Look at Luke 24 again with me, if you will, verse 44. Let’s pick it up again in the text. “Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’”
Now the main thrust in this section is verse 47. This is the commission, the call, the mission mandate to the followers of Jesus, that repentance for forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in His name. They have seen the risen Christ. They now know that He is alive, that He died and rose the third day, and that because of that, salvation is accomplished, and forgiveness of sins has been purchased; and they must proclaim that to the world.
As I told you this morning, this is the goal of everything in the church. We are in the church doing all that we do, all spiritual ministry, with a goal in mind of building up Christian people, so that they can effectively evangelize the lost. Everything we do, whether it’s fellowship, teaching, worship, instruction, practical training, service of every kind and any kind, the pursuit of holiness: all of these things are for the maturing of the saints for the work of the ministry, which in the end is the building of the body of Christ through evangelism, speaking the truth in love as Ephesians 4 lays it out.
We have then in this passage a laying out step by step by step of the components that make up the mission mandate. First of all, we have already considered the fact that the gospel, the gospel mission is biblical as to its foundation. And I pointed that out to you this morning and won’t go over it. One of the advantages of doing this on Sunday night is you haven’t forgotten at all during the week.
“He said to them,” – verse 44 – ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” This tells us that the gospel is not an interruption. It is not something new. It is the continuity of the great mural of salvation that God began to paint from the very beginning of Scripture in the Old Testament. We look backward then in verses 44 and 45 before we look forward to the proclamation of this message, which will go on until the end of human history.
So all those things that the Old Testament says about Messiah must be fulfilled. And, of course, they had a partial understanding of what the Old Testament said about Messiah. They only took ownership of the things that said Messiah would triumph, and be victorious, and set up the kingdom; and they ignored all the parts that indicated His suffering and the details of His suffering, and His death, and His rising from the dead. And so the Lord, in verse 45, opens their minds to get the full picture. So we say then that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, which we proclaim as a mission mandate, is biblical as to its foundation.
Secondly, we said, this morning, it is historical as to its accomplishment. It is not mystical. It is not legendary. It is an actual historical fact, as verse 46 says, as it was written, that in fact, Christ did suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day, and they all know that. So proclaiming the gospel is to understand that the gospel is laid out for us by prophecy, both in word and in type in the Old Testament, that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. And as to its actuality, it is historical. It is not a virtual event, it is not a spiritual event; it is an actual historical event that Jesus died and rose again.
Thirdly, the gospel as to its foundation is biblical, as to its accomplishment is historical, as to its provision is transformational. The objective of the gospel is the transformation that comes when someone is forgiven of their sins. So verse 47 says that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name.
The gospel message to be proclaimed is that God will forgive all your sins if you will repent and embrace the name of Jesus Christ. That is the gospel. The heart of it is the forgiveness of sins. And I pointed out to you as we concluded this morning that all through the book of Luke from the very beginning, chapter 1 verse 77, and the words of Zacharias, “He is coming for salvation by the forgiveness of sins.”
John the Baptist then came preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus came preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins. That has been the message from the beginning of Luke; and now at the end of Luke, the baton is being passed to the followers of Jesus to go out and preach the same message that has been preached from the beginning: forgiveness of sin is available to those who repent.
Just a word about what it means to repent. Repentance is the foundational, biblical, spiritual act that moves the heart in the direction of salvation. It is necessary to be saved, for one to turn from sin’s presence, sin’s power, sin’s dominance, and even sin’s consequence to righteousness. It’s a 180-degree turn, the opposite direction. It is a desire to leave sin behind and pursue righteousness. This is true repentance. It is not simply feeling bad about your circumstances, or feeling bad about your condition; it is not even feeling bad that your consequences came from your sins; it is feeling bad about the reality of sin. The presence of sin, the power of sin, and the ultimate effect of sin; and having a desire in your heart to leave that behind and pursue righteousness as to its presence, and its power, and its eternal blessing.
Repentance is prompted by the Holy Spirit. John 16 says the Spirit comes to convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. It is granted by God Himself, repentance is. Second Timothy 2:25 says that God grants repentance. In the book of Acts, you remember when the Gentiles believed, the word was God has granted repentance to the Gentiles.
The attitude of repentance is best understood by looking at the Beatitudes in Matthew 6. It is to be bankrupt, to know that you are poor, spiritually bankrupt. It is to hunger and thirst after righteousness. It is to mourn over your wretchedness and consequently be humbled by that condition.
So repentance is an attitude that says, “I want to escape from the presence and the power and the ultimate effect of sin. I have a desire and longing in my heart to follow after righteousness, and to enjoy its presence and its power and its ultimate end.” To that repentant person, the promise is God will grant the forgiveness of sin. It can be granted now, because Christ has provided the sacrifice that pays the penalty for sin so that it can be forgiven.
Forgiveness from sin, forgiveness for sin, or of sin – you can use any preposition you want – is transformational. And that’s why I use that word in the main point. That is, when you’re forgiven, it is the most transforming act that God can do. It moves you from death to life, damnation to no condemnation. And it moves you from hell to heaven. It moves you from being an enemy to becoming a friend. It moves you from a son of wrath to a son of God. It moves you from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s dear Son, the kingdom of light. It moves you from being under the authority of Satan to being under the authority of God. It transform you in every way.
Within this great act of forgiveness come all the elements of salvation, including regeneration, justification, conversion, sanctification, redemption, adoption. All of those are elements of salvation; but salvation at its core is the forgiveness of sins, which then eliminates the penalty. But it’s not just the elimination of the penalty, it is the transformation of the person now and forever into a person that longs for what is righteous. This is the great, transforming reality. When a person’s sins are forgiven, they’re a new creation. Second Corinthians 5:17, “Old things passed away, all things become new.” It is transformation. You go for being headed for hell inevitably, to being headed for heaven securely. Everything changes; absolutely everything changes. And so the message we are to preach is a message of absolute and total transformation.
There’s a fourth point, and this is an equally important point. The gospel is biblical as to its foundation, historical as to its accomplishment, transformational as to its provision. The gospel is Christological as to its appropriation. This cannot be overlooked. Forgiveness of sins is available, but only in His name, only in His name. It is Christological in the sense that it is in Christ that forgiveness occurs and in no one else. Apart from Christ there is no forgiveness of sins, none.
Now when it says “in His name,” what is that saying? Well, we know about that, because that’s a very, very familiar term in Scripture, to use the name of God as a representation of God, or the name of Christ as a representation of Christ. All through Scripture “the name of the Lord” is a synonym, or better, a metonym for who He is, His person. “My name is I AM THAT I AM,” He said. “My name is who I am.”
Now our names aren’t necessarily reflective of who we are. Some of you are named Mary. Mary means bitter myrrh. But some of you are really nice Marys. I happened to be named John. John means “gift of God.” I’m not going to make any further comment about it.
But some of your names have nothing to do with who you are, but God’s name has everything to do with who He is, and so does Jesus’ name. “Call Him Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins. And call Him Christ, because He’s the Messiah. And call Him Lord, because He has been exalted to the right hand of God, and given a name above every name.” So His names all are significant. And so when it says here that forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed, it is to be proclaimed in His name. That is consistent with who He is. That doesn’t really need an explanation here, because it is so obvious what it means in Scripture. The only way forgiveness will ever be appropriated by anyone in the world is through the name of Jesus Christ, through the name of Jesus Christ.
In the twentieth chapter of Acts, as the Book of Acts unfolded, and as the apostle Paul launched his ministry, he understood what all the others before him understood. He says in Acts 20:20, “I didn’t shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, teaching you publicly and from house to house. And what did I testify? Both to Jews and Greeks, repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s the name, the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in the one who is Lord. Faith in the one who is Jesus, because He’s going to save us from our sins; His name means that. Faith in the one who is none other than the Messiah, the Christ.
There is no forgiveness, Paul is saying, unless you repent toward God and put your faith in Jesus Christ. And when these apostles and prophets who were gathered, who heard this and went out to proclaim the gospel, that is exactly what they proclaimed. I showed you Paul, reversing a little bit, let’s go back into the early part of the book of Acts and see if they got this lesson well; and we’ll go back in to the fourth chapter of Acts and we’ll hear Peter.
And what does Peter say? Chapter 4, verse 10: “Jesus Christ the Nazarene, you crucified; God raised Him from the dead. He is the stone” – verse 11 – “which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief cornerstone,” as I told you this morning with this same passage. He is using an Old Testament text from Psalm 118, verse 22, and showing how Jesus is the fulfillment of it. And then he comes to verse 12, and he says, “There is salvation in no one else. There is no other name under heaven.” There’s the idea. No other what? Name. “There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Only in the name of Jesus, that is in the person of Christ and all that He has accomplished can salvation come.
They got the message about forgiveness. I showed you that this morning. And they went on to reach repentance and forgiveness. They also got the message about the name of Christ being the only name in which the power of God could be known. In fact, they used the name of Jesus in healing. Chapter 3, verse 6, Peter’s there with John in the temple, and there’s a man who has been lame from birth, some kind of birth defect. And Peter says to him in verse 6, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, walk!” It’s not that there’s magic in the name, it simply means that “by the power of Christ, you walk.” And he did.
In verse 14, Peter has just again said, “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One. You asked for a murderer to be granted to you,” – in verse 15 – “you put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead.” They just kept repeating it and repeating it, the facts, the historic facts. They kept repeating the fact that it was connected to the Old Testament. They kept repeating the fact that it was repentance and forgiveness, the great transformation that was offered, and that it was always only through Christ. Verse 16, “On the basis of faith in His name, that is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him is given in this perfect health in the presence of you all.” So they healed in His name.
Peter even refers to that, chapter 4 verse 10, I just read it to you: “It is by this name that this man stands here in good health.” Chapter 4, verse 30, “while you extend your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
They baptized in His name. Chapter 8, chapter 10, chapter 19, chapter 22, all describe people being baptized in His name. Now in order to be baptized, you had to come to faith in Christ, and you were baptized in His name. It was in His name, that is by His person and His power, that people were healed. It was in His name, that is by His person and power, that they were saved, and then went through the baptism that symbolizes that salvation.
And when they suffered in the proclamation of the gospel, before taking this glorious message, they suffered for His name. Chapter 5 verse 41, “They went out on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” Again, His person, His work, His glorious gospel, His purpose, His cause. They healed in His name, they preached the gospel in His name, they baptized in His name.
Chapter 9, Ananias tells Paul at his conversion that God spoke to him, verse 15, and said that “you’re a chosen instrument of Mine to bear My name. You’re going to go and bear My name. You’re going to preach Jesus; you’re going to preach Christ. You’re going to preach Jesus Christ as Lord before the Gentiles, and before kings, and sons of Israel.” And he did. He preached to Gentiles, he preached to Jews in the synagogues, and he preached to royalty. At the end of the book of Acts it gives examples of this. And, verse 16, “I will show him how much he must suffer for My namesake.”
In chapter 21, and verse 13, Paul says, “What are you doing weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” So everything they did was in His name. They healed in His name, preached in His name, baptized in His name, suffered in His name.
Well, the fallout from this – I think a very obvious one, and a very wonderful one, and a good one – can be seen back in chapter 9. Christians became known as people who called on the name of the Lord. So in chapter 9, and verse 14, we read – this is back to verse 13 to get it in context: “Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did for Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.’” So Ananias identifies believers in verse 13 as saints, and in verse 14 as “all who call on Your name.”
Christians became known as those who call on the name of the Lord. They call on the name of the Lord for salvation. They call on the name of the Lord for power. Verse 21, it says, “All those hearing him” – that is Paul – “were amazed, and were saying, ‘Is not this he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name?’” So not only does a believer identify Christians who call on the name, but nonbelievers identify Christians as those who call on the name. In other words, they were dominated by the name of Jesus and by identification with Him.
Now we can go back to Luke 24 at this point, and I think you understand what I’m trying to show you here. There is no other name than the name of Jesus by which one can be saved. And one cannot be saved unless one’s sins are forgiven; and they will only be forgiven through faith in His name, that is faith in His person.
You know, another verse comes to mind, you don’t have to turn to it. John makes a very interesting remark, I think, in his third letter just before Jude, and I’m going to read it to you starting in verse 5. “Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they’re strangers, and they have testified to your love before the church. You do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.”
These believers – and this would be beloved Gaius, and probably his family and other believers. When brethren came along who were strangers to them, they treated them with love, and you do well. It says, “Send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.” They showed them hospitality, provided provisions for them, took care of them, and sent them on their journey.
Why did they do that? Verse 7: “For they went out for the sake of the name.” You don’t even need to use the word “Jesus” or “Christ” or “Lord,” they knew who you were talking about. “They went out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles; therefore we ought to support such men so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.” So even evangelists and preachers were called “those who represented the name.”
Salvation is in Christ and no other. Repentance for forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed, but is only available in His name. Apart from Christ, there is no forgiveness. Jesus had said this before. He said it to them in the upper room: “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but by Me.” So this gospel that is transformational as to its provision, is Christological as to its appropriation.
Number five: The gospel is global as to its extent. It is global as to its extent. Please, for a moment, I want you to go back to verse 46: “Thus it is written.” Where? In the Old Testament Scriptures. “Thus it is written” – in the Old Testament Scriptures – “that the Messiah would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day. It is also written in the Old Testament Scriptures that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name, that the Messiah was going to come to provide the offering for sin that would make forgiveness available.” That is written in the Old Testament through the whole sacrificial system, and explicitly in Isaiah 53, and Zachariah 12, and other places.
But it is also explicitly written in the Old Testament that the Christ who would suffer and rise the third day, and would provide repentance for forgiveness of sins, and have His name proclaimed, would have His name proclaimed to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Not only were all the prophecies related to the Messiah in the Old Testament, but all the prophecies related to the provision of the Messiah in salvation and the forgiveness of sins are in the Old Testament. And the Old testament also prophesies world evangelization and world salvation, so that you have to take the phrase “to all nations beginning from Jerusalem” and connected with “thus it is written.” Our Lord is saying that all these elements of the gospel are prophesied in the Old Testament, including its global extent to all nations.
Now remember, this is going to be a dramatic change for them, because even at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus told His followers, “Don’t go to the Gentiles, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” That now is changing. It has changed. “The natural branches,” – to borrow the language of the apostle Paul in Romans 11 – “the natural branches have been cut off by unbelief and rejection.”
Jesus, you remember, in the Olivet Discourse, pronounced desolation on Israel. And He told them, in no uncertain terms, that they were going to be punished, their temple was going to be torn down, and not one stone was going to be left on another. Their religious system was going to be devastated. Siege was going to come against their city and it would be destroyed; and that this would be a long, long time of destruction and desolation that they would endure.
And so the natural branches now have been cut off. And while there will be some who will believe in Israel among the Jews when evangelism begins in Jerusalem – three thousand on the Day of Pentecost, five thousand a few days or weeks later, and more – the nation is under desolation. “Behold, your house is left to you desolate,” as a whole.
And the gospel now, while starting there and capturing the remnant, is to go to the world. It’s a very new idea to even Jewish believers. Gentile salvation was never popular with them. Testimony to that comes from Jonah, who chose to take a short ride on a big fish rather than go and preach to Ninevites, because he didn’t want them to repent and get in on the blessings that God provided Israel.
Even the early apostles seemed reluctant to buy into this global extent. Do you know there’s not really any evangelism of Gentiles. They started where they were supposed to. Matthew says, “Go into all the world.” And in Luke’s account, he says, “You are to be witnesses of Me in Jerusalem, Samaria, and the whole world.” But this was a hard pill for them to swallow, because they were basically anti-Gentile. And I think they were reluctant to think about this until Acts 10.
You see, the problem they had with going to the Gentiles was they were convinced that their religion, if they were faithful to it, isolated them from Gentiles. They couldn’t go to a Gentile house. They couldn’t eat with a Gentile utensil. They couldn’t consume non-kosher food. They couldn’t go into a Gentile country without being impure. So they had created this idea of holiness that isolated them.
So how were they going to do this and get across what they believed to be things that honored God? I mean it was God, wasn’t it, who gave them all the dietary laws. It was God who gave them all the restrictions that isolated them from the nations around them for their own preservation and protection. But God never intended it to cause them to be so isolated they wouldn’t take the truth of Him as the true and living trinitarian God to those nations. But they didn’t do that.
And they’re still confused, I think, because God has to come to Peter. God says to Peter – shows him a sheet full of all kinds of animals clean and unclean, and says, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.” By the way, that is a meat-eater’s dream, that passage. For you vegetarians, you’ve got a problem there in Acts 10. “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.” So Peter says, “No, can’t do it. I’ve never touched anything unclean.” And this whole thing is a metaphor for how are you going to evangelize the Gentiles. You’ve got to get pass this.
So they’re very reluctant. And God has to go into very dramatic means to get Peter to do what He wants him to do, and that is, “Go, give the gospel to a Gentile centurion named Cornelius.” That’s a big hurdle, huge.
Peter does it. Turn to Acts 10; and this is the first occasion, really, where they get past Samaria. They go to Samaria, remember, with Philip in chapter 8. The gospel is moving through Jerusalem in the early chapters, and it gets scattered belong Jerusalem. And how does God do that? Did they do it on their own? No, they don’t do it on their own. Chapter 8 begins with a great persecution brought against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered into Judea and Samaria.
You know, God had to scatter them, because it was so hard for them to go. Even Samaritans they despised. They despised them for what they thought was abandoning the truth of God and coming up with a false religious system, which they carried out on Mount Gerizim; and they were the half-breeds who betrayed their people, and their nation, and their heritage, et cetera, et cetera. And they had a hard time going there; that’s why no Jew ever walked through Samaria.
When Jesus did that and met the woman at the well, He was declaring, “This is going to go a direction you people can’t ever understand at this point.” First reveals His messiahship to a half-breed Samaritan woman, and grants her salvation. That’s some indication of where this is going. But they’re struggling with it. So the Lord has to allow a persecution to happen to get them out of town. And they flee the town, because they’re all going to get thrown in jail if they don’t; and so they go. And they go into Judea, and they go into Samaria.
And then in chapter 10, you have the first opportunity to go to a Gentile. Chapter 10, verse 34: “Opening his mouth,” which is something he did often, and it might say sticking his foot in it, because he did that occasionally. “But opening his mouth, Peter said, ‘I most certainly understand now.’” It took a while, didn’t it? I think this is when he gets it finally, that God is not one to show partiality; but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. Well, it took you ten chapters to get that? How long was that? How many weeks? How many months? This is not easy.
And then verse 36: “The word which he sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ, He is Lord of all. You yourself know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. You know about Jesus of Nazareth.” And he’s off and running. He now knows; he gets it.
Down to verse 42: “He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name” – listen to this – “everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” And there’s a whole new understanding of that word “everyone.” It’s not just Jews, it’s everyone, everyone.
But it’s not until chapter 10 that it starts to make sense. And then in chapter 11, Peter reports back in Jerusalem, and he goes and tells them what happened with Cornelius. And verse 18, “When they heard this, they quieted down.” Oh, I’ve got to read you verse 17, this is so good. “If God gave them the same gift as He gave to us” – the Holy Spirit, as to the Jews, if He gave the Gentiles the same gift – “after believing in the Lord Jesus,” – I love this – “who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”
“What do you think, I’m going to stop this?” He’s trying to act like a good Jew, you know. “You know, I tried to stop God, but I didn’t really know where to stand to get in His way.” “When they heard this, they quieted down and they glorified God, and said, ‘Well then, well then,’ – after all these months and months, guess what? – ‘God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.’”
It took a while, because it was a huge hurdle because of the animosity that they had for these Gentiles. Just look at Acts 15:13, “After they stopped speaking” – this is at the Council of Jerusalem, kind of the official meeting of the leaders of the church that are going to figure out now how to go about dealing with Gentiles, since they’re obviously included. The council gets together, James is presiding over the Council, “Brethren, listen to me, Simeon” – or Simon, or Peter – “has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name.” Wow.
Hey, can’t stand in the way; He did it. They received the same Holy Spirit. How did they know they received the Holy Spirit? Because he spoke in languages the same way they did on the day of Pentecost. So there was a sign that was the exact same sign as it was when the Jews received the Holy Spirit. “With this” – this is so important – “the words of the prophets agree.” Wow.
So when you think back to the twenty-fourth chapter there, “Thus it is written that repentance and the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed to all nations.” The prophets agree, and he quotes Amos 9: “After these things, I will return. I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen. I will rebuild its ruins. I will restore it, so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,” says the Lord who makes these things known from long ago.
Gentile salvation from the very beginning was part of the mural that God was going to paint in salvation. They had a little trouble getting to the global aspect of the gospel. They could have read Genesis 22:18, “In your seed” – Abraham – “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” And in Galatians it says not seeds, but “seed.” That is Christ.” First Kings 8:43; do you remember Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple? He prayed that “all the peoples of the earth may know Your name, and hear You as do your people Israel.”
You know, the Old Testament is full of prophecies of Gentile salvation? Listen to this one: Isaiah 2:1, “The word which Isaiah the son of Amos saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Now will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream into it. And many people will come and say, ‘Come, let us go to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.’ For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” That’s unmistakable.
Isaiah 45, another wonderful portion of Scripture that looks ahead to Gentile salvation. You know it, verse 22: “Turn to Me” – God speaking – “and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. I’m the only one who can save you; there is no other.”
I love 49:6 of Isaiah: “He says, ‘It is too small a thing that you should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will – He’s speaking of the Messiah here, My servant – ‘It’s too small a thing that You should be My servant and only raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make you a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” That’s a messianic prophecy. “Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and its Holy One.”
Now you can understand that their reluctance to preach to the Gentiles again shows how partial their understanding of the Old Testament was. How about chapter 60 of Isaiah: “Arise, shine; for Your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon You.” Speaking of a glorious restored Israel. “For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
I just am so always thrilled at how consistent the Scripture is. In Hosea 2:23, “I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people! And they will say, ‘You are my God!’”
And Joel, chapter 2, verse 32, “It’ll come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Paul quotes that, doesn’t he, in Romans 10: “For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.” “Whoever calls on My name.”
Just a couple more that are just so wonderful. Micah 4:1 and 2: “It will come about in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains. It’ll be raised above the hills, and the peoples will stream into it. Many nations will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us about His ways, that we may walk in His paths. For from Zion will go forth the law, even the word of the Lord from Jerusalem,’” a parallel to the Isaiah passage.
The Old Testament ends in the book of Malachi chapter 1, and it says this in verse 11: “From the rising of the sun to its setting,” – God speaking – “My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord of hosts.
And the apostles finally got it, as we showed in chapter 10. In chapter 9, Paul is converted, and he becomes God’s very special tool to begin this massive enterprise of taking the glorious gospel to the Gentile world; and he launches his ministry in the thirteenth chapter of Acts. Paul understood Gentile salvation. It was explained to him at his conversion, right? Just read it in chapter 9: “You’re going to be a light to the nations.” He understood the responsibility that he had to go to the world.
Turn to Romans 15 for a minute. Romans 15, verse 9. Verse 8, Paul writes, “Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers,” – but not just to the Jews; Christ is not just a servant to the circumcision, verse 9 – “and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written.”
Isn’t it amazing how the apostles and the preachers do exactly what Jesus says? They go back and show from the Old Testament these truths. And it is written, it is written in this text, verse 9: “Therefore I will give praise to You among the Gentiles. I will sing to Your name.” From 2 Samuel and from the Psalms.
Next verse comes from Deuteronomy: “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.” The next verse comes from Psalm 117: “Praise the Lord all you Gentiles. Let all the people praise Him.” The next verse comes from Isaiah chapter 11: “He will arise to rule over the Gentiles, this root of Jesse. In Him shall the Gentiles hope.”
Paul used other Old Testament passages in the book of Romans, many places, chapter 3. Used some of these again in chapter 9. Used others in chapter 10. Drew from Isaiah 65:1. This is the plan.
And by the way, if you want a glimpse of heaven, Revelation 7:9, and you’ll see in that wonderful picture all nations represented. “I looked, great multitude which no one could count from every nation, and all tribes and peoples and tongues standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes and palm branches in their hands; and they cried with a loud voice saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.’” Well they got it; and they preached to the whole world, at least as far as they could go.
You say, “Well, isn’t this commission just for them?” Of course it’s not just for them; they couldn’t fulfill it. When Jesus said, “Go to the whole world, go to all nations,” it is obvious in that that they can’t do that. So it extends far beyond them to us. So the mandate, the gospel mandate is biblical, historical, transformational, Christological, and global.
Now let’s get down to very intimate point. The gospel is personal as to its agency. Go back to Luke 24. The gospel is personal as to its agency.
I suppose there could have been a lot of ways in which the Lord had achieved the proclamation of the gospel. I can think of one that He’s going to use in the future: flying angel. The book of Revelation, right? Flying angel, angel flying through the heaven proclaiming the everlasting gospel. That’s going to be interesting. It’s sort of like a supernatural blimp, you know. That’s kind of the idea that has a sign running on the side of it. Somehow this flying angel only probably loudly proclaiming with some kind of supernatural voice the everlasting gospel.
But for this age, the Lord has chosen not to use a flying angel or any other supernatural kind of means. Verse 48 brings it right down: “You’re witnesses of these things.” Or to use the language of Acts 1: “You shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the uttermost part of the earth.” He can’t just be talking about the apostles, because they couldn’t get to the uttermost part of the earth. They would be dead long before the gospel ever got there. So this is to all of us. Sure the apostles are witnesses.
By the way, the word “witness,” martus, is used all through the book of Acts. “You are My witnesses. You are the ones I’m going to depend on to proclaim this. You, the first generation apostles and prophets” – apostles and disciples I should say – “you are the ones who know Me personally.”
Like John as he begins his first epistle: “The Word which we have handled, touched, seen, heard, we declare unto you. We are witnesses who pass on the original eyewitness account recorded in Scripture.” It was their testimony that spread the gospel, one, by one, by one, by one. They didn’t have any media. They didn’t have any; they couldn’t. There was no printing press, there was no television, there was no radio, there was none of the technology of the modern world, as you obviously know. It was mouth, to mouth, to mouth, to mouth; person, to person, to person, to person, standing in the agora, the marketplace, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, doing it wherever you could – meeting somebody on a road and giving him the gospel. “Wherever, whenever, you are My witnesses.”
And they were the foundational ones, obviously. John 14, John 15, John 16 says, “The Holy Spirit’s going to come upon you. He’s going to lead you unto all truth. He’s going to bring all things to your remembrance.” This is a special blessing on them so they can record the New Testament, so they can write the gospel account – the ones who were apostles and associates of apostles. They laid down their witness sure in written form.
That’s really not what this verse is saying. What he’s saying is “this entire world proclamation is going to go forth through you, through you.” And that is really what the book of Acts is about. It’s about all the personal proclamation of the gospel that goes on in that early church.
Peter’s first sermon, he says in verse 32, “This God, this Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.” Chapter 3, verse 15: “You put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.” They were eyewitnesses, incredible eyewitnesses; and there were hundreds of them.
Chapter 5: “He is the one to whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior to grant repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins; and we are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit,” he says. Chapter 10 of Acts, verse 39, the same emphasis on personal witness: “We are witnesses of all the things He did both in and of the Jews in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, we are witnesses. We are witnesses that God raised Him up on the third day. And He became visible not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand, who ate and drank with Him. We are witnesses.”
Chapter 13, verse 31; chapter 22, verses 15 and 20; chapter 26:16; they’re all saying, “We’re witnesses. We’re witnesses. We’re witnesses.” And they wrote down the eyewitness account in Scripture; and we are witnesses to the accuracy and inspiration of the eyewitness account; and God still advances His kingdom through personal witness. It’s still, in my mind, the most powerful tool for evangelism, because it’s undergirded by the credibility of a transformed life. This is God’s plan, God’s agency: human witness.
So the gospel is biblical, historical, transformational, Christological, global, personal, and finally, one more component: the gospel is supernatural as to its power, supernatural as to its power, because “the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly,” 2 Corinthians 10. The gospel of the King and the kingdom does not advance by human power, human creativity, human ingenuity, human cleverness. It doesn’t even advance by human zeal. Remember now, they’re fired up here because they would have had the burning heart that the people on the road to Emmaus had. The people on the road to Emmaus, once they got it straight – and they had their Old Testament theology fixed, and they knew Jesus was alive – couldn’t restrain themselves, jumped up from the table and ran back into Jerusalem seven miles to make an announcement, because they were so fired up by this great truth.
So these people have all going for them that they should have going for them. They have the right interpretation of the Old Testament locked down. Verse 45: “He had opened their minds to understand it.” They made the necessary connections between the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and the Old Testament texts that support that. They know what they’re to preach: repentance for the forgiveness of sins. They’ve experienced it, so they know what it is, and they’re thrilled to be able to proclaim it to others. They know they’re supposed to take it to everyone who believes, starting in Jerusalem and going from there. Their responsibility to personal witnesses in the doing of this, they’ve got it all down, and they have the zeal and the passion and drive, and they’re ready to go.
But, verse 49: “And behold,” – it’s a surprise what he says, that’s why “behold” is there, it’s a surprise: there’s something you’re missing – “I’m sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you’re to stay in the city until you’re clothed with power from on high.”
“With all of that you have going for you, correct theology of the Messiah, the correct historical understanding of the Messiah, eyewitnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus, with all that you know about the responsibility you have, proclaim the forgiveness of sin in the name of Christ, don’t go anywhere until you’re powered from on high. Don’t go. Even with all of this, you’re inadequate.”
“I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you,” epangelian. This is the only time this word is used, by the way, in the four Gospels. “I’m sending forth the promise.” It’s all over the book of Acts and the Epistles as the promise begins to unfold.
What is the promise? Promise of the Holy Spirit. Promise of the Holy Spirit. That’s the promise. And by the way, that promise also was given in the Old Testament. Listen to Joel 2:28, “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” And on the Day of Pentecost, you remember when the Spirit was first poured out, Peter stood up and said, “What you’ve just seen is the fulfillment in part, in part.” Maybe a pre-fulfillment of the words of Joel; and he recites the very words that I just read to you.
But it isn’t just that passage. There are other passages that promise the coming of the Holy Spirit connected with salvation. You remember the promise in Ezekiel 36: “I will put My Spirit” – verse 27 – “within you, cause you to talk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. I will put My Spirit within you. That’s a prophecy connected to the New Covenant. Ezekiel 37:14, “I’ll put My Spirit within you and you’ll come to life.” Even in chapter 39, “I will not hide My face from them” – verse 29 – “any longer. I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel.” The Old Testament promises then the coming of the Holy Spirit. And so our Lord says, “Don’t go anywhere until that prophecy is also fulfilled.”
You remember that in the New Testament in that last night in the upper room, John 14, Jesus said, “The Spirit has been with you. He shall be in you. You’ve had power; you’ve been given authority and power. You’ve had power; you will now have full power.”
John 20:22 says that on resurrection Sunday Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” They didn’t have that reception then, this was by way of promise. Forty days later, or during the forty-day gap, He repeats that: “I’m sending forth the promise.” And the Spirit actually came on the Day of Pentecost, ten days after the ascension of Jesus.
The gospel mandate, beloved, cannot be fulfilled without the power of the Holy Spirit. I have good news for you: you don’t have to wait. You don’t have to wait ten days; you don’t have to wait at all. If you’re a Christian, you’re the temple of the Holy Spirit. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ” – Romans 8:9 – “he’s none of His.” Reversing that, “If you belong to Christ, you have the Holy Spirit.”
“You are the temple of the Holy Spirit which you have of God,” Scripture says. So you are clothed with power from on high. That is Acts 1. Again this is Luke overlapping and interconnecting these. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses.”
Well, friends, if you’re a Christian, you have received the Holy Spirit, and you have the power to be an effective witness. You’re not waiting for anything, nothing. You have the power because you have the Spirit.
I love what it says here: “Stay in the city of Jerusalem until you are clothed.” That imagery means “covered” – familiar analogy – “to show completeness,” used so often by Paul all through his epistles. He’s always talking about putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, clothing yourself. And in this case, you are completely clothed and completely covered, as they were in ancient times, from the neck to the bottom of the feet, with power from on high.
What does that mean? From God. Power over all opposition, that’s the idea. Power over all opposition. You go out and you take that message and you know you have power.
This connects beautifully, beautifully with Matthew 28, Matthew 28. “And Jesus said this,” – you remember this, verse 18 – ‘All authority’ – or all power – ‘has been given to Me in heaven and earth.’” That, I think, is the greatest statement of sovereignty Jesus ever made. It is the greatest statement of sovereignty He ever made. “All power, all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Don’t be afraid to go forth.”
He ends the commission in Matthew, “I am with you always, and I have all power.” How is He with us? In the indwelling Holy Spirit who is one with Christ. Ten days later, the Holy Spirit came, and the power flowed immediately: three thousand saved, five thousand saved, and the rest is history.
So the question then at the end of all of this is: How faithful are you as a witness? You have all these components laid out and you have the power of the Holy Spirit. How faithful are you?
S. D. Gordon in an old book on Quiet Talks on World Winners described a group preparing for an ascent on Mont Blanc in the Swiss Alps. He writes on the evening before the climb. A French guide outlined the prerequisite for success, quote: “You will only reach the top by setting aside all the unnecessary accessories and carrying only essentials.”
A young Englishman disagreed and proceeded along the path by himself. The following morning, not only carrying climbing equipment, but a slightly colored blanket, large pieces of cheese, a bottle of wine, some bars of chocolate, camera equipment. Under the direction of the guide, he writes, “The group set off behind the Englishman and found along the way his blanket, his cheese, his wine, his chocolate, and his camera. Finally they discovered him at the top, minus all his accessories.”
S. D. Gordon then made the following application: “So many people when they find they can’t reach the top with their stuff let the top go, and pitch their tents in the plain; and the plain is so very full of tents.” Let the stuff go. Do what we’ve been called to do, to take the gospel to the top.
Well, thank you for letting me finish that today. Let’s pray together.
Father, we thank You for Your grace and mercy to us in salvation, and we thank You for this high and holy and glorious calling that You’ve given to us to proclaim Your truth to the ends of the world. This is what we are called for. This is what we live for. This is why You leave us here. May we be faithful to leave all the stuff lying here in the valley and get to the top, accomplishing what You would have us, for Your glory. Thank You for this privilege, in Christ’s name. Amen.
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