SENT TO PROCLAIM JESUS
Written by Doug Ponder on April 21, 2013
As we come to the close of the book of Acts, it’s helpful to remember where we started. Having risen from the dead in triumphant victory, Jesus continued to visit with his disciples during a period of forty days, teaching them about God’s redeeming rule (Acts 1:3). You can’t blame them for thinking that now that Jesus had risen, he surely was going to restore everything about which the prophets of Israel had spoken. But that isn’t what he told them. Instead, he said this: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8). This was Jesus’ promise that God would come, through his Spirit, to empower his people to live on mission for him. They had a part to play in all that God would do.
He did send the Spirit (Acts 2), and now the second half of his promise was coming true as well. Paul was finally in Rome, the capital of the empire. It was said that “all roads lead to Rome” because it was the hub of economic, political, and social life of Paul’s world. And if every road led to Rome, then roads from Rome could get you just about anywhere. Paul knew this, and he wouldn’t miss a chance to take the gospel of Jesus to the one place that could spread the good news “to the ends of the earth,” just as Jesus had said.
What will Paul do now that he has reached his destination? How will this sweeping story of the early church come to a close? We’re told that Paul stayed in Rome for two years, “welcoming everyone who came to him and proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:30-31).
That’s it. That’s how it ends. Not much of an ending, right?
But then you begin to wonder… Maybe that’s the point. The story continues, and we’re part of it! The book of Acts may finish with chapter 28, but the story of Acts continues in the church today. You and I are invited to take part in the same story ourselves as people with specific roles and speaking parts. Like the rest of Jesus’ followers throughout the book, we are called to proclaim Jesus as Lord—not as a distant memory of a fallen ruler—but as a living and powerful King, a person who continues to act within the real world. The resurrection was real. Jesus really is alive. And his risen body marks the beginning of God’s new creation, a renewal that restores what God has made through the powerful working of the Spirit who liberates us from our slavery to sin and death, and calls us to proclaim Jesus’ redeeming reign in all we say and do.
No Matter What
If you and are I called to participate in the continuing story of Acts, then like everyone else in the story, we must look to the Scriptures as the “script” for God’s unfolding drama of redemption. They give us our role, our speaking parts, our stage directions, and they tell us how everything began and where everything is headed.
In this way, the lives of Paul and the other early disciples are instructive examples for our own lives. Their mission is our mission. They were sent out to proclaim the good news about Jesus, the King of God’s kingdom. And they kept telling others about Jesus, even at great cost to themselves (Acts 28:31), even their own lives (Acts 7:58-60). Whenever they encountered opposition (Acts 4:2-3), they continued to tell the world about Jesus’ saving reign. Indeed, they said “we cannot stop speaking about Jesus!” (Acts 4:19-20).
As with the early disciples, we ought to expect that responses to the gospel will differ (some will welcome the redeeming rule of Jesus, while others will hate the thought of submitting to him). Regardless to the response, however, our mission is the same: keep telling others about Jesus.
Go, Show and Tell
God sends us out, in the power of his Spirit, to proclaim the good news about Jesus.
As we tell others about Jesus, God builds his church. The church is another name for the people of God, all those who have trusted and hope in the work of Jesus to purify their hearts, forgive them of sin, and make them new. God uses the gospel to reconcile sinners to himself by telling them of his forgiveness of their sins, by awakening faith in their hearts, by raising to life those who were spiritually dead, and by reform even the most rebellious lives. The gospel is “the power of God,” Paul writes. The Spirit uses the message about Jesus to work faith into our hearts as we hear it and receive it with joy (Rom. 10:17; John 1:12). Therefore, the church is established and built up by the proclamation of the gospel.
As we tell others about Jesus, God accomplishes his mission. God’s response to sin and evil is what we mean by “the mission of God.” It is his gracious decision to heal, to restore, to renew, and to bless his creation through the judgment of sin and evil and through the redemption of his people. Jesus is at the heart of the mission of God because all that God promised to redeem, restore, and renew is accomplished through his life, his death, and his resurrection. As we tell others about Jesus, they are made a part of God’s new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) as both a sign and the means by which God begins to redeem, renew, and restore. These people become “salt” and “light,” as Jesus said. They are made to be ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18), who bless and serve others in the name of Jesus.
As we tell others about Jesus, God receives his glory. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3). The prophet Habakkuk wrote, “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14). So the whole earth is filled with God’s glory now. That’s a fact. But one day the whole earth will be full of the knowledge of the God’s glory. That’s the future. As we tell others about Jesus, they behold the glory of the Lord in the face of his perfect Son who died for sin and rose again in victory over death. Telling others about Jesus, therefore, extends the recognition of the glory of God. He is glorious, and we should long for others to see and know him as such.
For Your Consideration:
1. We are called to proclaim the fullness of who Jesus is to all people. What does this actually look like for us today?
2. When Jesus is proclaimed, God continually builds his church. If this is the case, why is it important for Christians to be involve themselves in a local church?
3. What does it mean for you to rely on the power of the Spirit to tell others about Jesus?
4. Take a moment to think on the glory of God (the beauty and power of his perfect nature and character). Now say the following to yourself: “God is more glorious and more precious to me than _________.” How does your heart feel when you say these things? Is there anything that you are unwilling to put in that blank? If so, pray that God would help you to trust him and see that he is more glorious than anything else in life.
Doug Ponder is one of the founding pastors of Remnant Church in Richmond, VA, where he serves in many of the church’s teaching ministries. He has contributed to several published works and is the author of Rethink Marriage & Family. His interests include the intersection of theology, ethics, and the Christian life. Follow him on Twitter @dougponder.