Saturday, December 12, 2009

Where Discipleship Happens

“Make disciples of all nations.” –Jesus, Matthew 28:19

“And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”

– Acts 1:8, The Message

Discipleship happens within us, here, there, over there, and everywhere.

Acts 1:8

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

In the great commission, in Matthew 28:18-19, Jesus calls His followers, His Disciples, to make disciples of all nations. Jesus’ declaration to make Himself known to all people is repeated before His ascension in Acts 1:8 when He challenges followers to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the world. This idea of being a witness, according to the Bible Readers Companion, refers to “A person who ‘gives evidence,’ basing his or her testimony concerning actual events on direct, personal knowledge. The apostles gave this kind of evidence concerning Christ’s life and resurrection. You and I can give this kind of evidence concerning God’s work in our lives.” This is a profound beginning to where discipleship begins. Being a witness, or teaching what we know begins with God’s Holy Spirit at work in us and us knowing the God we are proclaiming. Another way of saying this is, “Discipleship begins with God’s Spirit and us being Jesus’ disciples. Discipleship happens within us first.

After the challenge of Jesus to be His witnesses, Jesus begins to tell His followers where this is supposed to take place: in Jerusalem, all over Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the world. The author of Acts, Luke, is outlining what he already knows occurred with the spread of the gospel. Luke records Jesus’ words because he knew that people followed Jesus’ word and disciples were indeed made of all nations. People were Christ’s witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the world. The rest of Acts documents the spread of the gospel in this same sequence. The Bible Readers Companion goes on to describe that this verse outlines a pattern of how the gospel spread, “There is a pattern, this verse contains a rough outline of the book (Acts), which tells of the Gospel’s spread in Jerusalem, Samaria, and the world.” The Tyndale Reference Library also tracks with this account of Acts 1:8 saying it “Provides the outline for the entire book: (1) witness in Jerusalem (2:5–8:3), (2) witness in Judea and Samaria (8:4–12:25), and (3) witness in the Mediterranean world (13:1–28:31). The Spirit’s function was to provide power for witness worldwide.”

If you look on a map of the Holy Land in the time of Christ, you see that Judea is south of Jerusalem, where the disciples were assembled together (Acts 1:4), and Samaria is north of Jerusalem. We also know that the Samaritans to the north were a despised people, enemies, and a mixed breed. They were considered some of the lowest of the lowly, yet Jesus desired for His disciples to be witnesses to them as well. The utter most parts of the earth, according to The Bible Knowledge Commentary, was probably referring to Rome. The author states, “’The ends of the earth’ looks to Rome, the proud center of world civilization in the Apostolic Age, a significant distance from Jerusalem (more than 1,400 miles, as the crow flies).” Rome symbolized what the disciples, and the world at that time, saw as the pinnacle destination; The Place. This geographic location represented to them the culmination of everyone and everything that was important and powerful; it was the whole world as they knew it, the very center of world civilization.

When we hear the words of Jesus in Acts 1:8, we hear Jesus saying; first, receive my Spirit’s power and enter into my resurrected life; second, be my witnesses here where you are; third, be my witnesses there in your communities; fourth, be my witnesses “over there” in the parts of town and places in your community that you may not be comfortable with; and fifth, be my witnesses everywhere, where you work, where you vacation, everywhere, even unto the ends of the earth. Jesus was saying that he wants everyone to learn about Him and to come to know Him. Jesus wants disciples of all nations; all people. No one should be left out or left behind. This is where discipleship is supposed to happen by the power and presence of His Holy Spirit: with us, here, there, over there, and everywhere.

May we be His disciples by His Holy Spirit, witnessing in every place we find ourselves through His Glorious Power and Holy Spirit at work in us!


Works Cited

Hughes, Robert B. ; Laney, J. Carl: Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Tyndale House Publishers, 2001 (The Tyndale Reference Library), S. 496

The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Acts 1:8

Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Acts 1:8

Richards, Lawrence O.: The Bible Readers Companion. electronic ed. Wheaton : Victor Books, 1991; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996, S. 708

Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 2:354

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