The Mission of God is demonstrated throughout history! We have seen God’s Mission being taught and established within the Old and New Testament, and now we look at history to see how His Mission was carried out through the ages. This month we will look into the early church, and what the Mission meant to them.
We begin by looking at the book of Acts. Writer William Steuart McBirnie says it well, “The book of Acts is the record of how Christianity has thus moved by both example and persecution, out of Jerusalem into the rest of the Roman world (known civilization).” We see that for the Early Church, the Mission was not a theological concept, or a good option for those called to it. Rather, it was simply life as a Christian. It was natural for disciples of Christ to share the Kingdom of God wherever they went.
It begins with an international event called Pentecost. People from all over the known world were present for it, which is stated in Acts 2:9-11. In chapter 10, God makes it very clear to Peter that the Gospel was for the world, and was not designated for only one people group. Then in chapter 13, Paul, a man fully dedicated to the Mission, begins his first missionary journey. These journeys established many of the prominent early churches throughout the Mediterranean region.
Yet, Paul was not the only one with zeal for the Mission. The lives of the disciples and their ministries illuminate the early history of the Christian mission in action. Peter preached in Rome and Britain. Andrew journeyed to southern Russia and Greece. James, the Son of Zebedee, is thought to have visited Spain. John spent most of his time in Ephesus, but also ministered in present-day Russia and Iran. Philip went to France. Bartholomew (Nathaniel) went to India and Iran. Thomas spent most of his life all over India. Matthew went to Persia and possibly Ethiopia. James, the son of Alpheus evangelized in Syria. Jude Thaddaeus traveled to Arabia and Armenia. Finally, Simon the Zealot went to Egypt and Britain.
Because of the work of the men above, including Paul and countless others, Christianity spread like a wildfire throughout the known world. Historian Bruce Shelley states that “First-century Christianity was a spiritual explosion. Ignited by the Event, the presence of Jesus Christ, the church extended in all directions…” Due to the seriousness and zeal that these men and women gave to the Mission, a short three centuries later Christianity goes from being the most persecuted religion, to being the official religion in the Roman Empire. Within those three centuries, churches were established in every large town within the empire and had spread to far off countries such as Britain, Persia, and India.
The Book of Acts follows the Book of Luke as the second part of the two-book series. The Bible Project is an excellent resource in providing an overview of Acts and breaking down the main points and themes. This first part is broken down from the introduction to Jerusalem and finally to Judea and Samaria.
The second part of the Book of Acts picks up with Paul and other ministers being sent on missionary journeys throughout Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome. The second part of Acts sheds light on the culture of the early church and their missional movement. Please check out these videos from the Bible Project and explore their other resources.
Want to ask a question, tell a story, or share what you've learned? Let us know!Connect with our Team