A Common Misconception About The Church’s Mission Is That It’s Only Accomplished By A Few Important Figures.
The church began as a subset of Judaism, but it wasn’t long before Gentiles began to be incorporated. The first Gentile convert was the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-38).
Shortly thereafter, Peter went to Cornelius’ house, where he and his household believed in Christ and received the Holy Spirit. And around this time an interesting thing happened: believers in Joppa called upon Peter to heal a woman named Tabitha, who is already described as a “disciple”, meaning of Jesus (Acts 9:36-43).
This is important, first, because it meant there were Gentile believers already in Joppa who had not been directly converted by the apostles (Tabitha was a Gentile name, and Joppa was a predominantly Gentile city). It meant the Gentile mission was taking on a life of its own. Second, it meant a very cool payoff in God’s story. Joppa is the setting of a story only twice in the Bible. Here and in the story of Jonah (Jonah 1:3).
In that story, Jonah goes to Joppa to catch a ship traveling away from Nineveh, trying to run from God’s call for him to preach to the Gentiles. In Acts, unnamed preachers had already heeded the call to go to this city to save the Gentiles ahead of Peter’s call. Kind of cool.
We tend to think of the Book of Acts as being primarily about the mighty works of Peter and Paul, but it took countless believers sharing their faith for the church’s mission to be accomplished.
Christianity began to spread to Gentiles through the efforts of many unnamed people – some on mission (Acts 11:19-21), some in their secular travels, often slaves and merchants. Christianity had now become a self-sustaining, self-propagating religion independent from the oversight of the apostles (more about this in future episodes).
We tend to think of the Book of Acts as being primarily about the mighty works of Peter and Paul, but it took countless believers sharing their faith for the church’s mission to be accomplished. It’s easy to overlook these people, but we do so to our own detriment because very few make it on the “key figures” list of church history. But that doesn’t mean our quiet, faithful actions aren’t essential to the life and mission of the church.
Even though the gospel quickly spread to the Gentiles, the Gentiles remained a minority in the church. However, the number of Gentile believers was about to explode into the overwhelming majority that continues to this day. We will look at how this came to be in the next episode.