In chapter eight of Acts there are many patterns for us to follow today. In particular, the patterns in this chapter are related to the preaching of the gospel. In this message we shall begin to consider the patterns in Acts 8.
Acts 8:4 says, “Those therefore who were scattered went about the land bringing the good news of the word.” It was sovereign of God that the scattering of the believers from Jerusalem to other localities through the persecution should carry out the spreading of the gospel for the fulfillment of the Lord’s word in 1:8 (see 11:19).
The first pattern in Acts 8 is that of the preaching of the gospel through the scattering of the saints. In Jerusalem, the gospel preaching was carried out mainly by the apostles. Although this also is a pattern, it is not the unique pattern for our gospel preaching. If it were the unique pattern, then the preaching of the gospel would be limited. Therefore, in 8:4 we have another pattern of the preaching of the gospel—the preaching of the gospel through the scattering, the migrating, of the saints.
In Acts 8 we do not have the words “migrate” or “migration.” Nevertheless, migration is implied by the word “scattered.” The scattering of the saints was actually a migration.
Before the scattering of the saints in 8:4, there were many thousands of believers in Jerusalem. Like most people, they probably did not desire to move; instead, they may have wanted to settle there. But the Lord is sovereign, for He is the Leader, the Ruler of the kings. Although Satan instigated the persecution against the church, the Lord is over Satan, and whatever Satan does is under the Lord’s sovereignty. Therefore, the persecution in chapter eight actually worked out for the spreading of the gospel, because thousands of believers were scattered throughout the lands of Judea and Samaria. Through this scattering the good news was brought to many cities. Here we have the pattern of the preaching of the gospel through the migration of the saints.
For many years in the Lord’s recovery we have been practicing the matter of migration. For example, many saints were gathered to Los Angeles from 1962 until 1970. Then in 1970 we began to migrate, and the migration was a great success. When the saints migrate, the gospel goes out with them. The migrating saints bring the gospel wherever they may go.
All the churches should follow the pattern in 8:4 concerning migration. The saints should not stay in a certain place for too long. On the contrary, we all should be migrants, following in the footsteps of our father Abraham. Abraham was a river-crosser; he migrated from Chaldea to Canaan. Like Abraham, we should not be permanently settled. We all should learn to migrate.
For some years many of the saints in this country were reluctant to migrate. But we thank the Lord that recently the saints have begun to migrate again. In the last year a number of churches have been raised up through the migrating of the saints.
The saints in all the churches should be encouraged to migrate. If the saints in a certain locality do not migrate, eventually that locality will become a “Dead Sea.” The Dead Sea is a reservoir for the water from the river Jordan. Once the water from the Jordan reaches the Dead Sea it does not proceed any farther. If the church in a particular locality is to avoid becoming such a Dead Sea, a “canal” must be dug to allow the “water” to flow out. Perhaps ten percent of the saints in a locality may migrate each year. This will allow for the necessary outflow without devastating the church. Furthermore, if water is allowed to flow out, more water will flow in.
Using the illustration of a hose, we may say that every church should be like a hose that is open at both ends. When a hose is open in this way, water is able to flow in and out. But if water is not able to flow out of a hose, nothing more will be able to flow in. How much water flows in depends on how much flows out. If we want the church to increase, there must be the outflow. Only when there is an outflow can the church in a certain locality be preserved from becoming a Dead Sea.
However, the migration of the saints is not a legality. The point we are making is that the churches need to follow the pattern in 8:4. This means that, in principle, we should be willing to migrate.
From my own experience I can testify of the importance of migration. At first, I did not want to move but preferred to settle down in one place. But the Lord is the Ruler of the kings, and He did not allow me to settle down. Instead, He caused my life to be a life of traveling. I moved here and there, and eventually I came to the United States. After spending more than twenty years in this country, I am burdened to spend more time in Taiwan because of the need in the churches there.
I encourage you all to pick up the burden to migrate. We should migrate not for the sake of our living but for the sake of the gospel. The Lord called Abraham, and Abraham migrated. In following the Lord, Abraham had no lack. Likewise, as we migrate for the gospel’s sake the Lord will meet our needs. To migrate for the gospel is to migrate for the Lord, since the gospel is actually the Lord Himself. The first pattern found in chapter eight of Acts is the migration of the saints for the spreading of the gospel.
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