Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. (
Today’s climate for evangelism is inhospitable. There is increasing hostility to the Gospel. Yet, our mission remains unchanged. It is encouraging to note that the first century church flourished in an unfriendly environment. They faced obstacles, but were able to overcome them. Acts chapter eight affords us several examples.
They were able to overcome persecution (v.1-4). While they might have been paralyzed by fear, they overcame in faith. This opposition came as a backlash from the church’s militancy in its mission. Satan’s kingdom was threatened and so he launched a counterattack. Instead of stopping the advance of the Gospel, the persecution aided it. They disciples were scattered like seed, and God caused them to bear much fruit.
They were able to overcome complacency (v.4). Jesus sent them into all the world, but they settled down in their comfort zone in
They were able to overcome prejudice (v.5). The Gospel went to
—and that was a big barrier broken—the
race barrier. Samaritans despised the
Jews and the reverse was true as well.
Racism is not a new phenomenon.
The challenge to make a difference in a people who are so different is
an obstacle to overcome. Philip was a
Jew and his audience was Samaritan, but the moment they responded to the
Gospel, they became brothers and sisters in Christ. Heaven will not be segregated—the church
ought not be! Samaria
They were able to overcome limitations (v.6-8). The power that enabled them to rise above their human limitations came from heaven. It did not matter how weak they were, God was mighty to save! He still is. God has not changed—we have. These saints rested in the power of God and miracles happened. Philip not only preached that Jesus was alive, it was apparent in His supernatural activity! It takes the power of God to overcome such obstacles, but that power is available still today.
They were able to overcome hypocrisy (v.9-25). The charge is often leveled at the church that it is full of hypocrites. That accusation must be overcome. The reality is that there are hypocrites in the church—there always have been. The example we note in this chapter is a man named Simon—who had been a sorcerer. It becomes apparent that an improper motive yielded an insincere commitment. He saw the power of God at work, and wanted to get in on the action. His occult powers were nothing compared to this. He saw the business opportunity of a lifetime if he could get hold of this power. Peter demanded that he repent or perish! That is still the church’s message.
The obstacles to evangelism are nothing new. When the church invades enemy territory, the Devil will fight back. Christ has founded a church, however, equipped to assault the very gates of hell, and see them fall! That is our heritage; it is our hope!