Unity - God's Aim from the Beginning
Acts 8 and 11
After the death of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, a great persecution arose in Jerusalem. With the exception of the apostles, believers were scattered, some to Judaea and Samaria, and others to Antioch which was situated in Syria several hundred miles north of Jerusalem. This is reported in Acts 8:1-25 and 11:19-26.
These believers, who probably had been able to take very little with them in their flight, did not lament their sad lot or try to acquire new property and belongings in their new places. They did something entirely different. Those who had been scattered "went every where preaching the word" (Acts 8:4) and those who travelled as far as Phenice, Cyprus and Antioch preached the word and announced "the glad tidings of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 11:19-20, J.N.D. Trans.), first to the Jews only but later to the Greeks as well. How much these displaced believers must have been filled with the joy of salvation and love to their Lord and to the lost ones, that their outward circumstances could not prevent them from passing on the glad tidings which had so radically transformed their own lives. The Lord appears to have used this very situation in order to have His command to the disciples put into practice: "ye shall be witnesses unto Me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
It is remarkable that the Lord did not use the apostles or other well-known brothers for this ministry in the first stage of the growth of the assembly beyond Jerusalem. He used completely unknown brothers (and sisters) whose names are not mentioned. The only exception is Philip, one of the seven men who had been chosen by the assembly in Jerusalem to "serve tables."
No special development
The apostles soon learned how great a work the Lord had done by using the believers who had fled from Jerusalem. But Samaria was an area that had always been despised by the Jews (cf. John 4:9), and Antioch was situated in heathen Syria. The Jews did not entertain any fellowship with the inhabitants of either area. What should happen now that men and women in those areas had received the Lord Jesus?