God Sends Ordinary People

Acts 8:1-25
And Saul approved of their killing him.
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
25 After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.

You know, it is very interesting to watch God at work.  He seems to always turn a tragic event into a catalyst to further reach people for Christ. In Acts 8, Luke tell us that Stephens's martyrdom sparked an outbreak of violence against Christians. Consequently, the “church,” except for the apostles, were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  Stephen's execution also got to Saul and he responded with frenetic violence. Unfortunately, that is exactly the way some people respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit; they lash out against the church and you. Interestingly, the Lord used Philip, who was another one of the first deacons of the Jerusalem church and just an ordinary guy, to spread the Gospel.

I believe that this passage gives us a pattern for us to reach our community for the Lord. J.D. Greear has a good definition of evangelism: a group of ‘ordinary’ Christians living intentionally in a city to bring joy to it through word and deed. Luke points out that the first time the gospel left Jerusalem wasn't through the Apostles.  Verse 1 states that all "except the Apostles" were scattered and then the passage goes on to say that those scattered preached the word wherever they went.  The first time the gospel expanded beyond Jerusalem, it was carried in the mouths of normal people. The Great Commission to which all Christians are called is not accomplished by the preaching of a few anointed messengers, but when every believer is filled with the Holy Spirit and testifies about Christ in the streets. Let me ask you,  are you letting the Spirit guide you to testify about Christ in the Streets?

As believers we are all called to be “sent out,” to be Christ’s witnesses in our Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and in the uttermost parts of the world.  And God can be very creative in the way he sends us out.  Sometimes God takes you into these “places” through a divine call and sometimes he just moves you there through normal life circumstances.  Just remember in those times you are sent out, you already have within you the Holy Spirit, who will give you the message.  Jesus promised he’d put words in your mouth when you needed them.  This passage tells us Philip’s ministry was one of word and deed. They “heard him” and “saw the signs he did.”  A true witness always involves both. 

In verse 7 we see a phrase that really convicts many churches: "there was great joy in the city."  Is there “much joy” in the community in which we live and work because of our presence? Would anyone “weep” over our death if we were gone?  How about our church? Are we, as a body of believers, bringing “much joy?”

I want to encourage each of you to look for ways to serve and be committed to bringing joy to those around you. The gospel creates a unity that overcomes years of hurt and mistrust: a unity we long for but seem powerless to accomplish.  Are you involved with people in your neighborhood, where you work?  Ask God to show you needs you can meet.

In Him,
Pastor Boyd

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