TODAY’S READING: Acts 1–3
After Jesus rose from the dead, He spent forty days filling His disciples with hope and joy regarding the kingdom He would establish when He came back (Acts 1:3). Being as slow to understand then as we are now, they asked if He was referring to a here-and-now kingdom (v. 6). Jesus answered by pointing them to the priority of the age of humans: the mission of God—a representative portion of every ethnic group worshiping Jesus eternally. Toward that end Jesus said, “Don’t focus on earthly kingdoms. Put all your energy into making disciples of all the nations. Put all your hope on the day when I come back to rule and reign. And in order to do this, you are going to need My Spirit!”
This promise to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth is perhaps one of the most misinterpreted. We tend to say this verse means we start at home, reach those around us, and then in ever expanding circles take the gospel further out. The fly in that hermeneutical ointment is verse 11 when two men appear and address the disciples as “men of Galilee.” You see, none of the disciples was from Jerusalem, Judea, or Samaria, and they certainly did not hail from the uttermost parts of the earth. Jesus was not saying the Spirit would empower them to stay home and then when everyone in their neighborhood was saved to gradually move onward. By contrast, Jesus was saying, “Leave home! Go back to the city where they just tortured and killed me. Preach where they will want to kill you. Head from there to where you are unpopular and unwanted, and keep going to the uttermost places of earth—in all of which you will be met by curses and crosses.” This is why He was clear that they so expressly needed the Spirit—they must leave home and make disciples in the most difficult parts of the earth under duress.
To underline God’s unrelenting passion for all peoples, when the Spirit was poured out, it was done so in the context of those from Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Greece, and Libya (2:9–11). The Jews thought that the Spirit of God had been withdrawn. Peter announced that the Spirit is back, that these are the last days, and that the same Spirit that was in Samson to tear up city gates is now available to us to tear down the gates of hell. The same Spirit that spoke through Samuel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah now speaks through us so that all the nations might hear Jesus is God, Lord, and Christ. The power of the Spirit is not so we stay home; the power of the Spirit is expressly given that we leave home and go into all the world so that whoever calls on the name of the Lord, all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call shall be saved (vv. 21, 39). Peter answered the “what shall we do?” question by saying: Repent and get working to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth (vv. 37–38).
The opening chapters of Acts and the instigation of the church age focus on the saving of souls from every nation on earth. It’s not about social programs; it’s about souls. And now that we have money, we still better be able to say, “rise and walk!” (3:6). For even this is a missions call as Peter challenged the witnesses of the miracle: “You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham: ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed’” (v. 25 emphasis added).