Go Into All the World

Jesus commanded his followers to "go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation?" (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). It took his followers a while to understand the good news and what all the world meant, but as the Holy Spirit opened their hearts and minds, they began to go. Was the world prepared for them and their life-changing message? The answer is a resounding yes!

God had a specific strategy in mind for sending his message of salvation to the world. In Romans 1:16, Paul summarized it in this way: "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, and then for the Gentile" (italics added).

God commanded his people to reach the Jews first. Why? Because they were expecting the Messiah and were prepared to understand the gospel message because it involved the fulfillment of the Old Testament, which they knew. Also, God may have wanted Jews in each community to help Gentiles understand the roots of their newfound faith. So, when Paul, Silas, Barnabas, and other believers traveled to a new location, they went to the local synagogue and preached the news of Jesus Christ there. (See Acts 9:19).

Although we don?t know who started the church in Sardis, Jews were already living there when the early missionaries arrived with the gospel. In fact, hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth, God used pagan rulers to scatter Jewish populations across Asia Minor. For example, it is likely that Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon exiled Jews to Sardis when he destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC. Later, Cyrus of Persia encouraged more Jews to move to Asia Minor, and Antiochus' the pagan Greek king' brought two thousand Jewish families to Asia Minor during the third century, BC.

Some of the descendants of these Jews were in Jerusalem during Pentecost (Acts 2:9), while others lived in cities such as Sardis-a key, influential city at the crossroads of the world. The Jewish presence in Asia Minor dramatically increased the impact and spread of the gospel. Truly God is in control of all things. All things work toward his plan (Rom. 8:28), and God can use evil for good.

Today, God still does 'advance' planning! Often he prepared the hearts of unbelievers so they'll become open to receiving the message of the Messiah. What's important is that we will be faithful to God's call and depend on him to bring the spiritual fruit.