“So there was much joy in that city.” (Acts 8:8 ESV)
Luke continues to write the story of the early church without pause, as our studies take us from chapter 7 to chapter 8. The first martyr of the church, Stephen, has given his life for the cause of the gospel, and immediately after – even while the church is lamenting over him – Saul enacts a “great persecution” against the church. The persecutors are entering houses. They are taking men and women into prison. The church winds up scattered.
As we noted in our last message, the nascent church was growing, thriving, united, and powerful! Yet, they lacked one major component. The early church in the first 7 chapters of Acts is too local. That is, she had yet to begin to fulfill the Great Commission that Jesus gave before his ascension, as recorded in chapter 1: “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 end of the earth.”
Jesus never suggested that his people take the message to the world. He demanded it. He said it will happen. Acts 8 records for us how it happened: persecution!
Yes, the Sovereign Lord used something as heinous as persecution to scatter his people, with the end goal in mind of reaching the nations. Because they were scattered from Jerusalem, the church went to Samaria, just as Jesus said they would. And what did “they who were scattered” do as they went to Samaria? They preached the gospel!
The church was so dedicated to the mission inside Jerusalem that when their lives were completely turned upside down, they simply took that mission outside Jerusalem! And what was the result? The gospel was preached, people’s lives were changed, and there was great joy in that city!
We, too, want to see much joy in our city. But we don’t first and foremost exist for the city. We exist for God. When we have so much joy in Christ and in his gospel, we cannot help but take the gospel and its power everywhere we go!