November 5 – Acts 1:6-8


Main Focus: Gospel advancement, meaning discipleship, is the strategy for multi-ethnic community.

Discipleship is not merely a ministry of the church, it is the ministry of the church. In Acts 1:6-11, Jesus charges, indwells, and empowers his people by his Holy Spirit to advance the gospel to all nations. The mission of the church is global witness and discipleship, and this produced a multi-ethnic community as we’ll see next week in Acts 13. But what does that mean for us?

In Acts 1 we find the last conversation between Jesus and his disciples, one in which the disciples ask a question they should’ve known the answer to. At many stages of his ministry Jesus had to say, “No not yet,” to the disciples constant questions about if the Kingdom would be established right now (ex. Luke 19:11), and even after his resurrection, 40 days of visiting with the disciples, and Jesus “[opening] their mind to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45), they still asked this same question.

That’s because the Messianic hopes of Jesus’ Jewish disciples had been shaped to expect a certain outcome, that God would send a Messiah who would liberate Israel from oppression by setting up a new Kingdom in Israel, one in which God’s rule would extend to the ends of the earth. And at every stage of his ministry Jesus was correcting these expectations in his disciples (see his rebuke of Peter in Matt. 16:23 or of James and John in Matt. 20:23). Jesus explained over and over that his Kingdom was a spiritual one, that it was both already here and still on its way, that it wouldn’t spread by governmental rule and force but by the work of the Spirit. Nevertheless, his disciples kept expecting Jesus to give Rome the boot, set up his throne in Jerusalem, and rule as a literal king.

But despite their short memory Jesus patiently explains here that the Kingdom of God would spread through them not by force but by witness. Specifically Jesus said they would witness “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” That would’ve been their immediate context, Jerusalem and Judea, the nation just next door, Samaria, and then the rest of the planet. And note that these regions take into account ethnic distinctions, marked in the book of Acts by the work of the Spirit—in Acts 2, the Spirit fell on Jewish disciples in Jerusalem, then on Samaritans (Acts 8:17), then on Gentiles (Acts 10:44). This is the exact movement Paul describes in Romans 1:16, “the gospel…is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

This command to be Jesus’s witnesses most certainly extends to us as well. We’re called to be Jesus’s emissaries, and just like Jesus’s first disciples, we all have both near and far horizons—right here, right next door, and everywhere else. And note that Jesus specifically has in mind a verbal testimony of the gospel to non-believers so that they might believe in Jesus and have life in his name. “Thus it is written…that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are the witnesses of these things. and behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.”(Luke 24:46-49) This is what it means to be Jesus’ witnesses: to proclaim.

If we’re honest, I think we tend to imagine evangelism like an extracurricular activity for Christians, like extra credit in the Christian life. Or we fear that actually doing so would be horribly embarrassing or relationally costly. But reading this passage you’ll see that proclaiming Jesus’s name is just what it means to follow him. Thankfully this passage serves as a helpful reminder of our tiny role as witness and the real heavy lifting of the Spirit, since the Spirit empowers our testimony and awakens dead hearts through it, something we could never do (Eph.2:4-5). Thus we ourselves are emboldened and nourished by this message we proclaim, that we aren’t made right with God by our efforts but by Jesus’s. So we don’t have to evangelize to make God pleased with us. It’s because Jesus has made us his own that we make him known—reverse that statement and it will rob your witness of any hope, but keep it in order and it will renew your hope.

Questions for Discussion

• Could someone read Acts 1:6-11 for us?

• What stood out to you from the passage?

• Why do you think the disciples asked about the Kingdom of Israel?

•What does Jesus’ response to their question reveal about his priorities?

• How do you feel about this command to be Jesus’s “witnesses”?

•How can this passage give you hope for fulfilling Jesus’s command to be his witnesses?

• Prayer Prompt: Venture to pray boldly that Jesus would use us in fulfilling his mission to reach the ends of the earth with his good news.