Wherever the Spirit Leads
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"Saul was one of the official witnesses at the killing of Stephen. A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem, and all the believers except the apostles fled into Judea and Samaria.  (Some godly men came and buried Stephen with loud weeping.)  Saul was going everywhere to devastate the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into jail.  But the believers who had fled Jerusalem went everywhere preaching the Good News about Jesus.  Philip, for example, went to the city of Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah."  "But now the people believed Philip's message of Good News concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. As a result, many men and women were baptized." (NLT)
In our study last week, a courageous warrior died for his faith. Being led of the Spirit, Stephen preached the word of God with boldness resulting in his death. If we think following God's Spirit is the path of least resistance and will lead us to a life of comfort we're sadly mistaken. Peter was filled with the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, preached the word of God with boldness and 3000 men were saved and baptized. Stephen did the same just a few chapters later and his audience stoned him to death. If you choose to live a spirit-led life you must be prepared for either outcome.
In my opinion, Acts 8:1 is as important a passage of scripture as Acts 1:8. As you know, Acts 1:8 says, "but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (NASB) This is a key passage of scripture for three reasons. First, it is one of the five commissions Jesus gave his Church. Through really, it is more of a prophecy than a commission, we lump it with passages like Matthew 28:18-20 to clearly annunciate the church's mission. Second, it is important because it provides an outline for the entire book of Acts. Like concentric circles it shows the progression of the gospel to Jerusalem, which happened in the second chapter and beyond. The second ring of the circles is Judea and Samaria, which happens in Acts 8, and then to the remotest part of the earth which begins with Saul's conversion in Acts 9.
Three major events propel this progression. First was the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit fell and thousands were saved. Second was the persecution that scattered the believers after Stephen gave his life for his faith. Those who were dispersed proclaimed the Gospel. And the third major event was the miraculous conversion of Saul in Acts 9.
Which leads me to the third reason this verse is so important. It explains what caused the dispersion of the Christians into Judea and Samaria and because it introduces Saul into the narrative and foreshadows his conversion.
It would be correct to say that the gospel spread to Jerusalem because of the work of the eleven remaining Apostles, but it would not be correct to say that they were the main characters in the continuing spread of the Gospel. Chapter 8 highlights the work of Phillip. Chapter 9 and beyond highlights the work of Paul and his partners in ministry. This doesn't mean the Apostles didn't play a role, because they did. Later in chapter eight they would come and complete the work that Phillip began by laying their hands upon the converts and giving them a blessing that led to their lives being controlled by the Spirit. But please notice the spread of the gospel because of the work of the people of God.
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