Go Tell It on the Mountain! (And Across the Street)

by Feb 23, 2024Articles

I love the Book of Acts.

Unique in the New Testament, this narrative account is filled with examples of the undeniable power of God, courage in the face of fear, long journeys with dear friends, shipwreck, miracles, perseverance, prayers in prison, and the relentless advance of the church of Jesus Christ.

The book begins with a resurrected Jesus appearing to his disciples, comforting and teaching them. During this time of resurrection fellowship, Jesus gave this commission to his disciples, which is recorded in Acts 1:8 –

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, to the end of the earth.”

What a profound mission the Lord set before the disciples and has set before us! In this one cardinal verse, the Lord Jesus clarifies for his people what is to be their power, their pursuit, and their purpose as they work to make disciples of every nation.

The Church’s Power

Understanding the source of power is vital for success. In 1944, Allied forces devised a strategy known as the “Oil Plan” to cripple the Nazi war machine. The Oil Plan involved the systematic bombing of German oilfields and oil refineries aimed at destroying the German military’s ability to fuel their tanks, planes, trucks, and other military vehicles. The Allied commanders understood that the number of tanks and planes the Germans possessed would be irrelevant if they could not power them.

Too often, followers of Christ attempt to complete God’s mission apart from God’s power. A church may have a sprawling campus, numerous activities for every age and interest, high attendance and detailed programs, but all of these are irrelevant if the church is devoid of the power of God. This is precisely why before Jesus tells his disciples that they are to be his witnesses to the end of the earth, he tells them that they are to wait for the arrival of the Holy Spirit who will empower them to fulfill the Great Commission.

Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, all our efforts to make disciples of the nations will be in vain. The Spirit is called the Helper and the Spirit of truth (John 14:16-17); the Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8); those who hear and believe the gospel are sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13); God pours out his love into the hearts of his people through the Spirit (Rom. 5:5). It is the Spirit who calls people to proclaim the gospel (Acts 13:2), the Spirit who fills believers and gives them the words to say (Luke 12:12), and the Spirit who opens the hearts of the lost to believe the gospel (Acts 16:14). Jesus tells the disciples to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit because apart from him, we are woefully inadequate to complete the task set before us. Christians, we must desperately depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit to effectively reach our lost neighbors with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Church’s Pursuit

What is this great task that would require the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish? Jesus tells his disciples, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This progression from Jerusalem to the surrounding regions to the end of the earth is recorded throughout the entire book of Acts. A.T. Robertson wrote, “The Acts themselves form the best commentary on these words, and the words themselves might be given as the best summary of the Acts.” The message of Christ moves from Jerusalem in Acts 1-7, to Judea and Samaria in Acts 8-12, and to the ends of the earth in Acts 13-28. Clearly, the New Testament church heard and obeyed this command of Christ.

Obedience to Christ’s commission must be the pursuit of the church in our day, as well. We must begin by working to reach the lost within our immediate context. For our church family, that immediate context is right here in Oklahoma City. Jesus said that we are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14), and the light that shines the farthest shines brightest up close. We must also strive to reach those in our surrounding area beyond Oklahoma City – that means strategically working to reach the lost throughout the state of Oklahoma and the rest of the United States. Our city. Our region. To the ends of the earth? Certainly. Our church must continue to commit ourselves to passionately pursue discovering, developing, and deploying faithful Christians to take the gospel to unreached peoples all across the world. This is to be our great pursuit.

The Church’s Purpose 

Remember the WWII reference earlier? Here’s another war story (though I have no idea if this one really happened). Once, a recruit fresh from boot camp was peppering a seasoned veteran about life in wartime. With wide eyes, the young man asked the veteran, “Sir, what’s the most important thing to bring to battle?” The veteran replied, “The most important thing to bring to a battle is a reason why.” Likewise, the most important thing for a church to have when striving to make disciples of all nations is a reason why.

The purpose for passionately pursuing the fulfillment of the Great Commission – our reason why – is the glory of God and the joy of all peoples. When sinners come to faith in Christ and are delivered from the penalty and power of sin, they experience the most profound, soul-satisfying joy in the goodness and mercy of God. When sinners experience this deep joy and delight in the goodness and mercy of God, God receives the highest praise, adoration, and worship. This relationship between the glory of God and joy in God is beautifully depicted by the psalmist when he writes, “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy” (Psalm 67:3-4). Evidently, when people praise the Lord, the result is gladness and joyful singing. John Piper explains it this way, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” That is why we must obey Christ’s command in Acts 1:8 – our deepest desire is that people across the street and around the world would be saved from sin and delight in God so that God would be glorified above all things.

This was Christ’s commission in the opening pages of the Book of Acts. This was the commission that drove the disciples to proclaim the good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection across the known world. May this commission of Christ continue to call his people to proclaim his salvation for the glory of his name.

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