Witnesses To the End of The Earth
Read Acts 2:38-41 (ESV)
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
When was the last time you had the opportunity to be a witness for Jesus? How did it go? How does Peter’s example in Acts 2 encourage you?
Well, we’ve wrapped up all 4 Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. We know from the conclusion of Matthew, Mark, and Luke that before Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave His disciples a mission. It is often called “the Great Commission.” In Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15-18, it is recorded that Jesus told them to go out into the world, preach the Gospel, baptize, and make disciples. In Luke 24:46-49, Jesus told them that they are witnesses that Christ suffered but was raised from the dead on the third day and that they should proclaim repentance for forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name to all nations. In John 21:15-17, Jesus emphatically commanded Peter to feed and care for His sheep. In other words, Jesus wanted his disciples to go into the world to make disciples of all nations by feeding people God’s Word and caring for their physical and spiritual needs.
But then what happened? Did the disciples follow through? How did the Gospel go from Jerusalem to the rest of the known world? How did Christianity go from a relatively small number of followers to a global faith? The book of Acts is up next to answer some of those questions and provide the needed historical context for the apostles’ letters.
Luke, the physician and author of the Gospel of Luke, is also the author of Acts. Remember, that Luke was closely associated with Paul and probably had access to eyewitnesses of Jesus’ ministry like Peter and John, or their written documents. Luke begins covering events in A.D. 33, focusing on Peter’s ministry to the Jews in Jerusalem. He then follows the progress of the church and its expansion to other areas such as Judea and Samaria. He ends by focusing on Paul’s three missionary journeys and his trials and imprisonments. Because Luke concluded somewhat abruptly without giving us any information about the historic persecution of Christians under Nero beginning in A.D. 64, it is believed that Luke wrote Acts around 62-64 A.D. Luke also did not mention the apostle Paul’s death or the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, all critical events that you’d think Luke would include if he wrote Acts after those key historical events.
In the book of Acts, Luke covered the first thirty years of the Christian church. But he didn’t cover every single event in early church history during that time. One of the main themes of Acts is the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1:8, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come upon them and equip them to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. In Acts 2, when the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they went from common men who had run away scared after Jesus’ crucifixion to brave and bold witnesses for Christ who were willing to suffer and even die for the sake of the Gospel. The apostle Paul was transformed from a violent persecutor of Christ followers to a passionate, dedicated disciple and missionary for Christ. The church itself was transformed from a small, localized group of Jews in Jerusalem to a diverse church spread out all over the Roman Empire. Why? Because the Holy Spirit was at work in the lives of the believers.
Friends, if we are believers in Christ, we have the Holy Spirit, too! The Holy Spirit empowers us, equips us, strengthens us, and transforms us into the type of witnesses He needs for the Gospel to go out. For thousands of years, Christians have been led by the Spirit and the Word to make disciples and build up His church. By His grace, we can be a part of that mission, too.
Lord, I know that You have commanded me to make disciples and participate in building Your church. Thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit that equips and strengthens me to fulfill my mission from You. Transform me, make me more like You and less like me, for Your glory and for the salvation of others. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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