The disciples had just asked the risen Jesus a question about ‘“restoring the kingdom”’(Acts 1:6). His answer included rather more than they were anticipating; it involves even us! For them and for us there’s a Word to receive, and a Word to run with and scatter, everywhere.
The first thing to note is that it’s all about Jesus; ‘“You will be witnesses to me”’. Luke records the same instruction at the end of his gospel, ‘“You are witnesses of these things”’(Luke 24:48). What things? – ‘“all things which are written in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures. He said to them, “Thus it is written,… it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and… repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”’(Luke 24:44-47). So God’s Word is the person, life, death, resurrection and message of Jesus. That’s why John’s gospel starts, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.’(John 1:1&14)
This became the message of the apostles, after Jesus prophesy was fulfilled: ‘“the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you”’(John 14:26). We have their message in the writings of the New Testament, recognised as their testimony: The New Testament ‘Scriptures’(2 Peter 3:16).
So this Word as recorded for us in the Holy Scriptures is no ordinary document. It’s Spirit inspired: ‘God-breathed’(2 Timothy 3:16); moreover, it’s alive even, as Stephen described the Old Testament: ‘“living oracles”’(Acts 7:38), or as Jesus described His teaching: ‘“The words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life”’(John 6:63). This message that the apostles were witnesses to is not just words, but living words, ‘living, and active’(Hebrews 4:12). Wherever taken it’s accompanied and applied by God’s Holy Spirit. In fact The Spirit is required to rightly hear it, as the apostle Paul said, these are things ‘which the Holy Spirit teaches’(1 Corinthians 2:13), they are not naturally ‘discerned’(1 Corinthians 2:14). Truly receiving them requires a spiritual birth that’s conceived by the very living words themselves, as the apostle Peter put it, ‘born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives’(1 Peter 1:23).
So this witness of the apostles to the message of Jesus, once committed to paper in the Holy Scriptures, became a seed by which that message continued to spread. Any of us subsequently born of that seed can thus disseminate the message further, drawing attention to it by speaking about it, writing about it, etc., sowing it everywhere, by whatever means available to us. Thereby ‘“some”’(Mark 4:20) such scattered seeds germinate and grow to produce yet more seeds, since, ‘“The Kingdom of God is as if a man should cast seed on the earth, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring up and grow, he doesn’t know how”’(Mark 4:26-27). It happens by the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit, since ‘neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase’(1 Corinthians 3:7).
The book of Acts describes just the beginning of this spread from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, but it’s of note that even at the very beginning, in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, the message was multilingual – heard by people present from as far afield as Arabia, Persia (Parthia), North Africa and Europe (Rome) – signalling its global intent and destiny. By the end of the book we find the apostle Paul actually in Rome ‘preaching the Kingdom of God, and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ’(Acts 28:31). Now we’re in the phase during which, ‘“This Good News of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come”’(Matthew 24:14). Then eventually we’ll rejoice with the multitude ‘out of every nation and of all tribes, peoples, and languages’(Revelation 7:9) in God’s Eternal Kingdom.
So let’s receive this Word, run with and scatter it, by whatever means available, and God will bring His harvest Home.