Jesus had told His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
The question is: How would this take place?
It seems with a commission like that His disciples would have immediately flowed out of Jerusalem into the surrounding countryside to begin to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
But apparently, that’s not how it happened. Not at all.
The ‘going-out’ from Jerusalem wasn’t a voluntary thing at all. It only happened because of extreme persecution. It became so dangerous to remain in Jerusalem for Jesus’ followers that many of Jesus’ followers left the city for surrounding territories. And as the persecution followed to those locations as well, they went further – into all the world eventually. The spread of the Gospel has been inglorious as well as glorious. Accidental as much as intentional.
The one thing we can say for sure: the good news of Jesus Christ does go where His followers have gone. They do take it with them and spread it. The question is how did they get there? The most-often answer in the early-days church is: persecution.
The man known of as Saul of Tarsus is such an interesting character in all of this. It seems he was directly involved in every bit of the spread of the Gospel in the first century. In the first case, he became so enraged by the testimony of Peter and John to the Sanhedrin, and then further by the testimony of all the apostles before the Sanhedrin. Stephen’s testimony to the Sanhedrin was the last straw. Saul had had enough, and he lashed out in brutality against the followers of Christ after first consenting to Stephen’s death by stoning. We are told Saul “made havoc” of the church, attempting to destroy it by killing and imprisoning its membership. As a direct result of this extreme persecution, a diaspora of the first Christians took place. They were running for their lives.
But then we will see Saul himself converted to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He became known of as Paul. The persecutor became one of the persecuted, and as such he became the chief vehicle of the furtherance of the Gospel in the early-days church. Amazing. God’s plan is amazing.