The book of Acts chronicles the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). What started in one geographic area, in thirty years expanded through Asia Minor, into major European cities, becoming tens of thousands strong in number. This expansion can be seen in a six-stage pattern, each stage concluding with a progress report:
- Acts 1:1 – 6:7 tells of the birth of the Church and the preaching of Peter in Jerusalem.
- Progress Report: “Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith”.
- Acts 6:8 – 9:31 describes the spread of the gospel through Judea, Stephen’s martyrdom, and preaching in Galilee and Samaria.
- Progress Report: “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied”.
- In Acts 9:32 – 12:24 Paul is converted, Cornelius and the gentiles with him in Caesarea are received into the household of God and the gospel spreads to Antioch.
- Progress Report: “The word of God grew and multiplied”.
- Acts 12:25 – 16:5 tells of the gospel extending through Asia Minor through Paul’s ministry journey in Galatia.
- Progress Report: “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily”.
- Acts 16:6 – 19:20 the gospel extends into great European cities, like Corinth and Ephesus.
- Progress Report: “So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed”.
- In Acts 19:21 – 28:31 the gospel reaches the center of the world of that time, Rome, and Paul freely proclaims the gospel and writes significant letters during his imprisonment.
- Progress Report: “Paul… preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him”.
This progress of the gospel in the first century should encourage us today and give us faith for a similar pattern to repeat itself, including a reverse order dynamic in these end times, with the gospel coming back to Jerusalem and all Israel being saved.