Study 3 THE CHURCH’S MISSIONARY MANDATE
STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 1 – 3)
by Francis Dixon
Study verse: Acts 1:8
Our key-verse is Acts 1:8, where we learn from the Lord Himself about His own plan for world evangelisation. How is the gospel to be spread today, and who are the people to do it? How are they to do it, and what are their resources for doing it? These and other questions can be answered in our study verse.
1. THE PEOPLE CHOSEN BY THE LORD
It is important and encouraging to notice that God does not choose angels or supermen, but ordinary men and women to be His witnesses; notice the pronouns in Acts 1:8: “You…you…you.” How often we come face to face with the principle made clear in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29! Most of His witnesses are ordinary people like ourselves, and this brings us to the important point – that God expects every Christian to be a witness; this means that God has, or should have, witnesses everywhere – in the home, in shops, offices, hospitals, factories – everywhere; wherever there is a Christian there should be a witness. It is clear then that the people whom God chooses to be His witnesses are all those whom He saved by His grace. Read through the Book of Acts and make a note of those whom God saved and then used as His witnesses. You are a Christian: are you a witnessing Christian?
2. THE PLAN ADOPTED BY THE LORD
What is the function of the witness? To witness means to give a testimony based on personal knowledge. A witness must tell, not what he thinks or supposes, but what he knows from personal experience. He must give first-hand, up-to-date evidence – look up and compare John 3:11; John 9:25; Acts 22:15. God’s plan, therefore, is that every one of us who loves Him and who belongs to Him should tell what we have seen and heard and what we know of Him and of His grace. Notice that our testimony is to centre upon the Person of Christ Himself – “You will be my witnesses…” We are not to witness to a denomination, a system or a creed, but to the Person of our Lord Himself. Notice also that witnessing is not to be only a matter of telling; primarily it is to be a matter of living. We certainly should use our lips in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. But first our lives must witness for Christ. Notice that Acts 1:8 says, “You will be my witnesses…” What we are is more important than what we say, and if our lives are witnessing for Him then what we say will be effective and powerful. What an amazing plan – that the Lord has adopted us for the evangelisation of the world! All of us must go out into our ordinary sphere of life and live and speak for the Lord there.
3. THE PLACE INDICATED BY THE LORD
Where are God’s witnesses to go? We have already noticed that God wants them everywhere, but in Acts 1:8 a definite geographical setting is indicated – “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Compare Matthew 28:19. This inevitably means that some witnesses must leave their homes and go to other places, other lands, in order that they may obey the Lord’s commission to be His witnesses to people who have never heard of Him. Acts 1:8 is our authority for sending out missionaries and it is obligatory on all Christians in every age.
- 1. In the light of Acts 1:8, as His witnesses we should be willing to go anywhere for the Lord, whatever our age or circumstances.
- 2. In the light of Acts 1:8, young people should be especially challenged as to whether or not the Lord would have them to be His witnesses where the need is greatest. Even more mature Christians should face this challenge, especially if they have good health and strength to labour for the Lord.
- 3. In the light of Acts 1:8, all who would be His witnesses must begin in Jerusalem. That is, we must begin at home. We must live consistently for the Lord in the home, the office, the hospital, or wherever we are just now. Moving from our homeland will certainly not make us witnesses!
God’s great heart of love yearns over the whole world and His method for evangelising it is to send forth living witnesses – look up and study very carefully Romans 10:13-15.
4. THE POWER SUPPLIED BY THE LORD
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…” No-one can be an effective witness without the power of the Holy Spirit – look up and compare Luke 4:18 with Luke 24:49 and Acts 2:4. How was it that Peter and Paul were such vital witnesses? How does anyone, anywhere, witness effectively for the Lord? – look up and compare Zechariah 4:6 with Acts 1:8. The empowering of the Holy Spirit is given to enable us to obey the Lord’s command and to witness effectively for Him.
5. HOW LONG DOES THE LORD GIVE US?
How long have we left in which to evangelise the world? Until the Lord Jesus comes again – compare Acts 1:8 with verses 9-11 and John 9:4. All the signs of the times show us that His coming is surely very near. If you and I are to be effective, living witnesses we must be on the job at once; the matter is urgent, the time is short, the need is great, millions are lost, and the Lord Jesus says to each one of us – Acts 1:8. All our service must be filled with a real sense of urgency. We must hurry to preach the gospel – look up Acts 8:29-30; and we must be earnest in prayer – Acts 12:5.