Acts 8 “Persecution Leads to Powerful Proclamation”

ImageOn Jan 8, 1956 five missionaries were slain upon a riverbed in a small jungle area of Ecuador. The world wept and many asked why. Jim Elliot was one of those five and his words “he is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” became the rallying cry for missions around the world. The truth of what Joseph said in Gen 50 “As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people,” fanned the flames of missionary hearts. So too in Acts 8 what Satan desired to accomplish God used to bring the gospel of salvation to men, women and children to those whom the Jews had rejected—the Samaritans.

The Jews prejudice was clear and profound. We recall the words of James and John, who had prejudicial hearts in Luke 9, asking Jesus if they should call down fire upon the Samaritan village that did not welcome them. And yet Jesus walked and taught and prepared the way for just such a time as this. The Samaritan woman at the well and the parable of the Good Samaritan were his lessons to the disciples to open their eyes to their perception and their heart of prejudice. Yet Jesus saw them as kingdom people. Do we see others in this frame of reference?

 As the waves of persecution swept over Jerusalem God touched the heart of Philip, one of the seven servants of God from Acts 6. He would become the instrument God would use to cross the barriers of prejudice to bring the message of salvation to the Samaritans. As the news traveled back to Jerusalem, Peter and John’s heart of prejudice would be challenged. Could it be that God will open the doors to these? Jesus had said: you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth” but the church had been slow in their progress to accomplish this. Did God allow this to move the church beyond the Temple, beyond Jerusalem? We may never be able to answer that question but we can see how God will use the evil intentions of Satan to bring about good thus once again teaching us this principle: Jer 29:11 “For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.”  

 God does not let us rest but opens our eyes to see His marvelous message of salvation is offered to all. The Jerusalem church sent Peter and John to see. They may have come with hearts of doubt, perhaps unbelief but the evidence was clear: salvation had come to these Samaritans. It was such a profound lesson for them that as they journeyed back to Jerusalem they proclaimed the good news to many Samaritan villages. The words of Gamaliel were  ringing forth…”but if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them, or you may even be found fighting against God.”

Where do you find that you are asking “why would God choose them?” instead of “why would He not choose them?” Are you hindering the work of the Lord God Almighty because of your heart of prejudice?  Are you still in Jerusalem or have you moved to your Samaria so that His Word can ring forth the truth of His saving love and power?

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