I had a friend who taught English in a foreign land for many years. He was regularly asked how his “mission” work was going. He was a “missionary” after all. I remember his profound response to such inquiries. Rather than give an answer, he would ask, “How is your mission work going?” I’m sure many people would be surprised at the question, as there is often a very narrow definition of what constitutes mission work or what defines a missionary. The words mission and missionary come from the Latin verb mittere, meaning to send. This makes sense, right? Missionaries are sent from their home to a place that’s not their home. Those who stay at home send those who are going. But is it really that simple? My version of my friend’s question is, “Are you an Acts 1:8 Christian?”
“But 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.”
We can answer my question by taking a look at the verse above. Jesus says we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on us. Jesus himself said that he would ask the Father to give us the Holy Spirit to not only dwell with us and be in us but to help us (John 14:16-17). If we are in Christ, we have the Holy Spirit and the power he gives. All Christians are spirit-empowered Christians.
Jesus goes on to say we will be his witnesses. We are to witness to the person and work of Christ and what he has done in changing our hearts. We are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), and we are to be prepared to give a defense for the hope we have (2 Pet 3:15). Notice also, Jesus says we will be his witnesses. There is a certainty. Jesus is using us. What retired professor Denny Prutow shared ten years ago in an RPTS chapel sermon is still true today: “By your Spirit-empowered witness Christ is pleased to advance his kingdom.”
The final part our text from Acts to consider is the location of our witnessing. As a stone dropped into water makes rings which move outward, so Jesus moves us outward. Jerusalem is closest. Judea is farther away. Samaria is beyond Judea. And the ends of the earth? Yes, that is the farthest. Notice Jesus doesn’t say witnesses only go to the ends of the earth. Nor do they just remain in Jerusalem. His witnesses are everywhere. How can Jesus send someone to be a witness in Jerusalem if they’re not going anywhere? Here we must consider the terms “home” and “sent.” My home is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, so being sent would mean leaving Pittsburgh. Biblically speaking, however Christ’s kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36) and my citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20). We are all strangers and exiles here on earth (Heb. 11:13), so anywhere we go, we are sent. We are all sent. Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to having been sent by the Father to do his will. In John 20:21 he says, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Sent ones – missionaries!
The only matter that remains to be settled is where these spirit-empowered, testimony-bearing, sent-ones will live. Jesus tells us. They will live in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. As I write this article, a family I love is traveling to the ends of earth. Another family I love recently landed in New York - their “Samaria.” And I am surrounded by others near and not too far who are faithfully witnessing in the Judeas and Jerusalems in which they live.
So my friend, go forth and be an Acts 1:8 Christian today, empowered by the King to be a bold witness, wherever you live – “That all the earth may fear him to its remotest end” (Psalm 67C, Book of Psalms for Worship).