For the next two years the church continued to grow despite persecution. In fact, persecution caused much of the growth. As believers were forced to flee from Jerusalem they took the Good News of Jesus with them wherever they want (Acts 8:1). One of the reasons God allowed the persecution was to move the people out so they would fulfill the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). Again God used Satan’s attacks for His purpose (Romans 8:28).
LESSON FOR TODAY: Again we see that God always uses what Satan planned for evil to bring about good (Genesis 50:20). He uses specific individual events intended for evil in the lives of certain individuals, including us, to bring about His plan. He also uses attacks against His Body as a whole and brings good from it as well. God is sovereign over Satan (I John 4:4) and limits what he is allowed to do (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6). Satan and his demons eventually go too far and overplay their hand, causing the person or group they are attacking to become more alert and turn to God for help. When they overplay their hand people become aware that something unusual is happening and they are in a spiritual war (2 Corinthians 2:5-11). Never fear, God is in control, nor panic when it seems demons are winning. God is ALWAYS in control and always has a plan and purpose.
As the church spread into new cultures they found themselves confronted by a different spiritual world view, a greater openness to contact with spiritual forces of any kind. The Jews believed evil spirits were everywhere and behind virtually anything negative. Various and strange means were used to drive demons out, but only had success when they used god’s name, and even then it was minimal.
In the Greco-Roman world ‘magic’ was common and well recognized. Contact with a supernatural power who could bring protection against disease, bring revenge by harming an enemy, cause another to fall in love or to attain power over others or to foretell the future was a part of everyday life. When King Herod heard about Jesus and the miracles He was performing his Greco-Roman world view led him to believe that Jesus really was John the baptizer, the one he had killed, come back to life (Matthew 6:14-16).
When the Jews came into these cultures they brought their deeper understanding of and power over these evil forces. As a result, some who sought to use these forces for their own gain were attracted to the Jews. When Christians started moving into these cultures they brought with them something unknown before – power over unseen forces in the name of Jesus. This, along with physical healings, validated heir message as being from God.
LESSON FOR TODAY: Today, too, we must be aware of the spiritual world view of the culture to which we are ministering. The Western world is, for the most part, closed to recognizing spiritual powers behind what happens. Third World countries, especially those with animistic beliefs, see supernatural powers and forces at work all around them. Demons adapt to and work within the beliefs of the people in the culture where they are assigned. In the West they do all they can to hide their identity but in animistic cultures they do all they can to manifest their presence and therefore bring fear on those around them.
Thus when Philip went to Samaria with their Greco-Roman worldview he faced a different audience than he had in Jerusalem. “When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:6-8).
LESSON FOR TODAY: In cultures today that don’t have a Christian heritage or much of a gospel witness God still uses physical healing and deliverance from demonic influence or even dreams to show His power and bring others to His truth. I personally have seen this many times in India, especially in dark northern India.
(If I can answer questions or offer personal counsel, or if you would like a free copy of my Spiritual Warfare Handbook, email me at Jerry@ChristianTrainingOrganization.org or download it from http://sw.christiantrainingonline.org/. My next book, Spiritual Warfare in the Bible, which is a more advanced treatment of spiritual warfare, is also available there for free.)