June 19, 2011
2 Corinthians 13:11-13 Matthew 28:16-20 ³Making Disciples´Dr. Ted H. SandbergJesus came and said to them, ³All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Gotherefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Sonand of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. Andremember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.´Despite this command from Jesus, ³In the beginning the [Early Church] was hardly more than a familyaffair. The followers of Christ remained near the places they associated with [Jesus¶] career, the sitesof his wonderful works. They measured the health of the churches by their degree of proximity tothese centers. Members of his family were held in special esteem. There seemed to be little vision of a horizon beyond the Palestinian provinces he had honored in his humanity. The Synoptic Gospels[Matthew, Mark, and Luke], which reflect the condition of the Church in its early development,reproduce words which suggest this limitation of mission. They recall an original charge of Jesus tothe twelve disciples: µGo nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but gorather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.¶[Matthew 10:5-6]´
Acts shows us that things in the church gradually changed. They changed because some within whatwas essentially a Jewish-Christian sect wanted to reach out to Gentiles. Why? Because they knewthey had the Good News of Jesus Christ and they wanted to share that news.
vision of Christwas broader than many leaders of the early church, leaders like James ± Jesus¶ brother, and Peter.Their concern was for the lost no matter that the lost were not Jewish. Their concern may well have been for Greek speaking Gentiles because they themselves were Greek speaking. Whatever the reasonfor their concern, some within the early church pushed the leaders to reach out to the Gentiles. Thefirst major leader in this movement was Stephen, ³who appears and disappears within a moment. . . .The speech which Acts 7 preserves in association with Stephen shows him to have been a prophet of the larger vision, one destined to clash with the Jewish authorities for his activities in attacking their exclusivism.´
They stoned Stephen for his radical thinking, but Philip picked up the radical idea that the Good Newswas for more than the Jews and went to Samaria to preach Jesus Christ. ³Others carried the work toCyprus, Antioch, and Phoenicia.´
Eventually, as we all know, Paul became the leader of themovement to spread the message of Jesus Christ to Jews and Gentiles alike. Paul, who had been Saulthe great persecutor of the church, the same Saul who had watched over the garments of those who¶dstoned Stephen, Paul became
missionary to the non-Jewish world. Paul went out into theworld to proclaim that God loved
people and that Jesus died for
people ± well at least the peopleof Europe and western Asia. The church historian, Martin Marty writes, ³Because the Kingdom of God which Christ had announced had µthe tendency to become a universal religion¶ (Holtzmann) fromthe first, it is difficult for contemporary Christians to picture that only [two centuries] ago themovement was still identified with Europe and western Asia, and with new outposts in the western
1. Marty, Martin, A Short History of Christianity, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1959, p. 36.2. Ibid., p. 393. Ibid. p. 40.