“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day He was taken up into heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. After His suffering, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the Kingdom of God.”
Dony K. Dovev begins his article on the “Missiology of Paul” with the following thought. “Mission is the heart of the Bible, the centre of salvation and the beginning and means of the Church. This is evident in both the Messianic and missionary approach, which Jesus took through the Incarnation. Similarly, the Great Commission that He left is also mission centred. Following His words and example, the early Church was a mission Church that began its activity from Jerusalem only to extend it to the end of the world.”
In beginning a study of the book of Acts we must wrestle with what seems to be the burden of that book. This is that the New Testament Church, and by extension the Church in this twenty first century, are by their very nature a missionary force in this world. What does the Book of Acts tell us about this calling? What is its cost? How are we to faithfully live it out in the world in which we live?
Luke begins his account of the missionary expansion of the New Testament Church with an unusual phrase which gives a whole new depth of meaning to our discussion. He writes regarding his former volume, the Gospel of Luke, that it described all that “Jesus began to do and to teach.” By implication Luke is telling us that Acts will continue to describe the works of the LORD through the Apostles, and other members of the Church as they take the Gospel to the very ends of the earth. The first great principle that we must grapple with here then is the personal presence and involvement of the LORD Jesus Christ in the Work of His Church as they fulfill the Great Commission. This reality is stated in Matthew’s account of the Commission as He roots it in the personal authority of the LORD Jesus and then tells us that Jesus will always be with us as we are going out with the Gospel.
The first principle then which Luke calls us to as a missionary Church is that we cannot ever hope to accomplish the task apart from an intentional maintenance of the communion with Christ. Our mission is that of the Risen Christ. It is He that we are introducing the world to. It is His power that will transform our world. So often we find ourselves neglecting this vital first principle. We develop our programs and plans, which we then implement with all of the energy we possess. No wonder we often find ourselves becoming discouraged, feeling overwhelmed by the task before us.
What Luke tells us here is that before the Apostles went out in the work they first engaged in prayer. This was more than just a quick prayer for blessing on their work. It was an earnest seeking after the Promise of the Spirit. Listen once again to Luke in Acts 1:4-5.
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Later in Acts 9:11 Luke describes Saul of Tarsus after he has met the Risen Christ on the Damascus road in the following way. “The LORD told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.” Can the same be said of us as we are beginning to take the Gospel out into our world? Are we praying? Are we desperate to maintain communion with the LORD Jesus Christ. For it is that principle that moves forward the New Testament Church as a missionary force which takes the Gospel to the ends of the earth.