The mission of God is explicitly shown to us throughout the book of Acts. From His mission to glorify Himself amongst all people to using intermediaries to do His will, we are able to see how God enabled His message of Salvation to spread throughout all nations. There are three main themes that are addressed in the Acts of the Apostles, These main themes are the formation and growth of the church, the coming of the Holy Spirit and opposition and persecution. However, I have chosen to focus on the two themes of formation and growth in the church as well as the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The themes of the Holy Spirit and the church with God’s mission to glorify Himself among all people are addressed in several chapters in Acts. I have chosen to focus on chapters one through four in regards to this definition of God’s mission and themes. The start of the early church is highlighted in chapters one through two. In chapter one, Jesus ascends into heaven but before He does so, He says to the disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and… to the earth” (Acts1:8). Right away we see God’s mission to glorify Himself amongst all people at the beginning of Acts and this mission would be completed through the work of the Holy Spirit. This theme continues on to chapter two at the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit baptized the people with fire and they began to speak in other tongues. The people were actually speaking in languages other than their own and Jews of all nations and languages were able to “…hear them declaring the wonders of God in [their] own tongues!” (Acts 2:11) Through this miraculous occurrence, not only were people from all over able to hear and understand the praises of God in their own language, they were also witnesses to the supernatural presence and power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had already begun spreading the gospel to all the nations through the baptism of fire and speaking in tongues.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost lead to the repentance and baptism of about three thousand people. These people made up the early church and they began to fellowship together and devoted themselves to learning more about God’s word through the teaching of the apostles (Acts 2:41-42). As they continued to serve the LORD together he “…added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Chapter four also shows us how the Holy Spirit unified the people. God used this unity to attract other people to them and the gospel. “All the believers were one in heart and mind…” (Acts 3:32). The early Christians allowed the Holy Spirit to work through them which caused unity amongst one another and selflessness towards others. These are the qualities that attracted other people to them which caused the church to grow and God’s mission of glorifying Himself amongst all people to continue.
The book of Acts, chapters six through eight covers the second definition of the mission of God. God sent intermediaries such as Stephan, Philip and Paul to speak and do His will so that His purposes for redemption and judgment are accomplished. Stephen, who is described n the bible as “…a man full of God’s grace and power…) (Acts 6:8), serves as a major example of an intermediary. Stephen played a crucial role in the expansion of the church which also led to God’s name being glorified amongst all people. When Stephen was accused of speaking blasphemy against Moses and God, he doesn’t take the opportunity to defend himself before the Sanhedrin. Rather, he takes the opportunity to testify of God’s faithfulness to His people throughout history (Acts 7). Furthermore, Stephen rebuked the people for rejecting God and infuriated, they stoned him to death. Though one might think that he died in vain, Stephen’s death was not fruitless. In fact, his death had a tremendous impact on Saul (later know as Saul) who was there “…giving approval to his death” (Acts 7:60). After Stephen’s death, the church was under extreme persecution and Christians were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. However, “those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4). One of these people included Philip who went into Samaria performing miraculous signs and proclaiming Christ. Whilst he did this, many were healed and baptized including Simon the magician. As a result of his obedience to the LORD, even an Ethiopian was introduced to the gospel (Acts 8:26-39). The LORD used Stephen’s death to grow the church and spread the gospel to people who otherwise would have not heard about it. Although he was stoned to death he had proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ until his death and people heard his message and took it with them. In this way Stephen was an intermediary who paved the way for other intermediaries like Philip and Paul. Stephen’s message and death lead to the eventual conversion of Paul who had been a Pharisee before his conversion and a staunch persecutor of Christians. Being passionate about his beliefs, he went on in hot pursuit of the Christians who had fled. This pursuit lead him to Damascus where he had an encounter with God that changed his life and lead to him becoming the world’s greatest missionary. Paul’s missionary journey’s resulted in the conversion of people across many nations thus, expanding the church and redeeming both the Jew and the Gentile.
Throughout the Acts of the Apostles, we are able to understand how the Holy Spirit worked amongst the apostles as well as God’s intermediaries in order to speak God’s will to bring about redemption and glorify His name amongst all people. The Holy Spirit enabled Christians to come together in unity and as a result, their lives continued to attract others causing the church to grow and His name to be glorified. Through His chosen intermediaries, God’s purposes of redemption and judgment were accomplished by their spreading of the gospel message across the nations.