Shortly before ascending to the right hand of the Father, Jesus told His followers, “‘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, and to the end of the earth’” (Acts 1:8 ESV).
In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit comes like a rushing wind from Heaven (v. 2), and the disciples are empowered to speak in other world languages (vv. 5-6). Before long, Peter preaches a famous sermon, and the gospel spreads like wildfire from Jerusalem.
Bible scholars refer to Acts 1:8 as a missiological strategy because of the concentric circles of influence. The early Christians sought to fulfill the Great Commission. They took great care to spread the gospel to the ends of the known world.
Being a follower of Christ means obeying the Great Commission. And as we embrace this task set before us, we realize the implications that Acts 1:8 has for us today. Jesus emphasizes at least three things in this verse. Let’s consider them together.
First, if we’re going to fulfill the Great Commission, we must lean on the Spirit.
In Luke 24:36-49, Jesus appears to His disciples after rising from the dead. He says, “‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high’” (vv. 46-49 ESV).
Jesus warns His followers to wait on the Spirit before attempting to fulfill the mission. We must heed this warning. Trying to make disciples without the Spirit’s power is like trying to fry eggs without heat.
If you’re a true follower of Christ, you have the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul writes to the church at Ephesus, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14 ESV).
We’re not waiting on the Spirit in the same way as those earliest followers of Christ. But we must keep in step with the Spirit (see Galatians 5:16-26), trusting His power and guidance. We must seek to follow the Spirit’s leading in our lives. Only then do we find the power to fulfill the Great Commission. Too often, we try to do God’s work without God’s power.
Second, if we’re going to fulfill the Great Commission, we must start where we are. Just as Jesus commands His followers to start in Jerusalem, so we must begin sharing the gospel in our “neck of the woods.”
It’s easy for Christians to immediately begin thinking about foreign missionaries when the topic of missions comes up. Of course, God does call some to leave American soil and serve in other nations. But He doesn’t call every Christian overseas.
Start where you are. Maybe you’re a student. A stay-at-home mom. An engineer. A Walmart cashier. Serve God where you are, striving to share the gospel and make disciples.
In this season of my life, I’m drawn to 1 Corinthians 7:17. The apostle Paul writes, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches” (ESV).
I love this verse. Why? Because it reminds me that missional living can occur right here and right now. The world is in desperate need of missional moms, missional mechanics, missional mail carriers, and everything in-between. We must fasten our hands to the plow in front of us. But there’s yet another implication of Acts 1:8.
If we’re going to fulfill the Great Commission, we must work to spread the gospel even further—ultimately to the ends of the earth.
While it’s true that not all Christians are called across the country or overseas, all Christians are called to engage in the spread of the gospel to the furthest parts of the world. But how?
Two primary ways we engage in the global spread of the gospel is through our prayers and our giving.
God may never call us to leave our Jerusalem. But even if we remain in Jerusalem, there’s work to be done in other places. With that in mind, we should pray. We should give. We should strive to support those who do risk their lives in other countries for the sake of the gospel. Furthermore, as we keep in step with the Spirit, we must always be ready to leave Jerusalem ourselves if the Lord ever calls us to do so.
May this article encourage us to be missionaries for the glory of God as we seek to complete this most precious mission. Let us lean on the Spirit, start where we are, and work to spread the gospel to the ends of the world.
Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at www.isaiahpauley.com. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.