July 21: Acts 8

Randall Grossman
"And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles."- Acts 8:1

What a disaster! One of the boldest of witnesses for Christ was brutally murdered! What would happen with Stephen dead and the church scattered?

Many times we give in to despair in the face of spiritual setbacks. But God's purpose will prevail, and often in ways we would never anticipate. Jesus had promised that the gospel would be spread "in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). The death of Stephen and the ensuing persecution forced the church to move out of the capital city to the neighboring regions. From there (beginning in chapter 13) the good news will be carried to the end of the earth. Thus the book of Acts shows us the growth of the church from Jerusalem to Rome, from the center of Jewish power to that of Gentile power.

Chapter 8 begins the story of this stage of God's work by introducing the grim satisfaction of Saul, the young man who witnessed the execution of Stephen (7:58, 8:1).
Chapter 9 will record the astonishing account of how God arrested this very capable but bigoted opponent of the gospel and made him one of the greatest of servants of Jesus Christ. What an amazing display of the grace and glory of God!

The chapter also records the faithful ministry of Philip, another of the original Seven (Acts 21:8). His great love for others- even for the Samaritans- and his simple obedience to the Spirit's leading led to a large public ministry in Samaria and a strategic personal ministry with the eunuch from Ethiopia. Philip was willing to "open his mouth" (verse 35) in witness to Jesus wherever God led him, either to large crowds or to individuals in need. In this way God used him to further his purpose for all the nations to come to Christ. 

You can be assured that God will work out his plan in the world. What part will you play in that plan today?