Understanding the Mandate (Part 2)

Jesus gave a specific command to fulfill the Great Commission, but he provided no detailed instructions on how to complete it. What methods or means are believers supposed to use to spread the gospel message to all people? Thankfully, the Lord provided us with a record of the early church and how it grew in the first century. The example of the church in the book of Acts gives us an idea of what the original followers of Jesus believed about the Great Commission and how they implemented Christ’s three-fold plan in their context.

Every Believer’s Strategy

Jesus may not have provided a detailed set of instructions for evangelism, but he did lay out a strategy for how the gospel would reach the entire world. In Acts 1:8, Jesus gave his final words to the disciples before his ascension. He commands the apostles to be his witnesses in four distinct locations: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the earth. These locations give us a progression of how the gospel should advance: immediate area, larger region, neighboring region, and the rest of the world.

The apostles followed this plan in the book of Acts. Peter and the apostles were used of the Holy Spirit to start the church in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41-47). After the martyrdom of Stephen, believers were scattered around Judea and Samaria, and they preached the gospel wherever they went (Acts 8:1-4). Philip took the initiative to go to Samaria and establish a church there (Acts 8:5-8). Peter followed suit by going to different cities of Judea and establishing churches in those cities (Acts 9:32-42). Ultimately, Paul and Barnabas complete the Lord’s strategy by obeying the Holy Spirit’s command to preach the gospel to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 13:1-4).

Every believer in a church can follow this same strategy. Most Christians agree that they should be witnesses in their “Jerusalem.” But you should also expand your outreach by determining how the larger region of your city can be reached. You can go further and ask how the neighboring cities and regions will hear the gospel. The final step is to consider how you and your church will reach the world. Of course, God does not ask every believer to relocate to the uttermost part, or even to the neighboring regions. It is fair to say, however, that Jesus does want you to consider how you can be a part of gospel outreach in these different locations around the world (i.e. personal outreach, financial giving, missions trips, etc.).

Every Believer’s Witness

The disciples believed that the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection, which they witnessed, were true historical accounts that everyone needed to hear (Acts 2:32; 3:15; 4:33; 5:32; 10:39-42; 13:31). Peter even spoke of the Old Testament prophets giving a reliable witness of this message (Acts 10:43, 1 Pet 1:10-11). These men laid down their lives for the sake of the gospel. Obviously, the message was valuable to them because they knew it was true. Not only that, but it had changed each of these men as individuals. Their personal testimonies gave them an undying passion to be witnesses of this good news.

You can have the same confidence in the gospel as the apostles. You may not have physically witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus for yourself. But you can rely on the witness of these men who recorded these events. You can also have confidence in your personal testimony. Like the apostles, you too have been changed by the gospel message. If you know how the truth about Jesus has changed your life, that should cause you to passionately share this good news with others. Your testimony is a valuable defense for your faith.

Our goal through this training is to provide you with the tools you need to share the gospel biblically and effectively. You can only share the gospel if you know what it is. Furthermore, the Bible says you should be ready to give a defense for your faith (1 Pet 3:15). Like a lawyer in a courtroom, you should be able to present your case to the lost that the God of the Bible is real, and His Son Jesus Christ is the only way to be forgiven of sin.

Every Believer’s Expectation

Many Christians have either seen, heard, or experienced rejection because of the gospel. Not everyone who hears the gospel comes to Christ for salvation. But Jesus encourages you that the gospel is God’s power for the salvation of souls (Rom 1:16). After Jesus’ resurrection, the Father gave him all authority in heaven and earth. Based on this authority, believers may boldly go to all people with the good news about Jesus (Matt 28:18). You will run across people who are antagonistic to the gospel and may never receive Christ. However, Jesus says that there are many people who are prepared by God to the receive the gospel, like a field ready to be harvested (Matt 9:37-38, John 4:35). Jesus is waiting for harvesters to enter the field and reap those souls for the Kingdom of God. In the harvest, Jesus promises that you will bear fruit if you abide in him through faith-filled obedience to his words (John 15:1-16).

Not every gospel encounter will result in a person getting saved. But this can be expected, because in the harvest some will plant, some will water, and others will harvest. Ultimately, God is the author of salvation because he provides the fruit (1 Cor 3:6-7). You should not feel guilty or discouraged if some people you evangelize do not get saved. Instead, find ways to evangelize a variety of people, not just a select few. This allows you to encounter more people who are interested and more people who will get saved. Your task is simply to be a witness, and allow God to lead you to the people who are prepared to receive the gospel.

Assignment

  1. Memorize Matthew 9:37-38.
  2. Review the final strategy of Jesus in Acts 1:8. Be prepared to list on the quiz next week the four areas Christ wants his disciples to reach with the gospel.

Personal Assignment

Determine what is your Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and uttermost part in the context of New York City. What steps can you and your church take to reach these areas with the gospel?

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