Command or Proclamation? (Acts 1:8)

       I am easily distracted. Any member of our Sunday School class, my lovely wife, my private lesson students, and even my children can attest to this fact. Most of the time, when I’m really “on-a-roll,” I don’t even notice distractions… but when I do – well… let’s just leave it at “I’m easily distracted.”

       Unlike the dogs in the funny little clip above (From Disney’s movie UP!), when I’m distracted, I very often have a difficult time returning to whatever it was I was doing. In fact, if it’s a significant distraction, I may even completely forget what I was saying or thinking prior to its invasion. I think a lot of us are like this. Especially men! Then after the interruption, I have to think for a minute and get back on track… I’ll remember the words that were said, the conversation I was in, and then eventually (on a good day)… the whole scenario. 
       I imagine this to have been the case when the disciples saw Jesus ascend into heaven. He could have been giving them the quadratic formula, or the cure for AIDS before His miraculous departure, but I bet it would have taken them quite some time to recompose after that significant of a squirrel – oops, I mean… event. 
       Acts 1:8 is paramount to Christianity. It has so much impact, so much truth, so much vitality, that it permeates every area of the Christian faith and practice. But as Jesus finished those words, I bet the disciples were a little distracted by His next feat – ascending into the heavens on a cloud. I can imagine their jaws on the ground, and pools of saliva accumulating for a while when… all of a sudden… squirrel #2!!! Two angels speaking to them about eschatology – and at the time, who cared what they were saying?! There were TWO ANGELS IN FRONT OF THEM!!! I suppose it took a little while for the disciples to regain their composure after those two major distractions. I wonder exactly how much time lapsed between verses 11 and 12. Minutes? Hours? Days? 
And then… the remembering began. “What was it we were talking about before those distractions? Something about… power, Holy Spirit, Samaria???!!! WHAT?! SAMARIA?!” Yeah – it may have taken a while for those guys to fully understand the implications of Jesus’ last words to them. And I think we still don’t quite “get it.”
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“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8
Let’s divide this verse up into two sections. Firstly, “You will receive power,” and secondly, “You will be my witnesses.
PART 1: You will receive power…
       Most obviously, the Holy Spirit had “come upon” the disciples on the day of Pentecost, as evidenced by the sound of a violent wind, tongues of fire, and speaking of foreign languages (Acts 2:1-4). A miraculous event, indeed, and a fulfillment of Jesus’ proclamation. [side note: it is extremely interesting to compare this miraculous language division gift with the miraculous language division punishment of Gen. 11 (Tower of Babylon).] 
       “What do you mean by ‘Jesus’ proclamation,’ Tony?” You saw it in Acts 1:8. The Holy Spirit WILL come upon you. Jesus proclaimed that. It was a statement. He also proclaimed that the disciples would receive power on this occasion. When you get a chance, cross-reference Acts 6:8, 18:19, Micah 3:8, and Romans 15:19. The gift of the Holy Spirit came with power. Now to the biblically-literate Christian, this should be no surprise. After all, it was, again, proclaimed by Jesus. You WILL receive power. 
PART 2: You will be my witnesses…
       This is the part we miss. Let’s start by looking at the Biblical and early Church historical record of this proclamation’s fulfillment. Jesus told them they would be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. Historical Church tradition and literature reveals some missionary endeavors about the disciples after Jesus’ death:
Peter – Rome.
Andrew – Russia and Greece.
James (brother of John) – Jerusalem, Judea.
John – Asia Minor.
Philip – Western Turkey.
Bartholomew – Eastern Turkey, India, Egypt, Arabia.
Thomas – Southern India.
Matthew – Ethiopia.
James (Son of Alphaeus) – Egypt.
Thaddaeus – Assyria, Persia.
Simon the Zealot – Egypt, Persia.
Matthias – Caspian Sea area.
Paul – All of Ancient Near East, and as far westward as Spain.
Other early church literature tells us that most of their contemporary nations/cultures/regions had been evangelized by the end of the third century A.D.  So in history, we see the fulfillment of Jesus’ proclamation that they would be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.
       Most of the time we look at this verse as a command – and it should be taken as such, in a way… BUT… let’s look a little deeper into the grammatical structure. Jesus proclaimed that the disciples would receive power. He also proclaimed that they would be His witnesses. Jesus wasn’t asking them to do this. And He wasn’t suggesting that they do it. He was proclaiming that they WOULD do it!
As sure as the power that accompanies the indwelling of the Holy Spirit 
is the assurance of it’s objective… you WILL be My witnesses.
What does this mean for you? Glad you asked. 
       Local and global missions is a package deal with Christianity. If you are a born again believer in Christ, you WILL be His witness. It’s not optional. It’s not subjective. It’s a done deal. What are you doing to advance the gospel message? How is Jesus being exemplified, testified, and glorified in your life? 
– Oh yeah, and one more thing. I would really like for you to know that… “SQUIRREL!!!”
Hmmm… well, I forgot. 🙂
Grace and Peace,
Tony