The Great Scattering: Acts 8:1-4
“1) Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2) Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. 3) But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. 4) Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.” Acts‬ ‭8‬:‭1‬-‭4‬ ‭
The stoning of Stephen marked a distinct change in the book of Acts and the early church. It was the beginning of an intense persecution led by Saul. He was ravaging the church. He would enter house after house and drag of both men and women and put them on prison. Little did he know that he would one day be destined for the same for the sake of the gospel.
But God is always in control and fulfills His ultimate purpose. Acts 1-7 could be called “The Great Gathering.” (See Acts 1:4). Acts 8- to the end of the book of Acts could be called “The Great Scattering.” (See Acts 8:1)
Suddenly, the gospel was carried beyond Jerusalem to the regions of Judea and Samaria. This was not coincidental. It brought the fulfillment of Acts 1:8. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit was going to fill the believers with power so they could carry the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and even to the remotest parts of the earth.
God used the persecution to spread the gospel. I believe He always uses adversity and trials to spread the gospel. He wants to shine through our blessings and through our trials. He wants us to be salt and light in the world.
The book of Acts is only a small glimpse of what God was doing in and through the early church. The fuller story is amazing. Let’s quickly survey the other Apostles not highlighted in the book of Acts or the New Testament.
Andrew brought the gospel to “the land of the man eaters” which was the former Soviet Union. He also preached in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey and Greece where he was martyred.
Thomas was active throughout Syria. He carried the gospel as far as India, where he was martyred. I have visited his final humble dwelling place on this earth. . Philip had most of his ministry in Carthage in North Africa and Asia Minor. There he helped convert the wife of a Roman proconsul. Retaliation resulted in his arrest and cruel martyrdom.
Church history has Bartholomew accompany Thomas to India and then back to Armenia, Ethiopia, and southern Arabia where he was finally put to death for the gospel.
Matthew ministered in Persia and Ethiopia. There are mixed stories of his death. Some say he was martyred and others report he was viciously stabbed to death.
James was the first Apostle martyred as recorded in Acts 12:1-3.
Simon the Zealot ministered in Persia. He was killed for refusing to sacrifice to the sun god.
Matthias who replaced Judas as one of the twelve, ministered in Syria with Andrew. As Andrew move north, he remained behind where he eventually met death by burning.
John was the only Apostle to likely die a natural death. He was the church leader in the Ephesus area where he took care of Mary the mother of Jesus. During later church persecution he was arrested and exiled to the prison island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation. Some records have him later released and living with the underground believers in the catacombs of Rome and dying there of old age. One Latin tradition has him dying by being cast into boiling oil.
Unfortunately, only Paul was accompanied by a secretary and recorder. Luke traveled with him and being an historian he captured much of his story. Rightly so, because God used Paul to write much of the New Testament. Paul was eventually martyred in Rome. Peter was eventually crucified hanging up side down.
I maintain a book similar to the Acts of the Apostles could have been written to record the lives and ministries of each of the Apostles and men like Philip. The Pilgrim Church throughout history had equally compelling stories of mighty movements of the Holy Spirit. Many godly men and women have lived and died for the glory of God realizing their citizenship was in heaven. (See Philippians 3:20-21)
Having the rare privilege of traveling internationally in the body of Christ, I realize that God is doing many glorious things in our days as well. Some of the greatest stories of faith, the power of the Holy Spirit, signs and wonders as well as great suffering and martyrdom are unfolding today. In fact, these days may be eclipsing all of church history.
If your Christian life is consumed with boredom and the Mundane, I beg you stop embracing the comforts of this world and seek God with fresh faith and abandonment. Throw yourself, your prayers and your resources at the front lines where the needs are greatest and where God is working most. Store up treasures in heaven.
The glory, power and presence of God are not poured out on worldly saints who are content sitting in a recliner, gouging on junk food while surfing the web and addicted to romance novels and pornography. God’s presence does not overshadow the Sunday morning church that is embracing and drooling over woke culture.
Also, I don’t expect a mighty movement of God in any church that teaches that God does not do miracles today or that the Holy Spirit can no longer empower believers with spiritual gifts. Such rational and fleshly theology might tickle your intellect, but it is void of the Spirit and power. (See 1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
If you yearn for book of Acts kind of stories, then develop book of Acts kind of faith and obedience. Seek Jesus on His terms and not your own. Study the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Bible and seek Him to fill and empower your life. Then step out and watch God start moving mountains and the enemy start viewing you as a threat. Be a World Changer in the hands of a mighty God!
Daily Bible Commentary: By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global