Saturday, October 23, 2010

How the Great Commission Unfolded Historically

By Randy Watkins

"Go into all the world..."
Jesus spent time, enough time with the disciples, teaching and training them for a monumental assignment. They seemed to not be getting the message until after the resurrection when the full impact and understanding of the gospel becomes evident to them. Before Jesus ascended, he spent more time preparing them and showing them “infallible proofs” assuring that there would be no doubt about “that which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life”.

He left the apostles with a clear mission and then how it would be carried out in the coming days: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the son and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” “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 Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” This is truly a great commission and would certainly be impossible in human terms.

They were prepared and waited for the day of Pentecost when they would receive the “promise of the Father”. The Holy Ghost moved and flowed through them with power, giving them utterance and declaring prophetic fulfillment with signs and wonders. This was witness by Jews from around the world as they were in Jerusalem at that time. While there were about 120 disciples, the focus is on the preaching of Peter who stands up and proclaims the gospel. Many believe and will apparently carry the good news back home and abroad. The church forms in Jerusalem as the gospel is spread daily from house to house. As the number of believers increase, they begin to effect society and tensions mount. With the stoning of Stephen and great persecution against the church, they are scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. As they go they carry the gospel with them. Phillip preaches Christ to the Samarians and they give heed and there is great joy in the city. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard about it they sent Peter and John who officially recognized their acceptance and with the Holy Spirit.

As the gospel is spreading through the region Saul is on a mission of persecution. After his conversion on the road to Damascus, he will become a unique and powerful instrument for the growth of the church. His knowledge and understanding of the scriptures as a Pharisee now become effective for the powerful preaching of the gospel. He confounds the Jews with arguments, proving that Jesus is the Christ.

Peter passes through the regions where the gospel has been spreading. God directs him to Cornelius the centurion at Caesarea and as he preaches the gift of the Holy Ghost is poured out on the Gentiles. The significance of the event is recognized by the believing Jews. God has granted repentance unto life to the Gentiles. After this revelation, Barnabas found Saul and brought him to Antioch. They began ministering as a team and traveled to Cyprus and Asia Minor. They would usually begin at the synagogue and preach to the Jews then to he Gentiles. The Jews for the most part would reject them and stir up trouble at which point they were usually expelled from the city. However many believed and a church would be established and from there the Word of the Lord would be published in the region. The team would move on to the next city and events would be similar. They would then return, confirming and exhorting the churches and the reported back to Antioch.

The spread of the gospel to the Gentiles came into question with the some Jews who insisted that these must keep Mosaic laws to be saved. The apostles, at Jerusalem, upon hearing the testimony of Paul and Barnabas, of the works that were done among the Gentiles and the words of the prophets agreeing, concurred and sent letters to the churches, confirming them and disagreeing with the Judeaizers. These letters were sent to the churches who rejoiced.

Paul and Silas journeyed to Macedonia and there, preached the gospel in the cities where churches were again established and the Word was spread in those regions. The gospel impacted societies often with an uproar stirred up by Idolaters and Judeaizers. Paul repeated his journeys and revisited the churches, exhorting and strengthening them. These churches continued to spread the gospel and other churches were established. Paul makes a farewell address to the church at Ephesus, bound for Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to him but that he faced bonds and afflictions as revealed by Holy Spirit.

Paul is recognized at the temple in Jerusalem where uproar is incited by an angry mob of Jews. They accuse him and he is arrested and beaten by the Roman guards who soon learn that he is a Roman citizen. He is given the opportunity to address his accusers want to kill him. He recounts his former life and conversion and mission to the Gentiles further incites them. He is then removed by the guards. He appears before the High Priest, the Pharisees and the Sadducees who try to judge him contrary to the law. Again he is rescued by the soldiers. The Lord encourages Paul and lets him know that he will also bear witness at Rome. A plot to kill him is discovered and Paul is taken by protective guard by night to Felix the governor in Caesarea. He testifies before Felix and appeals to Caesar. Later he testifies to Felix and Agrippa. He is then sent to Rome. The gospel is being declared to the heads of state as well as the guards who have Paul in custody. As they journey and experience perils in the sea, God is protecting Paul and his life and message effect all who come in contact with him. He is given liberty in his bonds and when at last he reaches Rome he is permitted to preach the kingdom of God and teach the things concerning the Lords Jesus Christ. God had providentially brought the gospel by him before the kings and rulers of this world.

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