1st Century Missions – Individual Witness

Acts 8:1-4; 11:19-21

15 years prior to the church in Antioch sending out those first missionaries to Cyprus and Asia Minor, something occurred which set an entire series of events in motion. Stephen, a gifted man chosen to be deacon in the Jerusalem church, had become too effective a witness for the Gospel. Enemies hatched a plot to frame Stephen, falsely accuse him before the Sanhedrin, and hopefully get him out of the way. Not even waiting for a verdict, the mob gathered for his trial lynched him, dragging him out of the city and stoning him. As our text begins Saul, later known as Paul, was satisfied with the outcome – Stephen’s death.

As effective as they were, the Jerusalem church lacked one thing – they had failed to follow through on Jesus’ departing mandate to them.

A. satisfaction 8:1

the “church in Jerusalem”, not the “church in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, …”

6 or 7 years after ascension of Christ, after his instruction to them – “you shall be my witnesses”

had become complacent, satisfied with the status quo

entrenched in the comfort-zone

at risk (perhaps) but not taking risks

content to grow bigger instead of broader

focused on internal needs

feeding widows 6:1

developing support structure 6:2-4

local ministry necessary BUT…..

time comes to move, to obey Christ’s command

B. persecution 8:1, 3; 11:19

mega – severe 8:1

harassment

making havoc – ravaging – trying to destroy

raids – war of attrition, not all-out assault

because of Stephen 11:19

began at the time of Stephen’s martyrdom

directed at typical church member, not leaders 8:1, 3

not the primary leaders who were scattered – “except the apostles”

evidence of God’s sovereign providence

sheep w/o shepherd scatter

church would have died without leadership

results not what Saul desired, exactly what God intended

strengthen – outcome of adversity

look outward

C. dispersion 8:1, 4; 11:19

scattered

Judea 8:1

Samaria 8:1

Phoenicia, Cyprus, Antioch 11:19

leaders remained

Jerusalem church not without problems – Acts 11:28-30

“And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.”

significant enough material difficulty to encourage help from the church at Antioch

necessary to give unity to the church

Apostle’s Creed – one holy, catholic, apostolic church

provide doctrinal and practical direction in new situations – see Acts 15

D. action 8:4; 11:19-20

man’s work – to be a witness

by giving life

Stephen

eventually all but John, NT author, gave life for the Gospel

Tertullian, 2nd century, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Foxe’sBook of Martyrs

by giving testimony

evangelizing – speaking 8:4, 11:19-20

Jews first

then Gentiles

God’s work 11:21

adding to the church Acts 2:41,47

“The scattering abroad of Jerusalem is the cause of the gathering together of many other churches.”Geneva Notes

both are necessary

God works through means

proclamation

“Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” Rom. 10:17

modeling

“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matt. 5:16

“always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” 1 Pet. 3:15

man needs God to do what only God can

only God can give spiritual understanding – “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” 1 Cor. 2:12

only God can change man’s heart – “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh,” Eze. 11:19

only God can save – “Salvation is of the Lord” Jonah 2:9

we must do our part

be outward-thinking and acting

be prepared

be mindful of our heritage

live accordingly

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