And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles… 4 Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. (8:1, 4).
Here in Acts 8, we see His Sovereign Scattering, accomplishing what Jesus had clearly told them was to transpire.
“and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth,” (Acts 1:8)
When Jesus resurrected and appeared to His disciples, it seemed they were convinced that now the time was ripe; Israel would be restored to Theocratic rule with His followers by His side. This was good! Possibly singing some tune in their hearts resembling, “We are the champions of the world!”
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;” (Acts 1:6-7)
So very concerned with the When of His plan… But Jesus righted their thinking in pointing them to the greater concern, the What of His plan, and the How: His disciples were to carry the message of the gospel to the whole earth, empowered by His Holy Spirit to carry it to fruition.
“but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth,” (Acts 1:8)
And now interestingly, while the message is spreading, His disciples are not.
So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls, (Acts 2:41).
But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand, (Acts 4:4).
They are still together in Jerusalem… until… until His Sovereign Scattering.
This word, translated “scatter, scatters, scattered,” is interesting in its root.
“1289. διασπείρω diaspeírō; fut. diasperṓ, from diá (1223), denoting separation, and speírō (4687), to sow, scatter. To sow here and there or to scatter as seed, disperse…” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.
A compound word denoting both separation and sowing.
And I couldn’t help but reflect on one of His beloved parables. The Sower is recounted in three of the four Gospels (Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, Luke 8:4-15). And in all three accounts, “the sower went out to sow.” How ludicrous it would have been for him to wait for the soil to come to him.
Consider His Sovereign Scattering
- His Sovereign Scattering was predicated by intense persecution.And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles… 3 But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison, (8:1, 3).
- His Sovereign Scattering dispersed His witnesses from Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria to sow His Word, the message of Christ.Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them, (8:4-5).
- His Sovereign Scattering would sow His revelation of Christ as the true and great power of God.Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; 10 and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.” 11 And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. 13 Even Simon himself believed… (8:9-13).
- His Sovereign Scattering would sow His truth leading to salvation to one seemingly insignificant, yet earnestly seeking Gentile.But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) 27 So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch… and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” 30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” …35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. 36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (8:26-31, 35-36).
How do we respond to His Sovereign Scattering?
By His Sovereign Scattering, as His children here on earth, we find ourselves living as aliens in a foreign land that in all reality is not our home country.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself, (Philippians 3:20-21).
And we are divinely placed by His Sovereign Scattering to live as His witnesses and to sow the seed of His Word in a world so desperately in need of the power of His truth, and perhaps even overtly hostile towards the message of saving grace,
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation, (1 Peter 2:11-12).
There are few guarantees in this life, but His Word guarantees that if we truly desire to follow and live for Jesus, we will be persecuted.
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (2 Timothy 3:12).
For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, (Philippians 1:29).
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you, (Matthew 5:10-12).
The reality is, we don’t know the extent of the persecution we may be called to endure, whether it is delivered severely and cruelly, or through insults and slander. But we do know that taking a stand for godliness is not a recipe for popularity in our postmodern culture.
In His Sovereign Scattering, He has promised to sow His rewards in heaven, and maturity here on earth, if we will but endure.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, (James 1:2-4)
And it was in His Sovereign Scattering that many heard and believed. The saints in Jerusalem had to move out of what they knew, away from their homes to be scattered as aliens for the sake of the gospel.
To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure, (1 Peter 1:1-2).
And let us always remember, no one is insignificant to the Father. He patiently labors through His Sovereign Scattering, desiring the message of the gospel be sown that all would come to repentance.
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance, (2 Peter 3:9).
Let us trust His Sovereign Scattering in our lives, and prayerfully commit to join Him in spreading and sowing His Word, that He would be glorified in His abundant harvest.
And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest,” (Luke 10:2).