It is interesting to note that with every challenge the early believers faced, once corrected or resolved, the Gospel was able to move forward. In the case of Ananias and Sapphira once the Lord's judgment on their deceipt was public the believers recongnized that God was just as active among them and as serious about their devotion as He was when their forefathers wandered in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land (see Num. 12:1-16 and Num. 16). With every challenge there also came a rapid expansion of the Gospel. Luke notes that the response to the demise of Annias and Sapphira was reverence and awe (Acts 5:11) along with an increase in both miracles and converts (vv. 12, 14). The same was true after the issue of uneven benevolence was resolved by appointing deacons to oversee the distribution of food to the needy widows. Widows of both Greek and Aramaic circles were satisfied and numbers increased (Acts 6:6-7).
While it is not pleasant, persecution actually furthers the expansion of the Gospel in two ways. In the first sense, when the identifiable leaders of the early church are arrested or martyred it compels others to step forward and proclaim the Gospel in their place. We don't know much about the "second string" on the Gospel ball field, but we do know they made an impact because the "Church" did not die. Instead it carried on. One of the more notable stories involves a more well-known personality. After Stephen's death and compelled by Saul's "ravaging" persecution of believers in Jerusalem the early church is scattered (Acts 8:4) but this also places disciples like Philip in places where the Gospel is not only heard, it is received (vv. 5-13). Secondly persecution by its geographic aspect forces people to move away broadening the physical area where the Gospel is shared. Take the aforementioned Philip as an example. He leaves Jerusalem and ends up in Samaria- an interesting twist in itself as most devout Jews avoided this area like the plague! Apparently Philip now understands the Gospel is meant for Everyman and he's up to the task to make sure Everyman hears it.
Sadly the remainder of church history does not have the same result yet the parallels between the days of Acts and this writing remain. When I look over the centuries that followed after that which is recorded in Acts, I am saddened to see the erosion of purity and strict adherence to God's Word. But even then believers were admonished to be watchful and discerning considering thoughts and ideologies that were being introduced in their midst (1 Tim. 6:20-21; Titus 2:1, 3:9; 2 Pet.2:1-2; Jude 1:4). A disheartening trend is the infusion of outside beliefs and philosophies which are no longer disregarded but fully embraced within Christendom (Socialism and the New Age to name two). Perhaps the most misguided union was that of Liberalism and Biblcial Studies. Understandably introduced into Christian thought as a result of WWI and WWII, it was never reviewed or reconsidered when its principles not only eroded Biblical authority but even rewrote it (a definite "no-no" in God's eyes- Rev. 22:18-19). However an interesting observation can be made: when sound doctrine is adhered to the church grows in spite of persecution. But as Liberalism in Biblical interpretation grew, the decline of the church's role in culture and society began. Sound doctrine replaced by deconstructionism also replaced the people in the pews with empty spaces.
Yet hope remains that the Gospel will still go forth as it did in the days of Acts. In recent years a tiny virus threatened to shut down the world. Churches alongside businesses and other public institutions were closed to hopefully ward off the spread of Covid 19. At first it seemed to be the final death-blow to the preaching of the Word until local congregations discovered the power of the Internet. People were struggling. They needed answers and lo and behold, churches which stood solidly on the Bible and preached straight from its pages saw an amazing amount of growth thanks to their on-line presence. There are sitll nay-sayers. There is still antagonism and out-right persecution in many places around the globe. But the Word is still going forth as well. How are you a part of it? Hopefully you are like Philip or the many believers we don't know about in Acts that scattered and took the Gospel with them. No matter where you are, or what you are doing, it is what Christ commands you to do (Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 11:19-23). If there is anything we can learn from the early church in Acts today, it's that it's time to get the Word out!
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com;Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre