by: Richelle Torres
Living on Mission: Across the Street and Around the World
by Thad Williams, Pastor of Connections and Missions
"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 1:8
With His final words to the disciples before ascending to be with the Father, Jesus gives the disciples a commission (Acts 1:8). We need to understand the cultural context to appreciate this commission fully. Acts 1:8 was not simply a geographic strategy; it is also a cross-cultural strategy. Essentially, Jesus was commanding His disciples to start with the local community and people like them (Jerusalem). Then go to the surrounding regions (Judea and Samaria). Judea would have included those who were geographically more distant but culturally similar to the disciples. Samaria, on the other hand, was another matter entirely. The Samaritans were the historic, ethnic enemies of the Jews. Hatred is not a strong enough word to describe their feelings toward one another. Nevertheless, God loved the Samaritans just as much as He loved the Jews.
One can imagine the dumbstruck look on the disciples' faces as they watch Jesus ascend to Heaven. "Did He just say what I think He just said? I mean, I am cool with going around Jerusalem and telling people about Jesus. Heck, I don't even mind going to Judea. But Samaria?! And the ends of the earth?!?!" Being fully devoted followers of Christ and obedient to the Acts 1:8 commission often requires us to get outside our comfort zone, which is why it is vital for us to grasp the importance of the first part of this verse.
What does it mean to be a witness? Similar to witnesses in a courtroom, they are most powerful when they truthfully describe the events they have seen or heard. As followers of Christ, we are given the power to tell others about the transformation that God is working within us through the Holy Spirit. Our testimony is perhaps the most powerful evangelistic tool we possess in that it is our story, and nobody can take that away. Furthermore, it is comforting and liberating to know that the Holy Spirit, not us, does the work of salvation. We can see the Holy Spirit's power throughout the book of Acts as the church is born and thousands upon thousands are saved.
Jesus' words in Acts 1:8 are just as true and relevant for His followers today as they were for His followers over 2,000 years ago. But in today's globalized world, God is bringing the nations to us! It's almost as if He got tired of waiting on us to go to them and decided to make it easier by bringing them to us. Just think for a moment about the diversity in your area. In most cases, we can reach the nations without leaving our Jerusalem!
Think about how Acts 1:8 applies to your context and how you can live on mission by engaging your community, region, and the world with the gospel. Whether it's through praying, giving, or going, we all have a part to play in the mission of God!