Reflections From Acts 8: “PERSECUTION—THE MEANS FOR SPREADING THE GOSPEL”


persecutionSometimes for us to be moved, God must act.  Before Jesus ascended he commanded the disciples to wait for power from on high, his purpose was so they would start witnessing in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and so forth.  This is finally occurring in chapter eight.  How many years have transpired is not clear.  Perhaps it wasn’t years nevertheless it’s through the furnace of suffering that the Gospel went forth.

Ironically, Saul who would become Paul the apostle is the key figure used by God to bring swift persecution on the church.  He ravaged the church and dragged off men and women to prison (v.3).  The irony is that he would eventually become the apostle to the Gentiles.  So both as an enemy and then as a bond servant of Christ, God used him to get the word out.

Like Stephan, Philip too was filled with the Spirit and wisdom, he preached Christ to Samaria and performed signs and wonders which included casting out demons (vv.4-8).  He preached on the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.  Note that God’s rule and reign and God’s chosen Messiah filled the content being preached.

Moreover, Philip is seen preaching to the individual Ethiopian Eunuch and explaining to him the meaning of the Isiah passage he was reading.  Philip from this text preached Christ and assuredly he went to others (vv.25-35).  Eventually the Eunuch was baptized in water and Philip was snatched away by the Spirit of the Lord in order to continue preaching in Azotus and the surrounding cities the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As in Acts 6 & 7 and now in chapter 8, the key figure is the deacon, Philip, doing what God called him to do: preach the gospel and perform acts of power.  The office of deacon in many Christian churches seems to have fallen on hard times.  Hardly are the qualities of preaching and acts of power seen in those who wait on tables and yet this is exactly what Acts reveals.

Could it be that looking for these qualities is of no interest to us today?  For as long as the chairs are set up, the Sunday school room prepared and the coffee and donuts in place (these things are important—maybe not donuts) with these we seem content.  Could it be that we as a church are making a massive mistake by not asking God to fill the diaconal office with those filled with the Spirit and wisdom?, perhaps, perhaps?

To perform diaconal duties (serving tables) is not equal to having diaconal qualities (1 Tim.3), but the example of those chosen by the people seemed to be an election of men known to already have a dynamic walk with God.  So maybe, if we installed leadership of Philip’s ilk we’d do the cause of Christ more service?  Setting up chairs and performing menial tasks are very important and they are to be performed all to the glory of God.  But when we neglect the biblical pattern for leadership within the church everyone loses—including the lost.

(SDG)

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