Launching A Missions Movement: Acts 1:8

Acts 1:8 is both an outline and a summary of Acts.

What could be more unnatural than the act of leaving your comfortable home to go to a place you’ve never been, to speak a language you don’t know, to love a people you’ve never met. Acts 1:8 is not a story of super-disciples, but a story of a bunch of sinners, just like you and me, who through the power given to them by the Holy Spirit, did the unthinkable to glorify their Lord.

 

Acts 1:8 is both an outline and a summary of Acts. As John Piper preached, “If I had to pick one sentence out of the book of Acts that would state the theme of the book, I think it would be Acts 1:8.” The geographical scope of Acts 1:8 provides an outline of the entire book: Jerusalem (1–7), Judea and Samaria (8–12), the ends of the earth (13–28). As such it can well be considered the ‘theme’ verse of Acts.

In the Gospel of Luke the narrative points the disciples of Christ to Jerusalem, while Acts begins to point believers away from Jerusalem and out into the world. In Judaism everyone came to Jerusalem, now in Christianity we are being told to leave Jerusalem for the world. In Acts 1:7-8 Jesus shocks the disciples telling them it is NOT about Jerusalem; it’s about the world.

Receive Power

The apostles were being sent out to gather nations. They were being called to bear witness to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Jesus was instructing them to preach and teach and explain “the Way” to the world. The apostles were to teach the world about Christ, not his teachings or their application in their lives, but the saving Lord. Jesus was sending these men out to preach and was fortifying their knowledge and abilities with the power of the Holy Spirit.

John Calvin said, “We must always see to it that they be adequate and fit to bear the burden imposed upon them, that is, that they be instructed in those skills necessary for the discharge of their office. Thus Christ, when he was about to send out the apostles, equipped them with the arms and tools which they had to have.”

Jerusalem

Acts1:1 – 8:3 addresses the spreading of the gospel within the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was significant in Jewish history as the unifying capital of the tribes of Israel. The Old Testament pointed to Jerusalem as the location from where the future truth would come. While many viewed this promised coming as a political restoral of Jerusalem, it was indeed the expansion of the witnessing of the gospel of grace.

Today, we are to look at our “Jerusalem” as those individuals living around us. Those souls in our home, our neighborhood, our city and our culture are our Jerusalem. Steve Hughey stated, “Like the early Christians, we should share the gospel with people nearby who are like us, with friends, relatives and neighbors who live in our own ‘Jerusalems.’”

Judea and Samaria

Acts 1:8 next instructs the disciples to witness in Judea and Samaria. Indeed Acts 8:4 – 11:18 addresses the spreading of the gospel in those regions surrounding Jerusalem.

In this segment of their witness the church needed a nudge. Following the martyrdom of Stephen there arose “a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem,” and the believers were “scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” (8:1).

Today, we can see “Judea” as those persons who are similar in culture to us and may include our county or state, while “Samaria” might be considered those of a different culture who live close to us.

End of the Earth

Finally, Acts 1:8 instructs the disciples to be witnesses to the “end of the earth.” Indeed Acts 11:19 through 28:31 are focused on the spreading of the gospel to the rest of the world. The apostles are now called to go beyond known borders and into hostile and unfamiliar cultures. Paul and Barnabas especially encountered people groups with whom they were unfamiliar.

This type of cross-cultural mission work was not a onetime command only for the apostles to obey, but all disciples are called to play a part in being witnesses to foreign lands and cultures. The spread of the gospel is to have no limits and leave no land untouched. God’s calling for his disciples is to reach all lands and all peoples.

Today, we can consider “the end of the earth” as those persons who live in different lands and possess different languages and cultures from ours. Modern disciples of Christ are to continue reaching out to the nations with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our Call

Luke’s work in Acts is centered on receiving power from the Holy Spirit and being witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. This is not some fictional tale…this is our call.

These geographical designations must have been a shock to the disciples. Jerusalem? The Lord was crucified there. Judea? They had previously been rejected there. Samaria? Minister to those half-breeds? The ends of the earth? Gentiles, too? The words were not only spiritually revolutionary, but socially and ethnically unheard of.

What could be more unnatural than the act of leaving your comfortable home to go to a place you’ve never been, to speak a language you don’t know, to love a people you’ve never met. Acts 1:8 is not a story of super-disciples, but a story of a bunch of sinners, just like you and me, who through the power given to them by the Holy Spirit, did the unthinkable to glorify their Lord.

Mike Pettengill is a full-time missionary serving in La Ceiba, Honduras, with Mission to the World. Mike is a team leader of a 12-person mission team. To learn more about the Pettengill’s work in Honduras visit Pettengill Missionaries.

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