Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. Thanks for listening to episode 145 of Missions on Point. This is number four in a series on the centrality of the local church in missions. In this episode, we're going to ask the question, what did the hearers of the Great Commission do? So we've already looked at the centrality of the local church in Christ's view and in the Great Commission. Now, we're looking at it in the hearers of the Great Commission's view. What did they do to obey the Great Commission? Part of good biblical interpretation is to ask the question, what would the original hearers of this scripture understand from it? What was the inspired author trying to communicate to them in their time? Before we make application for ourselves in our time, we need to understand how the original hearers understood it and were intended to apply it in their time.
So we're asking the question, those people that heard the Great Commission, either directly or from those that did hear it directly, what did they do in response? How did they obey the Great Commission? The gospels close with the ascension of Christ to heaven and leave us in the hands of the inspired author, Luke, writing the Book of Acts as the basic history book of the expansion of the church through the first century. You understand when I say expansion of the church, I really mean expansion of local churches everywhere. I'm going to risk doing a 30,000-foot overview of the Book of Acts and some key issues that we see here that are elemental to all the ongoing history of expansion of the church. It's good to recall that the Book of Acts is a history book. It is descriptive, not prescriptive. It is not didactic per se, but it is a record of the chronology of what happened.
It certainly helps us answer this question for today, what did the hearers and those that received it from the original hearers of the Great Commission do to follow and obey the Great Commission? In this 30,000 foot view, I see three major topics and 15 issues under those topics. The first topic is the gospel. In the early chapters of Acts, we see the understanding of the gospel through the preaching and interaction of the early apostles with the authorities and the public. We see it in the day of Pentecost. The content of the gospel is explained. The focus of the gospel is Jesus Christ. The source of the gospel is the authority of scripture, and we see it in all of the interaction of the apostles with those around them referring to the Old Testament and proving that Jesus was the Messiah, also recounting the miracles and the teaching of Jesus and his impact on the public in his day.
We also see the call of the gospel, that is to faith and repentance in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. It's very clear that those all around Jesus and those that heard the Great Commission understood that the gospel was the only means of salvation. It is exclusive. Peter says in Acts 4:12, "There is salvation in no one else. For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." The second major critical mission issue in the Book of Acts is the church. We see the church beginning to find its function and forms starting with chapter two, and we see these words that are pretty well known about the kind of fellowship that people had together as the church was formed.
They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. The church grew at a phenomenal rate in those early weeks, and we see them struggling then with understanding how to care for their members and the beginning of the idea of deacons taking place in Acts chapter six, where deacons were selected to help with this mercy ministry of people within the church body.
We see that there was envy of the church among the rulers and leaders in the Jewish nation as well as a leading figure outside the Jewish nation, wanting to copy the special authority given to the apostles to verify their message by the giving of the Holy Spirit. We see in chapter eight this repeated use of the term, the church, the ecclesia, the called out ones as the group of believers in a particular location. We begin to see in chapters 8, 9, 10, and 11, church diversity that is cross-cultural versus homogeneous, believers meeting as a church. People from different ethnicities were gathering together as a church body. Notice this was not usual in the Jewish religious culture. We see this focus on the church in Antioch and how it results in sending out missionaries in Acts chapter 13 and eventually then the Council of Jerusalem, which resulted in saying, hey, Gentiles can become believers just like Jews and they don't have to fulfill all the laws of the Jews in order to become believers.
We see even in the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas that churches were the goal. Reproducing local churches were the goal of missions, and we see it particularly in chapter 14, verse 21 in following where it says, when they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church with prayer and fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. Now, doesn't that sound like the Great Commission? They evangelized, they discipled, they baptized, they appointed leaders to meet with them for regular meeting and teaching from the word of God in every location.
Their goal was to have a mutually committed indigenous body of local believers worshiping regularly together around the teaching of the word of God in prayer, observing the ordinances of baptism and communion under the leadership of biblically qualified shepherds while being active witnesses of the gospel. Fast-forward to all the epistles written to churches, and we see that that is the thing that Paul commended them for, that they're carrying out the gospel, that they're pursuing, making disciples of others, and that more and more biblical churches are being planted as a result.
The third major area of critical missions issues is mission strategy. Acts 13 and 14 are filled with the names of towns and cities that the missionary team went to, sharing the gospel and then return to established churches and appoint leaders for them. Another element is that it was transcultural in its message and common fellowship.
This is highlighted in the reports leading up to the Jerusalem Council in Acts chapter 15, both by Paul and Barnabas, but also by Peter. Another element is that they seem to work in missionary teams. They were together. They didn't go alone per se. They went with several and team members were added or dispatched as the need arose. We also see part of the strategy which Paul used was contextualization of the message, and I want to say appropriate contextualization. In one chapter, in Acts chapter 17, we see him ministering in Thessalonica and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the scriptures explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead and saying, "This Jesus whom I proclaim to you is the Christ." He goes on from there to Beroea and then to Athens, but in Athens, he doesn't prove it to them from the scripture so much as he proves it to them from their own philosophy and things that they understood.
Another key element of mission strategy is the training of indigenous leaders, and we see this highlighted in chapter 19 and 20, especially in Ephesus, where Paul spent two years establishing basically a school of Bible theology and ecclesiology right there in Ephesus. And out of Ephesus, we know of other churches that were then planted by the students of Paul during that time. We know that that training for church planters and church leaders really worked because later Paul returns to Ephesus in chapter 20, and he specifically instructs the elders about certain things in their responsibility to shepherd and guard and feed the flock. The last one of these principles for mission strategy has to do with the big overview of chapters 21 through 28 in the Book of Acts, and that is a respect for political authority. Just now zipping through the Book of Acts, I count no less than 24 churches planted from Jerusalem to Rome through the life and ministry of the apostles. Those that went and through the Apostle Paul's missionary ministry.
Records from church history are a little less certain than the inspired word of God. However, we know from church history, some of it tradition, some of it a little suspect in accuracy. However, the general flow seems to be true and here is the summary. From the apostles, Peter and Paul were both martyred in Rome around mid-sixties AD during the persecution under Emperor Nero. Paul was beheaded and Peter was crucified upside down at his request since he did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as the Lord Jesus Christ. Andrew was supposed to have gone to the area we now know as Russia. Christians their claim him to be the first to bring the gospel to their area. He also preached in Asia minor, modern day Turkey and Greece, and he is said to have also been crucified.
Thomas was most active in the area east of Syria. Tradition has him going as far east as India, and there's a very significant group of Christians in Southern India that claim Thomas as the founder of their church. They claim he died there when he was pierced with spears from four soldiers. Phillip possibly had a ministry in Carthage in North Africa until he won the wife of a Roman pro council to salvation in Christ and the pro council didn't like that and murdered him. Matthew was a tax collector and the writer of the Gospel of Matthew. He went to Persia and some say Ethiopia. Perhaps following the lead of that Ethiopian Eunuch we found that Philip witnessed to early in the Book of Acts. Some of the oldest reports say he was not martyred, while others say he was killed in Ethiopia, Bartholomew had widespread missionary travels attributed to him by tradition across the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa.
James was the son of Altius and one of the least three James referred to in the New Testament. There's some confusion as to which is which, but this James is reckoned to have ministered in Syria. The historian Josephus reported that he was stoned and then clubbed to death. Simon, the zealot, as the traditional story goes, ministered in Persia and was killed after refusing to sacrifice to the Sun God. Mathias was the apostle chosen to replace Judas. Tradition sends him to Syria with Andrew and then to death by burning. John is the only one of the apostles generally thought by all to have died a natural death from old age. He was the church leader in Ephesus area and is said to have taken care of Mary, the mother of Jesus as per Jesus's instruction from the cross. During Emperor Domitian's rule, he was exiled to the island of Patmos and it's there that he wrote the New Testament Book of Revelation.
So the sum of this survey is easy actually. Those that heard the great commission from Jesus and then heard it from those that first heard it from Jesus all seemed to be involved in gospel ministry and the planting of indigenous churches. While someone may argue that local churches arising out of gospel witness is a natural thing, I would maintain that gospel churches were always the goal of the Great Commission. The planting of local churches was intentional and not just accidental. You cannot fully fulfill the Great Commission without the planting of indigenous local churches. I encourage you to think along with me in this series and encourage others to listen to it also. If you have questions or comments, please communicate with me by email, email@example.com.
Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites at propempo.com and [inaudible 00:15:03].org. We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.
Please login to comment.