Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Acts 8: Like blowing on a dandelion

The day Stephen dies, "a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem." As a result:

1. "Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went" v. 4. The great preacher/scholar Tertullian of Carthage wrote in AD 197, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." Persecution usually scatters saints, who then sprout and grow where they're planted. It's like getting rid of a white, puffy dandelion by blowing on it. 

2. for the first time in recorded history, an important African hears and receives the gospel. One of those scattered seeds is Philip the deacon. Remember, the guy driving the poo wagon (figuratively speaking), deciding whether Greek or Jewish widows were entitled to food distributions? God uses that cross-cultural servant mentality to good use, sending him to (ewwww.....) the Samaritans. Healing, deliverance, the Spirit of's great! Then God uses that better-developed cross-cultural servant mentality to have Philip trot like a slave alongside a chariot driven by a Gentile eunuch. I can't name a single Pharisee who would have condescended to do such a thing. But you can't argue with the results of all this humility: the first recorded successful missionary outreach to an African! There are African churches whose histories are lost in antiquity: is it possible that Philip's spiritual descendents are worshipping today in Ethiopia or neighboring countries? When Black Muslims call Christianity "the white man's religion," African-American Christians point to this story. With perfect truth they replay that when the ancestors of today's white people were still worshipping false gods, Africans were worshipping Christ. In the historic Christian church, white Europeans are newcomers.

Note: the apostles stayed in Jerusalem. They had run once. Peter, from a servant girl. John, naked into the night. This time, as good shepherds they allowed their flock to go, but they themselves stayed in Jerusalem, faithful. Just like Jesus.

3. And oh yeah, I almost forgot..... some guy named Saul led the Jerusalem pogrom. I wonder whatever happened to him? I think I heard somewhere that as a result of his role, he had a change of heart......maybe Luke will discuss that later in the book, if it's important.

So, to sum up: the Pharisees win the pogrom but lose countless Jews elsewhere to the new faith they tried to crush; the first missionary to Africa wins his first convert; and the stage is set for the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. Maybe they oughta try something else.

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