“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:8
As we introduce our study of Acts 1:8 we are going to answer 6 questions from 20,000 feet, so to speak: who, what, when, where, how, and why. We have already answered, who, what and when. Today, we will answer the question, where. Tomorrow, we will conclude by answering the questions, how and why.
The answer to where is made clear in Acts 1:8. Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Jerusalem and Judea was their hometown and area. It was comfortable. People looked like them, talked like them, had a culture like them, and for the most part, had the same religious background as them. Jerusalem and Judea were comfortable. Samaria, was not comfortable. Samaria was made up of half Jew and half Gentiles. The Samaritans were not like the Jews. They did not worship like the Jews. In fact, they were despised by the Jews. Most Jewish people would go all the way around Samaria to get from point A to point B, rather than go through it. Now, Jesus is telling them to go to Samaria! Not only did He command them to go from Jerusalem and Judea to Samaria, but even to the ends of the earth. He commanded them to go far beyond their comfort zones even to the Gentiles.
As we consider where Jesus commands His followers to go as witnesses, we must go to our Jerusalem and Judea: our own families, friends, communities, and states; the places where we are most comfortable. We must go to our Samaria: the people close to us, but unlike us. There are more and more people immigrating from country to country in our day and time. We can hear multiple languages in the grocery store in most modest sized towns. These people are close by, but outside of our comfort zones. We are obligated to go to them, since Jesus has brought them to us!
We are also commanded to go to the uttermost parts of the earth; all the nations. Consider carefully the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20: “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Notice that the Great Commission is not a command to make disciples of as many people as possible. That is great if you are doing that, but it is not specifically what Jesus commands in this text. The Great Commission is not even a command to take the gospel to someone on foreign soil. That is a great thing to do, but it is not specifically what Jesus commands in this text. What Jesus specifically command His followers to do in Matthew 28 is to make disciple of all the nations, literally peoples or people groups. This is a commission to get the gospel, not to as many people as possible, but to as many people groups as possible. We must make it our goal to get the gospel to every people group on the earth.
Consider that there are roughly 6000 unreached people groups on earth totaling more than 2 billion people. Don’t think that your lost friend, co-worker, or neighbor classifies as unreached. Unreached does not mean unsaved. There are unsaved people everywhere! Unreached means that they have little to no access to the gospel. Your neighbor, friend, and co-worker have access to the gospel because you are their neighbor, friend, or co-worker.
Consider that there are between 1200 and 3000 unreached, unengaged people groups. This means that these people groups have no gospel witness. They have no missionary, no preacher, no church, and no access to the gospel. They likely have never heard the Name of Jesus, and definitely have never understood the gospel. This leads to an obvious and powerful question that someone once asked: “Does anyone deserve to hear the gospel twice, as long as there are those who have never heard it once?” What is it going to take for the concept of unreached and unengaged people to become intolerable to us? We are obligated to lay our lives down, our families down, and our churches down…to do whatever we need to do to get the gospel to the ends of the earth!
We must assume responsibility for more than just our immediate area or we go from Acts 1:8 Christians to Acts 8:1 Christians. In Acts 1:8 Jesus commands His followers to go from Jerusalem and Judea to Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth. The power of the Holy Spirit came in Acts 2 and some 3000 people were converted. The church exploded with growth. By Act 5 they are some 5000 people following Christ in Jerusalem. The church has grown so significantly that they select seven deacons to help serve the needy among the believers. In Acts 7, one of those deacons preaches ad message on the street that ends with him being stoned to death. Then we read in Acts 8:1, “Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” The obvious question is, why were they not already in the regions of Judea and Samaria? Well, God was powerfully working in Jerusalem. The church was growing and thriving. There was work still to be done. But, Jesus’ command still should have taken precedence over all the practical and pragmatic responses. They should have been aggressively going and getting the gospel out. If they would not willingly go, God would scatter them with persecution and suffering. Whatever it took, Jesus would get His gospel out and He still will today. If we refuse to embrace Acts 1:8, we should not be surprised if Jesus introduces us to Acts 8:1.