Christ, The Church, The Commission #1 Acts 1:8, 13:1-3Video Link
Introduction: Pseudo- letter from a mission board to Paul the local church missionary
Let me begin by reading to you a recently discovered ancient codex, found in a archeological dig in Ephesus. It is a very exciting find because it give insight into the practice of New Testament Missions and is a letter addressed to Paul.
Rev. Saul (Apostle) Paul
Dear Mr. Paul
We recently received an application from you for service under our Missions Board. It is our policy to be as frank and open-mined as possible with all of our applicants. We have made and exhaustive survey of your case. To be plain, we are surprised that you have been able to "pass" as a bonafide missionary. First, we are told that you are afflicted with severe eye trouble. This is certain to be an debilitating handicap to an effective ministry.
Secondly, we do not allow our missionaries to do part-time secular work. We heard that you are making tents and sails on the side.
Thirdly, In a letter to the Church at Philippi you thanked them for supporting you and the ministry. All funds for our missionaries must come through our board, that they may be equally distributed and our administrative costs deducted.
Fourthly, We do not accept criminals. Your background check shows several run-ins with the law, riots you have caused in several cities and time spent in jail in many cities throughout the Empire. Inquiries to the business community at Ephesus revealed "The man who turned the world upside down." It is rumored that you only escaped being arrested by being let down in a basket over the city wall in Damascus. We require our board approved missionaries to be diplomatic people. They are not stoned, dragged out of the city or assaulted by furious mobs. We require you to take a course based on the book, "How to Win Jews and Influence Greeks" by Dalius Carnagus.
Fifthly, I’m afraid your age is too great for effective missionary service. Surely you can see this as you now sign your letters, “Paul the Aged.” Our mission policy requires mandatory retirement long before your present age.
Sixth, your resume shows that your ministry goals are too unfocused. You have worked in Asia Minor, then Macedonia, then Greece, the Holy Land and then Italy, and now you are talking about a taking off to Spain. Truly you must realize that you cannot win the whole world by yourself!
Also it must be pointed out that your sermons are too long for modern hearers. At one place you talked until after midnight and a young man was so sleepy that he fell out of the window and broke his neck. In reality, nobody is saved after the first 20 minutes of a sermon.
It should be noted that our missionaries will be required to help increase fund to the mission board. I say this to you because in a recent sermon you said, "God forbid that I should glory in anything save the Cross of Christ." That sounds good but you must also glory in our cooperative missions program, Easter and Christmas Missions initiatives and of course the unified denominational budget.
I am sorry to say this, for you seem a sincere preacher, brother Paul, but you do not meet the requirements of our Missions board. If we accepted you, we would break every principle of modern missionary practice. - Most Sincerely yours, Felix Flavius, Sec Foreign Missions Board.
Now I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that the letter is not real, but I wanted to try and draw a contrast between the missions Jesus intended and the modern missionary work of so many today.
It helps to understand the commission of Acts 1:8 if we also read Luke 24:46 – 51, where Luke first recorded the commission Jesus gave His church.
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. 49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
Then Luke gives us more details in Acts 1:1-8, where he takes up the story for the man Theophilus that he wrote both the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles for.
The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
The People of Bible Missions - Acts 1:8
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Jesus addresses a group of people just before He ascends into heaven. He say, “Ye.” Now here is another advantage of the KJV, they left the ye’s, the thee’s and the thou’s in the text. And we can see it here, This is the 2nd person plural of (you) esesthe in Greek. It means all of you or in Texas, we just say ya'll. Though I can’t see Jesus speaking with a southern drawl and saying “y’all”
So who is the ye Christ was speaking to? Who are these people assembled to see Christ ascend to heaven? You don’t have to be a Bible detective to know that those folks gathered that day on top of Mt. of Olives were the first church of Jesus Christ. Acts 1:15 tells us the number of names together were about 120. It would be a valid assumption to think that those same people on the Day of Pentecost were the same ones, in the same city that Jesus, during his ascension, told to remain in Jerusalem until they received power after the Holy Spirit came upon them.
How do we know they were already a church? What scripturally constitutes a church?
Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 that he would build his church. The word he used was ekklesia in the Greek. It is a compound word that comes from ek which means out of and kaleo which means to call. Together it means a called out assembly.
Today, we would say that the church is a group of baptized believers, called out by Christ and covenanted together, to preach carry out the Great Commission.
These 120 certainly meet that definition. Even more than that we can see it was a fully functioning church because…
It had the Ordinances John 3, Luke 22:14
It had the guidance of the Holy Spirit, though not His power John 20:22
It had a ministry to the poor John 13:29
It had missions in Samaria and in the Gentile land of Caesarea Philippi John 4
It had a youth program Mark 10:13-14
Only thing they didn't have was a fellowship building, a lady’s fellowship room and a youth room with an air hockey table.
So, the “you” of Bible Missions in Acts 1 was the church of Jesus Christ.
Who is the you of today’s missions? Well it’s the same answer. It the people of the Lord's church today. The same church that Jesus promised he would empower and perpetuate. Promising that not even the gates of Hell would overcome it. This should be understood in three ways.
The Local Church and Missions: First individually, each one of us is personally responsible to witness for Jesus Christ to be a part of Jesus plan for Biblical missions.
The special person called to do missionary work is every person who is a member of the church of Christ. The call does not come to a chosen few, it is to every one of us. - Oswald Chambers (1874-1917)
Secondly Corporately, Act 1 verse 8 also means all of us corporately as the body of Christ, together we as a church are responsible for missions. We must be a church that supports missionaries in the work of carrying out the Great Commission and a church, if the Lord blesses, that sends missionaries from our own church family.
Finally Cooperatively, We as a church working together with other local churches to send, receive and support missions, but only directly with other local churches, never through a board, a fellowship, or a clearinghouse. Those are never seen in scripture. This is what we find in scripture…
Scripture Philippians 4:14-19 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.
What were they doing? Supporting Paul as a missionary sent out by the church in Antioch with their offerings.
Shackleton’s Expedition to Antarctica
The following advertisement appeared in London newspapers in 1900: MEN WANTED FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success. Ernest Shackleton.
Sir Ernest Shackleton had placed this ad to recruit men for the National Antarctic Expedition and was overwhelmed by the tremendous response that it generated. "It seemed, " he later said, "as though all the men in Great Britain were determined to accompany me.” - Wm Bennett, The Book of Virtues (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1993), p. 493.
When we read the book of Acts, we remember the great commission given to us by Jesus Christ the founder and sustainer of our church, we should be excited to respond to the monumental task of being a mission minded, missionary loving church.
So the people of Biblical missions is we, the church. Next let’s see what it is that we are supposed to do. What is the Action of Bible Missions. Read again Acts 1:8
The Power of Bible Missions -Act 1:8
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth
The Power To Be Witnesses!
Jesus told them, “after the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you are to be my witnesses, witnesses unto me.” The task, the commission Jesus gives his church, is to be a witness that belongs to him and is a witness of who He is. So, lets take a moment and explore, exactly what is a witness?
The word, witness, comes from the Greek work martus. It means one who can testify or tell what they have seen, heard or know.
This is also the word transliterated into English from which we get the word Martyr. This is the ultimate act of testimony and being a witness, for it adds to the words of our testimony by sealing it and proving its veracity, by the death of the one who testifies.
This was no small task, that Jesus assigned to them and it would not be possible except through the power that Jesus promised. You shall receive power after the Holy Ghost is come upon you. This would happen in Jerusalem about 10 days after Jesus ascension. It was on that day that power was given to the church. It was not the day the church began that took place while Jesus was on the earth, but it was the day ordinary people became extraordinary. It was the day that natural people were indwelt with the supernatural. It was the day the church was baptized in the Holy Spirit and were filled with His power and they went out to the streets and they were witnesses of Him.
(A Side Note) Please understand the church was baptized in the Holy Spirit, not by the Holy Spirit. By definition, to be baptized is to be immersed. Scripturally speaking, Jesus baptized His church in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost to show this was His house of witness, just at God filled the tabernacle and the temple with the Shekinah glory, the fire of God, in the Old Testament showing those were His House of Witness.
This is exactly what John the Baptist said He would do in Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost,
The baptism of the Holy Spirit occurred once, and once only. It was the baptism of the church. As individuals we are convicted of our sin and need for Christ by the Holy Spirit, receive the Holy Spirit at salvation, we are guided to truth by the Holy Spirit, are sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption, and we should strive to be filled with the Holy Spirit, but we are not baptized by the Holy Spirit. Jesus only baptized one time and that was His church on the Day of Pentecost, He immersed them in the Holy Spirit and they received power to be witnesses, no matter the cost.
The commission of Jesus was given to His church, empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit both corporately through baptism and individually through indwelling. No other institution has the authority or the power given by Jesus to do the work of missions but the church. And when I say church I mean the local, visible church.
Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-19 All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore,… Jesus power, His authority is given to those assembled in Jerusalem and from them it passed to the other local assemblies that would be founded upon the same teachings that He had taught them.
And for those who think mission should be done through outside agencies, boards or association instead of the local church. I have to ask who are you contending with, who are you doubting? If Jesus commanded it, empowered it and commissioned it then who would dare ignore Him.
Will I Be Empowered?
The power to be able to be a witness, the power to witness even to the giving of my life is not natural for us, but it is supernatural in us if we are God’s children for it comes through the gift of the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said in Matthew 10:16-20 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
That is supernatural, that is the gift of the Spirit of the Father, He would give the words to speak. What is true in times of persecution, I also believe is also true in all times of being a witness. It is the same principle, the same foundational element of all that is Christianity. It is Faith, faith in the Lord's promises and faith in the Lord's power in us through the Holy Spirit.
The Lord told his local church, First Baptist Church of Jerusalem, to be witnesses for and of Him. He then empowered the church, and ultimately us, to be able to do what He has commanded and commissioned us to do!
If we are to fulfill the New Testament model of missions, then we must answer the question, Are we being witnesses for Jesus Christ in the power of Holy Spirit? Are our words, testimony, finances and our actions, giving evidence of who Jesus is and what he has done in my own life?
Being a witness is more than just the words we say, it is who you are. You don’t just witness, you are the witness. Jesus said, “You shall be witnesses of me.” You are the witness.
You were a lost sinner who has now been saved by the grace of God are you showing it? You are a now a child of God, on your way to heaven, are you joying in it? You are a Christian indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit are you glowing in it?
It comes down to this, “Be what you!” Be what Jesus told us we would be, a witness of Him. Share that testimony with your words, your actions, your money and your life. You are the expert witness Jesus calls upon to tell others who He is to you. The world is see and judging our testimony.
Let me give you a couple of examples. There is the story of a missionary doctor in India, who come to a very remote village and found a man who was blind, but the blindness was caused by inflammation and easily cured with a salve he carried with him. He applied the medicine and in just a few days the blind man could see. He was so grateful to the doctor when his sight returned but then the next morning he was gone with a goodbye. The missionary thought this was strange but put it down to a culturally response. A few days after that the same blind man came back into the medical compound holding rope which was leading 48 blind people back to the doctor that cured him. When asked where he had gone, he replied, “When I could see again. I knew I must find others and tell them of the man who have me back my sight.” That man was being a witness.
Let me give you one other example, when Harry Truman visited the Vatican, this is what he signed in the Vatican guest book, "Harry Truman, Baptist." You may say what you want to about Harry Truman being a Democrat, but when he signed that book, he didn’t sign it Democrat or even President, he signed it, “Baptist.” He was not ashamed or embarrassed to state that he was a member of a Baptist church even in the heart of the Roman Catholic Kingdom.
There is one last consideration for us to understand in Acts 1:8 and that is the place for Biblical Missions.
The Place of Bible Missions - Acts 1:8
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth
Where (They Went)
Jesus said they were to be witnesses of him both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, in Samaria and to the then to the uttermost.
This verse is a table of contents of the book of Acts: in Jerusalem covers chapters 1-7; in all Judea, and in Samaria covers chapters 8:1-11:18; and unto the uttermost part of the earth covers 11:19 to the end of the book. – Wycliffe Commentary
Jerusalem was where the first church was located. If you walked down the street where the upper room was found you would have seen a sign that said, “1st Independent Baptist Church of Jerusalem.” You only think I’m kidding about that. We know they were Baptist because they immersed in water and we know they were independent because they were the only ones around. The Lord only founded a church not an association, convention or denomination.
So the 1st Independent Baptist Church was in Jerusalem, that was their starting point, where their church was when Jesus ascended from the Mount of Olives just 3000 feet from the city, but he told them to also, at the same time, go throughout Judea. This was their state or region inside the Roman Empire.
Then, they were also to go to Samaria. The was the country to the north, a place the Jews avoided because they historically didn’t like the people who lived there.
And just in case they didn’t fully understand what Jesus envisioned, he told them, you shall be my witnesses to the uttermost part of the earth, to the ends of the earth, to the farthest kingdoms and nations around the world. They had no idea just how big that final clause of the commission would turn out to be, but Jesus knew and he had already given them the order, the power and the foundation of the local church that would make “unto the uttermost” not only possible but even common place.
One day Rome would conquer the savage and pagan lands of Britannia, Germanica and Albion, and the church would send missionaries. Some believe that Paul made it all the way to Wales before he returned to Rome and was arrested and executed by Nero.
This infant church that day on Mt. Olivet could not know that one they across the great ocean, they would discover a new world, filled with even more pagans and savages but when it happened, as Jesus knew it would, the church also knew they needed to send missionaries there carrying the same Gospel that had been preached in Jerusalem 1500 years before.
(Will We Go) There?
Are you going to your Jerusalem, Athens, Texas in Henderson, County.
It is our job to tell Athens the gospel. According to the latest demographics for our Jerusalem, there are 12,797 people who live in Athens. 74% of those people speak English while 23% speak Spanish and probably English as well. They are mostly from Athens and Texas but there are people from all around the world living right here. We have all ages, all income levels, all education levels and all of them are our responsibility to be witnesses when the Lord opens the door. Am I willing to go to my friends, coworkers, neighbors in Athens, Texas.
Our Judea is the great Lone Star state of Texas.
If we as a church are going to be witnesses to both to Jerusalem and Judea then we better should be praying and looking for God called, church sent missionaries to our state and nation. My Grandfather, Van George was a church planter in Cooper, Texas. He used to say, “Foreign missions will fail, unless home missions prevails.” We need to be supporting home missionaries.
Our Samaria, is the neighboring states and countries,
These can only be reached through local church sent missionaries carrying the gospel on our behalf.
Right now we have the Chaces in Hawaii and the Burbidges in Canada. I think that again we as a church are failing in this part of the Acts 1:8 mandate. We simply are not supporting enough missionaries to our Judeas and our Samarias.
Finally, Our uttermost is the rest of the world.
Praise God for the Cashners, in Scotland; the Hollands, in Papua New Guinea, the Lotts, in Guatemala; the Nomuras in Japan; the Norbergs, who have just returned from South Africa; the Thomases, in Costa Rica; the White families in Germany; the Rivases in Amazing Grace Children's Home – Mexico; the Anderssons in Sweden, the Holmses, in the Ukraine; and the Rosenbalms, in Ghana.
These are the supported and prayed for missions of Calvary Baptist Church. We should never cease to thank God for allowing us to share in this eternal, glorious work and we should ask God for forgiveness if we are not personally involved in sending the light by witnessing ourselves and by giving to missions here and around the world.
The Dying Thief didn’t Give
A minister once asked a man why he did not give of his time and money to help support the work of Christ in missions. "Well," said the man, "the dying thief did not help with missions; and he was saved, wasn't he?" "Yes," said the preacher, "I believe he was; but you must remember that he was a dying thief, whereas you are seem to be a living one.” - Glen V. Wheeler, 1010 Illustrations, Poems and Quotes, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing, 1967), p. 214.
Conclusion: God’s Authority through the Local Church
Several years ago I was attending a Missions conference in Monterrey, Mexico, a missionary from a Baptist church in Mexico was introduced who was going to Africa, another to Cuba, others to Central America. All over the world today there are believers, missionaries and churches where logically and realistically, they should not be. Churches in communist countries where they say God does not exist. Missionaries in Moslem countries where it is illegal and a capital offense to preach in Jesus’ name. Believers and churches in countries all around the world, where their testimony is enough to have them arrested and thrown in jail. Yet, still they are there!
They are there with nothing more than the authority of their local church and the prayers and support of other local churches. Did I say nothing more? I should have said nothing less than the full power and authority of the Church of Jesus Christ! There is no greater authority, there is no greater power given to any institution on earth greater than the power and authority that was given by Jesus Christ to his local church. It is the power that breaks borders, overcomes obstacles and supersedes the strongholds of Satan.
Story of a Missionary. PV Zugg Missionary was a missionary to the Muslims of Egypt and the Jews of Jerusalem. He was a missionary to Israel, Lebanon and Egypt all places where he is not allowed by man's law to preach the Gospel of Christ. In the 1970's while driving with his family in Turkey a truck struck his station wagon injuring him and killing his wife. This left him on his own and with several adopted children from the mission field to raise. He is gone to be with the Lord now but when I knew him he was in his eighties but still travelling to churches across the United States and back to churches in Egypt and Lebanon that he, his wife and family had help start in the 1950's. Where did he get his power? How could he keep going with all the stress of being a missionary without a wife, traveling alone across the United States and with the burden and sorrow of the years? How could he do it? Why would he do it? Because he believed the Creator of the Universe, the Rock of Ages upon which the church was built, gave His church the commission, authority, the vision and the power to be a witness of Jesus our Savior. Then that same local church laid their hands on him one day as a young man and passed that same authority, vision and power on to him. Bro. Zugg believed that Jesus himself had given him through the church the keys to the kingdom of heaven and no worldly lock could stay unopened.
I could tell you of Ed and Solkvary Fort, or Holley Bowling, or Chet Furrow and many, many others. Missionaries I have met, worshipped with, prayed for and read their reports of God working in places and through people that couldn’t have worked except in the power of God. None of these missionaries and their families would have been allowed on the mission field if it was by the authority of a board or association and many fellowship or clearing houses would have rejected them. But their local churches believed in the promise of Jesus Christ and chose to obey His commission.
Calvary Baptist Church that is the same choice we must make. We must believe that Jesus established our local church to be a witness of Him in Athens in Texas, and around the world until He comes again. This is our commission, our authority, our vision, carried out in His power. This is our commandment, no one else’s, it is ours. We must commit ourselves to being what we are called to be, witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ in every aspect and detail of what being a witness means.