“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
“Those who had been scattered (from Jerusalem) preached the word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4).
If the first seven chapters of Acts tell us how the church preached Jesus in Jerusalem and Judea (its relative “comfort zone,” and I do mean “relative”), only in chapter 8 do we begin to see its evangelists go into Samaria and eventually to the ends of the earth (definitely outside its “comfort zone”). So what caused this? I would love to say, “Well, they finally got it. Peter came around and decided to let the Gentiles in on Jesus.” But that doesn’t happen until chapter 10, and it took a miracle! No, the gospel spread outside Jerusalem and Judea because of the murder of Stephen and the persecution which followed, at which point the church scattered. As John Stott concludes, sometimes we go by force, not by choice. I mean, have you ever had an opportunity to share Jesus in a new neighborhood because you no longer felt welcome or accepted in an old one? Same principle. Can good (the gospel going to the Gentiles) really come from evil (the murder of Stephen)? Perhaps “All things” do in fact “work together for the good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose,” Paul writes (Rom 8:28). And so we pray, Father, please help me to speak up for You wherever I am sent!