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Summary: Getting outside the walls

The Scattered Church

Acts 8:4

John Shearhart

August 14, 2011

This might surprise you, but my natural disposition causes me to be a bit of a hermit. If God would let me I’d buy a secret island somewhere in the Pacific, fly to it in a helicopter, build a little hut and spend most of the rest of my life in seclusion.

That’s not really reality, but there are times when a big part of me just wants to be left entirely alone, and I’ve had to work at overcoming that as a pastor.

But I don’t think it’s really all that odd to want to settle where you are and be with what you know. Part of Adam and Eve’s punishment was that they had to leave their home; the folks in Babel were so content that they decided to build themselves a tower and just stay put; it was no small thing for Abraham to leave the land of his fathers to go to some foreign land with God; and the punishment for Israel’s idolatry was displacement in Babylon.

Even the early church was content with staying home—“they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). They were gathering as commanded, and they were even scattering a little bit into the community to preach and work miracles, but it wasn’t until the death of Stephen that they really began to obey the command to go into all the world to be witnesses (Acts 1:8).

But then Stephen was brought before the high priest and condemned for blasphemy because he preached that Jesus was the Messiah. They stoned him to death and that started a great persecution against the rest of the church. A certain man named Saul was particularly ruthless as he kicked in their doors and hauled them off to prison to die; everyone who escaped left behind their houses and property to wander away from home. This sounds like a terrible turn of events, but it was the design of God.

Open your Bibles to Acts 8:4 and look with me at the result:

Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word (Acts 8:4).

I’ve been thinking about this verse a lot lately and how it relates to us. We’re not persecuted so there’s an obvious difference, but there’s a principle here that can’t be ignored.

I wonder if I would be off-base in saying that a church ought to “gather” and “scatter.” We gather together on a special day as one body. There’s a proper order to our meetings and we’ve been instructed to do certain things. We have pastors who teach doctrine, we observe the Lord’s Supper, we fellowship, we pray, and we sing hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs.

But then we break away from our meetings and we scatter “abroad.” For most of us that means we go to our homes and workplaces. We got to the park or to the grocery store or on vacation.

We gather and then we scatter.

In scattering we go “everywhere preaching the word.”

This morning I want to talk to you about this concept. What was happening in that Jerusalem church that ought to happen in all churches everywhere?

First, let’s take note of WHO is being talked about.

Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word (Acts 8:4).

Back in 8:1 we read that everyone except the apostles was scattered throughout the regions. These weren’t ordained and educated pastors—these were just ordinary people. For all we know they were carpenters and fisherman and tent makers.

But they believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and the Savior of the world and that He was worthy to be praised. They were ordinary people, but they were sons of God, cities on a hill, and the salt of the earth!

They couldn’t help but preach the gospel!

Not many of us are teachers. Not many of us are ordained. But all of us who are filled with the goodness of God and who know His righteousness see that it’s good and proper to join with all the saints in telling the whole world of what God has done for us.

Now let’s look at the WHAT in this passage:

Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word (Acts 8:4).

What were they doing? They were “preaching the word.” There are a couple Greek words we might use to define the type of preaching these people were doing. One of the words suggests something official—Paul told Timothy to “preach the word” (II Tim. 4:2). The idea is that Timothy is an authority and a teacher in the church, and it’s his job to preach the truth.

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