Summary: The 1st church at first didn't spread outside of Jerusalem. It took a persecution to scatter believers into the surrounding areas, making the 1st beachheads of the Gospel. This sermon focuses on getting out of the church house and into the world.
Huddle and Scatter
May 31, 2015
(Adapted from a sermon by John Hamby titled “Gathered but Not Scattered” found on SermonCentral.)
TEXT: Turn to Acts 8
Quotation – I want to read you something by way of introduction, by Tony Evans in a sermon titled “The Power of God’s People”:
In football they have a huddle. The goal of the huddle is to give you thirty seconds to call the play…. [At a professional…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…; the quarterback needs to know where he is going…; the backs need to know where they are going…. 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 (now it costs about $50 to $100). 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 great 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 let’s read our text in Acts 8:1-4 – “And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea 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 havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. 4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.”
We saw last week that Stephen was stoned to death by the Jewish religious leaders. In turn, Stephen’s death snowballed into a massive persecution of the entire church at Jerusalem, which we just read about in our text. This intense persecution against the church caused the saints to scatter. Things began getting really bad for the church.
Luke, the author of Acts, introduces Saul as the person leading the persecution of the church. Verse 3 says that Saul began to “make havoc” of the church, a phrase that literally means “to ravage” and was used of wild boars that ravaged or destroyed a vineyard. (John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), p. 372.)
So great was Saul’s hatred against Christians, that he was wildly raging against them. He stormed the homes of believers, breaking down doors, fiercely seeking every believer in every house, verse 3 tells us. He arrested all he could find, “haling them”—which means constraining or dragging them—using whatever force necessary to arrest and subdue them.
Saul, whom we later know as the Apostle Paul, continued making trouble for the church until God abruptly arrested his attention!
As we consider this event in Bible history, I’d like us to consider two things from this passage:
I. FIRST, THE HUDDLING OF THE DISCIPLES WAS TO OBTAIN POWER
As the text begins, we find the church still located in Jerusalem. God had done a great work there, and many thousands had come to Christ. They were carrying out the Great Commission in a limited way—BUT THEY WERE STILL IN JERUSALEM! In other words, they were still in the huddle.
In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus had commanded, “Go ye therefore, and teach [or “make disciples in”] ALL NATIONS, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…”
First though, Jesus instructed the disciples to wait on the coming of the Holy Spirit. He said in Luke 24:49 – “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”