A photo by Jakub Sejkora. unsplash.com/photos/utqJcneoFjo

The Way of God Advances (Acts 11)

Jul 14, 2022 By: Damien Garofalo Topic: Sermon Devotional Series: Acts Scripture: Acts 11

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. (Acts 11:19-21 ESV)

A recurring theme in our studies in Acts has been “continue.” Despite adversity, the church continued. Despite persecution, preaching continued. Despite threats, hospitality and fellowship continued. But merely continuing does not do justice to the overall text. We must add another word – expand. The story of the Book of Acts is the church continuing and expanding.

At Pentecost, we saw the first expansion, with thousands of souls coming into the church by faith in Jesus. Over the next few chapters, thousands more would come by way of the church’s witness. But then the church wouldn’t just expand internally, it would go out, beyond Jerusalem, and expand geographically, just as Jesus said.

In our last text, chapter 10, the church expanded ethnically. That is, the Gentiles – not just proselytes – would be welcomed into the fold. Thus, the early church realized that the promises of salvation in the gospel of Jesus Christ were fully and truly for everyone, with no exceptions. No geographical exceptions, no ethnic exceptions. No exceptions.

God gave the Gentiles the same Holy Spirit as the Jews were given upon their coming to faith in Christ. And as Peter said, “If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” Indeed, no one can stand in God’s way. God’s way advances.

In our text this Sunday, chapter 11, we see two main divisions: first, Peter explains to the church in Jerusalem that the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit, and they rejoice (after a little skepticism) and embrace this truth, and second, the church continues and expands even further out. While in earlier chapters we saw the church continue despite their circumstances, this chapter suggests that the church continues and expands because of their circumstances. That is, the believers were so motivated by what God was doing, they were ready to take the gospel to the whole world!

Let us come to this passage ready for encouragement and challenge from the early church as we, too, seek to have a global vision for what God is doing in this world to glorify himself through his Son!