A Historical Account of the Unfolding of the Great Commission Through the Book of Acts
Unit 2: Issue 1 – Project 1
The Giving of the Great Commission
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
The Great Commission in essence is derived from what Jesus had spoken to His disciples after He had been crucified and rose from the dead. But it is also more than just words spoken to His disciples. It is a directive from God for all of His people to carry out. It is, in fact, a commandment for every Christian to carry out. I would even go so far as to say that whereas Jesus indicated the greatest commandment in the old testament scriptures to be “love the Lord your God”, He intended for this great commission to be a part of the following subsidiary (but equally as important) after that being “love your neighbor as yourself”. At the end of the gospel of John, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. After Peter said that he, of course, did in fact love the Lord, Jesus responded those three times with “Feed my lambs; tend my sheep; feed my sheep…follow me”. From this we can know that to love God and follow Him is to love His people. All of this to say: The Great Commission was for the Apostles, yes, but it was for all of those who followed after them as well. Our great commission is to follow Jesus’ lead in establishing leaders who became the pillars and builders of the church we know today; taking joy in loving, teaching, and encouraging everyone in the faith that will listen.
After fully establishing the twelve disciples of Christ, the very first thing that was recorded to have happened with the church in Jerusalem was the day of Pentecost. On this day all of whom were present with the twelve received the gifting of the Holy Spirit. This was to fulfill what Jesus had said in Luke 24:49 to “stay in Jerusalem until you are clothed with power from on high”. After the Holy Spirit had come upon them they instantly began proclaiming the gospel. Between the day of Pentecost and Paul’s conversion, the Holy Spirit moved through Peter (and the rest of the Apostles) not only to establish a strong foundation for the church in Jerusalem, but also to (in the case of Philip) begin establishing churches elsewhere such as Judea and Samaria and essentially prepare a base for the ministries of Paul. After Saul (later to become baptized and named Apostle Paul) oversaw the execution of a man named Stephen (a devout Christian) the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem flushed out many Christians to the surrounding areas of Judea and Samaria. Thus Philip was sent as a missionary to minister to and “tend the sheep” in those areas.
The Initial Spread of the Gospel
This began the initial spread of the gospel to the surrounding areas of Jerusalem. At this time it was revealed to Peter by God to not consider people who didn’t know of God (i.e. some gentiles) as “unclean” or otherwise unfit for the Kingdom of God. Upon Saul’s conversion as Paul into the Christian faith/traditions, he came along side and helped pioneer this trademark to preach the gospel to all peoples who would listen. Paul went on, with the help of many gifted and talented individuals, to not only establish the churches in Antioch, the Aegean coastline, and Asia Minor, but he also instructed, corrected, encouraged, and admonished all of them by way of letters and sending help along with the established church leadership and other apostles.
On to Rome and the “Ends of the Earth”
Paul eventually went on to minister in Rome and to establish the church’s expansion into the rest of the world beyond the surrounding areas of Jerusalem. The Great Commission reverberates throughout the ministries of the apostles. The entire establishment of the Christian church as a whole in these times was an example of how powerfully and effectively we as mere humans can be used by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the Great Commission. These leaders and apostles wanted nothing more than to love His people and share His love and mercy to all that they came in contact with.