Early Christian Missionaries
Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:22)
For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light of revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Your people Israel. (Luke 2:30-32)
Who were the first witnesses for Christ? The first people to sacrifice their lives for the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the light of revelation reflecting the radiant Glory of our risen Christ? We find them in the book of Acts (Acts 8: 1-4), this is right after the stoning of Stephen and there is a great persecution of believers. All believers apart from some of the apostles, scattered throughout Judea and Samaria and they preached the word wherever they went. Jesus very clearly told them to look beyond Jerusalem and bring the gospel to Judea, Samaria, and the whole world. But to this point, Jesus’ followers had not done this. They may have stopped in Jerusalem and made a great church there were it not for the persecutions; but instead, they were blown away like the spores of a mushroom or like seeds, planting the word of God in the hearts of all the people. Sometimes God will shake us out of our comfort zone in order for His will to be done. And in this case the end result of the persecution was God’s glory. So, my fellow believers let our lives be a seed for Christ wherever we may go.
In Acts 8 we meet the first believers to leave Jerusalem, though at this time they mostly preached to the Jews (Acts 11:19); but who was the first person to go out and spread the Good News to the Gentiles? This was Paul. Now let’s go back to Acts 7 and meet Paul, rather, let us go back and meet Saul. Saul was a young man at the time, a young zealous man with loyalties that lay on the wrong side. As the Sanhedrin rushed at Stephen in rage to stone him, they left their garment at Saul’s feet (Acts 7:57-58); and in chapter 8 we see that Saul consented with pleasure and delight, the stoning of Stephen. Fueled by the murder of Stephen, he became more furious in his persecution of the church of Jesus Christ. It is hard to believe that this is the very same man whose letters we read in the new testament, who would later become the greatest preacher of the Gospel. A thing to be admired is Paul’s single-minded focus and dedication. He was always earnest no matter what he did. When he persecuted, he did it with all his might; and when he was converted, then he preached with all his might.
Let us now fast forward to Acts 13, where Paul and Barnabas are called to leave their church in Antioch and they heeded the voice of the Lord and left. First, they went to the Jewish synagogues but the Jews rejected the good news and so they went to the Gentiles who received the word with gladness (Acts 13:48-49). This was the beginning of the Christian movement and as we read through the book of Acts, we will read about the persecutions and all the sacrifices made to further the good news to the lost. It is the same even in the recent history of Christian missions. In 1956 a group of five young men gave up their lives to the cause, in an attempt to share the good news with the Aucas tribe. This sacrifice led to an upsurge of missionaries and even opened the door to the Aucas.
I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them in as well, and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:16)
Christian Missions is dotted with men who loved God above their very own lives and their purpose was obedience to the utmost regardless of the cost. The invitation to carry the Gospel forth remains binding on the Church of Jesus today, but the sad reality is that there are still many that are yet join the fold. Will you go for them?