Summary: The church is to gather for power but to scatter to proclaim the word.
A STUDY OF THE BOOK OF ACTS
Sermon # 15
GATHERED BUT NOT SCATTERED
“In football they have a huddle, the goal of the huddle is to give you thirty seconds to call the play, that is why they give you a huddle.(At a professional football game there may be ) Sixty thousand people watching you huddle, they don’t mind you taking thirty seconds to call the play. They understand that you have to get organized, you have to know where you are going to go, the ends need to know where they are going to go, the quarterback needs to know where he is going to go, the backs need to know where they are going to go. A huddle is a necessary part of playing the game. But let me inform you if you do not already know, sixty thousand people do not pay $20 a ticket to watch you huddle. See, people don’t come to football games to watch the huddle. They want to see if their team can overcome the opposition who is daring them to snap the ball and move down the field to score. What they want to know is does your practice work? Now what Christians often do is get high on their huddles. We gather together on Sunday morning and Sunday nights and Wednesday nights and we go nuts over the huddle! We say, “Boy did we have a huddle!! My quarterback can call plays better than your quarterback. And boy do we go off on the huddle. But what people don’t seem to understand is, that the huddle is so that we can play the game. The effectiveness of your church cannot be measured by how well you do on Sunday morning. … The test of the church is what it does in the marketplace. What we need today is churches that are representative of Jesus Christ not only when gathered but when disseminated.” (Dr. Tony Evans. “The Power of God’s People.” (Sermon, 1987 – Church Growth Conference, Prestonwood Baptist Church, Dallas, TX)
“Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. (2) And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. (3) As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. (4) Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” Acts 8:1-4 (NKJV)
The problem of the neglected widows was solved by the appointment of seven men to oversee this ministry (6:1-7). Prominent among the men that are appointed are Stephen and Philip. Stephen’s ministry expanded beyond the overseeing of the widows to the powerful proclamation of the gospel with accompanying signs and wonders (6:8). This led to resistance, persecution and ultimately to his execution by stoning (7:59)
In turn Stephen’s death snowballed into a massive persecution of the entire church at Jerusalem. This intense persecution that broke out against church, caused the saints to scatter. Things began getting really bad for the church. Luke introduces Saul as the agent leading the persecution of the church. Verse three says that Saul began to “make havoc” other translations say he “ravaged” the church. This verb is imperfect and it means that he began to ravage the church and he kept on ravaging the church. He was making trouble for the church and he would keep it up until God stopped him.
I. THE GATHERING WAS TO OBTAIN POWER
As the text begins we find the church still located in Jerusalem. God had indeed done a great work there, and many thousands had come to know Him as their Savior. There were carrying out the Great Commission in a limited way but they were still in Jerusalem. Jesus had said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20) NKJV.
Jesus had asked the disciples to wait upon the coming of the Holy Spirit. “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) NKJV. They were to remain in the city of Jerusalem until they had received the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had promised, “But you shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) NKJV.