The spread of the gospel for the building of the Church was in no way accidental or coincidental, but was perfectly planned by God. If we step back from the story contained in the book of Acts, we can catch glimpses of the sovereignty of the Planner. I cannot help but consider how foreign His ways seems to us today.
“But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is My chosen instrument to carry My name before the Gentiles and their kings, and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for My name!’” Act 9:15-16
The man who had been zealously persecuting the church, was God’s chosen instrument to build the church. And Galatians 1:16 tells us that he had been chosen long before the encounter with Jesus knocked him off his high horse. Paul had been “set apart from birth”.
Would we consider that God would call someone so vehemently against Christianity to become it’s chief champion? Many of the believers of his day didn’t. “When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.” Acts 9:26
“Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” Acts 16:6-7
God didn’t come up with the overall plan and then leave the details to Paul. The whole plan, including the details, belongs to God. Paul thought it would be good to go to Asia, but God wanted them in Macedonia.
We know God has a plan, and that He is still building His Church. But deep down, do we believe that He’s leaving the details up to us?
“One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.’ So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.” Acts 18:9-11
In Acts 22:17, Paul was telling the crowd in Jerusalem the story of his conversion. He told them that the Lord said to him at that time, “Quick! Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.”
The care and protection of God is so clear. He alone knows whether we are to stay put, or get out quick, and He will not hide it from us. Does He still speak to His Church so clearly today? I believe He does. The question is do we hear Him? Or have we become skilled enough at this thing, that we are no longer desperate for the voice of God to direct our next step?
In the overview of Acts, I see the sovereignty of God. His plan for His Church, being carried out by His followers, at His direction. He is sovereign down to the smallest detail.
He has not changed, and neither has His plan.
And if we believe that He is still, in His sovereignty, carefully tending to the building of His Church and the completion of His plan, watching over every detail, setting up divine appointments, and using the most unlikely of people…do we also believe He is doing the very same thing in the individual lives of His followers? Do we view our lives as being the plan of God? Do we see the trials and the shipwrecks as all part of that plan? Do we believe that our coming and going, and the timing of it all, is held in the heart of God?
Or do we know He has a plan, but deep down believe He’s left the details to us?