Christ works out his plan of Salvation, even if things happen that we do not understand. He fulfills his plan in unexpected ways (Acts 8:1,4).

Source: Clarion, 2002. 2 pages.

Acts 8:1,4 - Christ is in Control

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria...

Acts 8:1b

Those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went.

Acts 8:4

Sometimes we wonder about the purpose of things happening in our personal lives or in the world at large. Sickness, financial hardship, terrorist attacks, wars and natural disasters can make us wonder whether there is any direction to events. The Word of God teaches that Christ is in control and that He is guiding all things for the completion of the plan of redemption (Ephesians 1:20-22). But what do we see of it?

Luke begins the Book of Acts by indicating that he is going to write about the things that Jesus Christ did after his ascension into heaven (cf. 1:1, 2) in order to show that Christ uses his power from heaven for the benefit of the Gospel’s spread throughout the world. As such, the Book of Acts is not so much about the acts of the apostles as about the acts of the ascended Christ!

We see something of Christ’s control in the events soon after Pentecost, as revealed in the text. Before his ascension into heaven, Christ had told his apostles that they should wait in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (1:4). Christ told them that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit had come upon them, and they would be his witnesses

“ Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (1:8).

Thus Christ outlined the program for the spread of the Gospel after Pentecost: first Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, and then the ends of the earth. Acts 8:1b and 4 show us how Christ implemented part of this program for the spread of the Gospel: believers from Jerusalem were scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria as a result of a persecution, and those who were scattered preached the Word wherever they went. Note well that Christ used a persecution to move from the first phase to the second phase of the spread of the Gospel. The Gospel’s rejection by Jerusalem had been sealed with the martyrdom of Stephen, who was stoned to death (7:59, 60). Now it was time for the Gospel to go to Judea and Samaria, and Christ used for his own purpose the subsequent persecution that broke out “on that day.”

The Gospel of the risen and exalted Christ came to Judea and Samaria in the time after Pentecost because those who were scattered from Jerusalem preached the Word wherever they went. One could also translate that they evangelized. When people asked them why they were fleeing, they had an opportunity to testify about Christ. While it may have looked like the cause of the Gospel was being shattered in Jerusalem by the persecution, the persecution actually served to spread the Gospel! In this way, Christ was preparing the ground for his apostles to move beyond Jerusalem in their task of proclaiming the Gospel. For notice also that the apostles were not scattered, a detail which is evidence of Christ’s complete control in these events.

Christ works in unexpected ways. Even when we are not able to discern a guiding hand in events, Christ is working out the plan of redemption. The believers in Jerusalem who had to endure persecution probably had many questions because they did not see the overall picture, but this did not mean that there was no overall picture. This snapshot in the history of the church has been revealed to us to make clear that Christ is in control, even though this may not be readily evident to our eyes. This should give us tremendous comfort. Personal hardship, wars and natural disasters serve a purpose in the coming of God’s kingdom. God can draw us closer to the Word by means of difficulties in our personal lives, and terrible events on a world-scale can provide openings for the spread of the Gospel. May the words of this text comfort us as we live in a dark world, or as we face difficult circumstances in our own lives. Christ rules on high and is directing all things for the completion of the plan of redemption!

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