joy as described in the original text. This glorious joy was a product of healing but also hearing the good news. We must go through suffering in this life, whether spiritual, physical, mental or emotional, and yet as believers, we have hope in Christ (Psalm 146:5). How much more hope and glorious joy shall we have in suffering for the sake of Christ (1 Peter 3:13-17).
Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You that in the middle of suffering, we have hope in You. Thank You that you give us glorious joy for tomorrow. I pray that I will be filled with the Holy Spirit; to spread the good news without relent.
In Jesus’ mighty name,