Monday, February 17, 2020

The Spread of the Gospel

"As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda" (Acts 9:32)

After Saul was converted, he remained in Damascus and helped proclaim the Gospel. After a while a great conflict arose, and there was a conspiracy to kill him. With the help of the other believers, he escaped to Jerusalem, and again the unbelievers tried to kill him. So the church moved him to Caesarea and then to Tarsus.

If we look at a map, we see that in the first part of Acts 8, the Gospel was taken north of Jerusalem to Samaria. In the second part of Acts 8, the Gospel was taken south of Jerusalem in the direction of Gaza, where an Ethiopian from a nation far to the south was converted. In the first part of Acts 9, the Gospel was taken east to Damascus. Now in Acts 9:32–43, we find Peter taking the Gospel west to Lydda, Joppa, and then Caesarea.

Lydda, Peter’s first stop, was about twenty miles west of Jerusalem on the way to Joppa, which was about twelve miles farther. In Lydda, Peter healed a lame believer named Aeneas, and the whole city converted to the faith. Then Peter was summoned to Joppa by two men who told him that one of the most faithful and important women in the church had died. Her name was Dorcas, and she had a significant ministry helping widows and the poor. Peter prayed for her and then raised her from the dead. As a result, many in Joppa also believed in the Lord (Acts 9:32–43).

Peter lodged in Joppa with Simon the tanner. A tanner treats the skins of dead animals. It was not forbidden to touch carcasses, but those who did so contracted ceremonial uncleanness (Leviticus 11:27–28, 39–40), and there was an unfair but understandable social prejudice against tanners. By moving in with Simon the tanner, Peter made visible the fact that the old covenant laws of uncleanness had been overcome in the new covenant.

From Joppa, Peter was summoned on to Caesarea (10:22), the next major city on the northern and eastern route. There Cornelius was baptized into the new covenant faith, and Peter returned to Jerusalem to report. After this, Peter’s initial westward penetration was picked up by Paul, whose missionary journeys led progressively westward until he reached Rome.

How is the Gospel spreading in your town, city, or metropolitan area? Does your church have a strategy for reaching ever wider through ministries of the church and community, and by supporting missionaries around the world? Evaluate your part in the spread of the Gospel.