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The Apostle’s Great Commission

Try to put yourself in the mind of one of the eleven apostles on that hill in the first century. Standing on the Mount of Olives they heard the now familiar command, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). Then they watched as their Master was taken up and disappeared into a cloud. As they stood there looking for their Lord, their heavenly gaze was broken by two men in white reminding them of the words Jesus had spoken to them, “I will come again” (John 14:3). The eleven men returned to Jerusalem and waited for ten days. But they were not idle. They appointed a new apostle and “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14 NKJV). Then came the Day of Pentecost. The apostles were afforded their first opportunity to put this commission into action. Through their obedience to their Lord’s final words, three thousand souls were saved that day alone.

We do not read the apostles’ thoughts on the matter. We only have the words of Simon Peter’s passionate argument on the power of Christ’s work on the cross and his plea for the listeners’ repentance. When I speculate on the mental state of the apostles I am awed by their subsequent actions. These are men who had just witnessed their Master and Rabbi murdered, seen Him risen from the dead, and then watched Him leave them again for an unspecified amount of time. Imagine the emotional rollercoaster! However, instead of being disheartened by this new reality without the physical presence of their Master, the apostles were filled with an unmatched boldness and zeal. This speaks to the proof of the Lord’s resurrection. These men did not act as a defeated group whose leader was dead. This could have been the time to run, hide, and disappear back into society, but not for these men. Instead, they lived with the assurance that their Lord was alive, and His message was true. These men had seen the risen Lord and they would not stop proclaiming the message.

In Acts 4, Peter and John were threatened with punishment by the rulers, elders, and scribes. But they continued to preach the gospel, proclaiming what they had seen and heard. Observing their actions, I am humbled by their immediate zeal to preach the word, and by their joy in suffering both persecution and death for the sake of their Lord (Acts 5:41). What a rebuke for many of us. Most of us in the West have not yet faced the threat of persecution. We do not fear beatings, imprisonment, or death as many Christians throughout history and around the world have. Yet, despite our safety, we struggle to participate in the Great Commission as the disciples did. There is no valid excuse for any of us not to share the gospel.

Our inward focus is often the main reason that we do not proclaim the gospel as often as we should. When we focus on ourselves, our reputation, or our pride it is a sure way to lose sight of the Savior and His commands. The apostles faithfully held to the Great Commission because their eyes were fixed solely on Christ. At the end of Acts 2, we read that they were steadfast in teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer. This daily devotion to the Lord kept them close. In order for any of us to have a deep communion with our Savior and have a hope of following His commission, we have to daily deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (Luke 9:23).

This commission is to all who call on the name of the Lord. It is not only for some of us, or just for those with certain abilities. It is an appeal to all to lay aside the sin and the distractions that hinder us. It is a plea to run the race with our gaze on Jesus, the founder and finisher of our faith
(Hebrews 12:1-2). Following the example of those who have come before us, let us be occupied with Him, having His word flow out of our hearts and upon the ears of the world around us. Let us proclaim. Let us endure. Let us run the race.

—Benjamin Higgs