Jesus’ followers risked ridicule, rejection, and even death, as they traveled throughout the Greco-Roman world sharing the gospel of salvation by faith in Christ with people from all levels and in all sectors of society. That’s what Jesus directed them to do after He miraculously rose from the dead three days following His death on the cross.
For forty days before ascending into Heaven, Jesus taught His disciples, assigning them new work and preparing them to accomplish it. Then on a mountain overlooking Galilee, He charged them to enlarge the kingdom by making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey and do everything He commanded – what is known as the “Great Commission.”
His audacious plan called for each disciple to become an ambassador of the Messiah, persuading others to be reconciled to God, to enter His kingdom, and to follow in the way of the Lord Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:20). By this method of disciples making disciples, the followers of Jesus would grow exponentially. And it continues to this day.
Just before His ascent to heaven, Jesus said, “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). And to encourage them in this monumental task, Jesus promised that He would be with them to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:19–20; John 14:12–21).
The book of Acts conﬁrms that Jesus’ followers did just as He commanded. Risking ridicule, rejection, and even death, they traveled throughout the Greco-Roman world sharing the gospel of salvation by faith in Christ with people from all levels and in all sectors of society. This tiny but growing band of followers were said to have “caused trouble all over the world” (Acts 17:6) as they spread the good news throughout many lands and cultures.
The Great Commission Was God’s Plan from the Beginning
It may seem that the Great Commission is only a New Testament concept, but the Old Testament shows that God’s plan to reach all the earth with the gospel is found in the Torah as well as the poetic and prophetic books.
In Genesis 12:3, God promises Abraham, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Psalm 67:2 asks God’s blessing, “so that [His] ways may be known on earth, [His] salvation among all nations.” The prophet Isaiah offers a clear missionary message: Since His servants are “in Christ,” they join Jesus in being “a light for the Gentiles, that [the Lord’s] salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). And the entire book of Jonah tells of God’s outreach to the Gentiles.
For Us Today
From the beginning, God has had the whole world on His heart and has worked to raise up a missionary people. While there may be limitations in how far we can travel to share the Good News about Jesus, we can reach out to those who need to hear it in our own communities and personal spheres of influence. Are you ready to answer the call?
Article drawn from study features in the NIV Storyline Bible.