In Acts 1:8 we find a commission, much life the great commission of Matthew 28. To take the message of Jesus (aka gospel) , with the power of the Holy Spirit and be his witnesses throughout the world. This very familiar idea can be traced throughout all of scripture. Originally this idea began with Adam and Eve.
Genesis 1:28, “And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” The idea is simple: to go out and multiply and fill the earth. Well, to some extent this mission began, but sin entered the world, and eventually five short chapters later, God wishes he never created mankind. Then a man stands out named Noah, and the mission will again be given after the flood.
Genesis 8: 16-17, “Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee. Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee of all flesh, both birds, and cattle, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.” Once again, the mission is given, and well , un-surprisingly the people of the earth, a few short chapters later, are not exactly fulfilling God’s plan for them.
In Genesis chapter 11 , we see the descendants of Noah’s son’s all gathered in one place. All together they are unified in vision to build a tower to the heavens. Strange as it might seem, I believe the people were being proactive and wise, aware of the flood that happened at most a generation before. They were protecting themselves against such a catastrophe again in the future. However, this flood was brought by God, and He promised never again (rainbow resembling this) would this take place. In their fear of him, they neglected to fulfill the mission given to the sons of Noah. Therefore, God once again intervenes and scatters them all over the face of the earth. Separating them with language and water, and the mission they were to fulfill , would now begin to take its shape.
Fast forwarding thousands of years, we once again return to Acts 1:8. Jesus commissions them to go out and multiply (basically). The family of Christians is suppose to spread, just as it was with Adam and Eve, with Noah, and with the command given to Abraham (Genesis 12, though we did not visit this, similar idea is given; however, the multiplication part would this time be done through God as Abraham went out , God would make him great -Genesis 12:2). This family of Christians begins to grow through Pentecost and thousands are added that day, and this growth continues to multiply daily (Acts 2:38-42). So, unfolding before our eyes is multiplication, but what about the going out?
In Acts 6 we see the multiplying has not stopped, but a problem arises. Grecian widows are being neglected in care, and favoritism toward Hebrew widows is being shown. In light of this, the disciples empower other leaders to join in and help. One of these leaders is named Stephen. Stephen, becomes filled with the Holy Spirit, and his passionate heart quickly becomes noticed. His exuberance, also, becomes recognized by the religious leaders. His zeal for Jesus, eventually leads these leaders to cease him and drag him to the Sanhedrin before the high council. It is here that he delivers an amazing discourse tracing the history of Israel and connecting Jesus to it. As Stephen is coming to an end of his speech, he has a vision and sees Jesus and the throne of God . At this point the religious elite can hear no more, and drive him out of the temple, and outside stone him to death (very interesting to note-that the death penalty was not allowed under their law when Jesus was around [this is why they brought him to the Romans]~what once was not allowed is now permissible ). After Stephen’s death, persecution quickly becomes widespread, and many more are killed who are part of the Way.
The persecution causes panic and people flee, and they end up going all over the place, preaching the good news wherever they went. In a very strange way, and possibly a strange observation on my part, the original command given in Acts 1:8, is now fully being lived out, not only through multiplication, but also through carrying the goods news to other areas.. “And Saul was consenting unto his (Stephens-parentheses mine) death. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church which was in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles”( Acts 8:1).” This persecution spurred the people to fulfill the rest of Acts 1:8. There seems to be some loose connection here to Genesis 11, and this very well may have been God’s plan to push his people to fulfill his will.
Looking in on this whole idea of what is presented here, I believe that God allows persecution to take place on occasions (this is not the rule), where his people are not following through with his command. Though speculative, I believe there is truth amongst this ideology. God’s upper story may allow persecution to take place in your lower story, so that you (and others) carry out his plan. The plan being: going out and multiplying, and sharing the good news ( Luke 9&10 and people of peace -a good model to follow). The Holy Spirit did not come in Acts 1:8 so that we could become “Christians,” and not worry about death. But came to empower us to help bring Jesus’ kingdom in the here and now and not some distant future. Growing the kingdom numerically and geographically and in doing so, stretching God’s rule over the world once again, a day at a time.