Providence Making Missionaries
Acts 8:1-4
And Saul was consenting to his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem…

The disciples of the Lord Jesus were to be missionaries, going everywhere and preaching his gospel to every creature. But they were to begin at Jerusalem, and there wait for "the promise of the Father" - the Divine endowment of the Holy Ghost. Then they were simply to follow the openings of Divine providence and the impulses and leadings of the Divine Spirit. They evidently at first scarcely understood what their work was, or how it was to be begun. Prejudices hindered them; difficulties blocked their way; it would seem to them that their lives would be imperiled by exciting public attention to them; and on the day of Pentecost they wore simply borne beyond themselves and above their fears, and were led to speak, freely and bravely, all they knew of Christ's resurrection and power to save. At first their witness was rendered in Jerusalem, and they waited on Providence for further guidance. The way for more extended work presently opened, but it was in very strange and unexpected ways. Out of seeming disaster and discomfiture came the plain indication of what their missionary work was to be.

I. PERSONAL PERIL CAME. The Revised Version gives the better reading of ver. 1: "There arose on that day a great persecution." It would seem "that the crowd which stoned Stephen outside the gate rushed back with its blood up, or, as Calvin says, like a wild beast which has once tasted blood, and threw itself there and then upon the company of brethren who, perchance, had met to pray secretly in their upper room for the brother who before men was playing so well his honorable and perilous part." The wild things which an excited mob will do have received abundant illustration in all ages, and recent illustration in the partial destruction of Alexandria. But the Christian disciples had more than this to fear. Such riotings of mobs last, at the most, but a few days. The Sanhedrim had now determined to persecute, and, if possible, destroy, the Nazarene sect; and from their systematic efforts, the disciples could only gain safety by flight. "A favorable juncture had come for the bigots," but it was, in the ordering of God's providence, the favorable juncture for commencing missionary work. We must always seek to judge, not what peril, suffering, persecution, or the arresting of our work may seem to be, but what they prove to be, when they have come fully under the Divine overrulings.

II. ESCAPE FROM THE PERIL SCATTERED THEM. Broke up the daily meals and the life in common; made the apostles hide away out of reach; and drove the disciples into the country districts - into Samaria, where Jewish fanatics would hardly venture, and even away as far as Damascus, where we subsequently find Ananias. It is remarkable that at this time the persecution does not seem to have reached the apostles, and it has been suggested that it was directed against that section of the disciples which followed Stephen, and attacked, in greater or less degree, the Mosaic system. Dean Plumptre says, "It was probable, in the nature of the case, that the Hellenistic disciples, who had been represented by Stephen, should suffer more than the others." Missionary records contain many illustrations of persecution making opportunity. The scattering was limited at first to the neighboring districts, but it started the missionary idea, and then the whole world was felt to be the sphere for the missionaries of the cross. Show how travel, migration, and commerce have scattered men over the world, and made providential openings for Christian works. "There is that scattereth and yet increaseth" is illustrated in these early disciples.

III. THEY TOLD OF CHRIST WHEREVER THEY WENT. The persecution opened their mouths, made them bold, filled them with fervor and zeal; the silent ones now preached the glad tidings. Persecution puts new life and energy into the persecuted. Things die out if left alone, that grow into power if we attempt to crush them. Men learn to value things which others would forcibly pluck from them. The weakness of our modern witness to Christ is mainly due to the general acceptance of our message. We should speak it nobly if we had to suffer or to die for it. Then the "lips of the dumb would speak." Trouble and calamity and difficulty made the first missionaries, and it has made the best ever since. Impress that the Christian law is this - wherever the providence of God may lead you or drive you, be therefore Christ. - R.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

WEB: Saul was consenting to his death. A great persecution arose against the assembly which was in Jerusalem in that day. They were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except for the apostles.

Perversion and Restoration
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