Much of our emphasis on the “Great Commission” needs to be thought through carefully in light of the Book of Acts. When the Holy Spirit came (Acts 2) and filled the hundred and twenty gathered in prayer, waiting for His arrival (May 29, AD 30), Acts had not been written by Luke (AD 63), and Matthew was not written until AD 58. In other words, none of the disciples or apostles read Matthew 28:19-20 when the church was born and knew from reading what to do. What then made their evangelism and missionary work so effective since they did not have the “Great Commission” statement? I want to begin answering this question with a quote from Roland Allen.
“The Holy Spirit is first given, then all the acts are described (in the Book of Acts) as consequences of His descent upon human beings… We see what happens when the Holy Spirit descends upon men of like passions with ourselves. Loyalty to Christ did not drive the apostles…Zeal for Christ’s honor did not teach them how to approach those heathens and establish the Church. It was the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Redeemer, which did this. From this point of view, their words and acts became a wonderful revelation of the Holy Spirit.” (1)
I give you a present-day proof of the Holy Spirit working in this way in parts of Africa. “Many church leaders and pastors who have been given a privilege to read and use God's Plan for His Church are seeing tremendous results in church renewal and multiplication. The Holy Spirit is taking the lead and many are coming to Christ than ever before.” (Daniel, Kenya).
Our problem today of not advancing the gospel into unreached people groups is not because we do not understand the “Great Commission”. It’s because we do not know how to be led by the Spirit! I will humbly say to you that if you want to return to the Scriptures and see the Spirit lead you in this way, you must read Acts and Paul’s letters using God's Plan for His Church. You will never be the same and you will want the Spirit to lead you with His fresh power and understanding!
(1) Roland Allen, The Ministry of the Spirit, Eerdmans Publishing, 1960, page 4.
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