In Acts 8:1-3, we have the the newly-formed Church scattered from Jerusalem by a great persecution in connection with the stoning of Stephen. He was the first martyr of Christ’s Church. In Acts 7 we have a great sermon of Stephen in which he recounts God’s faithful dealings with His people under the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants.
In his sermon, Stephen focuses in on the lives of Joseph, Jacob’s second youngest son by his wife Rachel, and on Moses. The reason why he focuses on these two Israelites is to show how these two were either betrayed or rejected by God’s people at first, only to be vindicated later by God. In the same way, Jesus was rejected by the majority of the Jews, only to be vindicated by God when He raised Jesus from the dead on the third day. The true servants of God always experience suffering in this world at the hands of the majority.
In the persecution that followed Stephen’s stoning, the young Church is scattered like wind-blown seeds to the outskirts of Judea, to Samaria and to the ends of the Roman civilized world. By the end of our reading today in Acts 16, the Gospel has reached Macedonian soil as Paul and Silas respond to a dream from a man in Macedonia to bring the Gospel to them (Acts 16:9,10).
It is interesting to note that just before this dream, the biblical text explicitly states that the Holy Spirit prevented Paul and Silas from going to Asia and to Bithynia to proclaim the Gospel. How different would have world history and civilization developed if Paul went to China and India instead of Europe to preach the Gospel. Right through the Book of Acts we see the Holy Spirit leading and working through the Apostles.
In Acts 10, we see the Roman centurion, Cornelius, and his household, come to faith in Jesus. In order for the Gospel to reach these Gentiles, God appeared in a vision to Cornelius and to Peter, and the Holy Spirit is prominently mentioned in speaking to and leading Peter to cross the Jew-Gentile barrier. It is a God-thing from beginning to end as the Gospel breaks new ground for the glory of God.
Let us give glory to God for how the Gospel has spread throughout the world. We can have confidence that Jesus will build His Church and the gates of hell will not prevail (Mathew 16:18). The LORD will accomplish His great work despite having to work with less than perfect people, to say the least. This the Good News of Jesus Christ. Pastor John