Monday, October 22, 2012

Scattered Seed

Scattered Seed

The religious rulers had decided upon a policy regarding the heresy called Christianity: Attack, Assault and Arrest. Saul became their chief Enforcer, ravaging the church in Jerusalem and surrounding towns.

"Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city." Acts 8:4-8 (ESV)

The Christians were scattered.

SCATTERED: diaspeiro (to sow throughout, to distribute); from dia (through, as a channel) and speiro (to scatter or sow); from spao (to draw)

Elsewhere, the Bible describes this scattering as extending throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, as far as Phenice, Cyprus and Antioch. (Acts 8:1, 4; 11:19)

Jerusalem is in the region called Judea, which includes Mount Ebal to the north and the Dead Sea (Lake Asphaltitus) to the south.

Phenice (Phoenix) is modern-day Loutro, a harbor on the island of Crete.

Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean.

Antioch (Hatay, Turkey) is about 300 miles north of Jerusalem, 15 miles from the Mediterranean Sea, on the Orontes River, at the meeting of the mountains of Lebanon and Taurus.

Saul was forcibly entering houses of families known to be Christian, violently arresting the adults, binding and imprisoning them.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How did Saul know which houses to invade? Could the same thing happen in our town, in our current political and social condition? If such persecution began today, to where would you most likely escape? What towns, states or countries would you right now expect to be more open to religious freedom?

"Scattered" is from a word that means to sow seed for growing plants. The root word, "speiro" occurs 57 times in the New Testament, all of the instances reference some spiritual truth that has its parallel in sowing seeds.

Jesus described Scripture that speaks of God's kingdom as being seeds, sown in different types of soil, with different results with each sowing. (Matthew 13:18)

Another time, Jesus used a story of good seeds and weed seeds, meaning people chosen by God for eternal life in His presence, and people destined for an eternity separated from Him. (Matthew 13:31)

Jesus compared Himself to a farmer sowing good seed. He was describing people who were either "sons of the kingdom" or "sons of the evil one". The good seed were given His righteous standing with God. The weeds, the "sons of the evil one" were gathered and burned with fire.

The apostle Paul considered his preaching to be a form of sowing spiritual seeds, bringing a harvest of people belonging to the kingdom of Jesus. (1 Corinthians 9)

Our natural bodies are also described as a type of seed. Born into the world, with weakness and sin, at death our bodies are buried into the ground. For the Christian, however, that burial is a spiritual sowing of seed that grows into a glorious, powerful, imperishible new spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15)

Sowing seed is sometimes compared with charitable contributions: tithes, offerings and gifts. God has promised to meet every need of ours, physical as well as spiritual, and His generosity should encourage us to be willing to give freely to other. The apostle Paul described gifts as seeds of generosity that will bring a rich harvest, for ourselves as well as for the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 9)

Finally, sowing seed is compared to thoughts, words, images and behavior that we allow into our lives.

"Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." Galatians 6:7-8 (ESV)

The violent ravaging by Saul resulted in sowing of spiritual seeds. Christians fled the oppressive and dangerous city of Jerusalem, many ending up hundreds of miles away, in cities and cultures completely different than their own.

Everywhere they went, they spoke about what was most important them: the words of Jesus.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? It seems that our all-powerful, sovereign, wise and good God could have spread the words of Jesus in a way that did not require such a violent, tragic initiation. What might have been God's reason? What is it about violence and oppression that would allow an advantage for preaching the gospel to others? Are the churches in our city too comfortable, too inoffensive, too quiet?