The inescapable call of global mission
Have you ever felt that you were a part of something big? Maybe you were part of a national political movement. Maybe you were part of an emerging social cause in your community. Or instead, maybe you want to be a part of something big, but haven’t found it yet.
We have been exploring Acts 1:8 during the last few months, and if we look carefully, we will encounter the incredible moment when the first disciples realized that they were a part of something big. Really big. Let’s look at Jesus’ words again:
“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” (Acts 1:8).
The ends of the earth. Far from being a generic phrase that just means “everywhere else,” the ends of the earth was a provocative term, both religiously and culturally. And Jesus didn’t use it by accident.
The backstory of “the ends of the earth” is found in the prophet Isaiah. For Isaiah, the ends of the earth is the realm to which the salvation of God advances and extends, through both proclamation and action (see Isaiah 45:22; 48:20; 49:6; 62:11).
The backstory is also in Jeremiah, for whom the ends of the earth denotes both judgment (Jeremiah 6:22; 25:32; 50:41) and salvation (Jeremiah 31:8). “The ends of the earth” means every nation and every person. On earth.
As students of Jewish history and Scripture, the disciples to whom Jesus was speaking would have known the backstory well. After all, it was part of their story. A story, as they were experiencing, that was incomplete. Salvation had not yet reached the ends of the earth. So, when Jesus called them to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth, they were hit with the full force of its meaning and implication.
Jesus intentionally connected his “new” call for global salvation to the previous call of the Sovereign God of Israel. Same God, same mission. Jesus placed his followers in the same trajectory: they were called to continue the worldwide mission of God that flowed through the Prophets, through Jesus, and now through the Holy Spirit in them!
Wow, no wonder they needed the powerful experiences described in Acts 1–2 to give them courage and power to embrace the mission to reach the entire world for Jesus.
Now, in case we think the call was applicable to only the people in the room at the time Jesus spoke, let’s fast forward a few chapters. In Acts 13:47, when Paul and Barnabas (neither of whom were there during the Acts 1:8 experience) were questioned about their call to ministry and their strategies, they immediately aligned themselves with the same divinely ordained global mission. They were commanded by the Lord, they said, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.
The obvious implication then, is that strategic and relentless global mission is the inescapable call of all followers of Jesus, regardless of the era or location within which we live.
How we do this (individually and collectively) is quite flexible, but that we do it, is not. If that is true, and if you are a follower of Jesus, then you are part of the biggest cause of all – bringing salvation to the ends of the earth!
[Mark Wessner is president of MB Seminary. He lives in Abbotsford, B.C., with his wife and two daughters.