Gather to Send, Send to Gather

This summer we will explore the mission of God in the story of Acts. The first few posts will adapt some of our new Acts curriculum to show how Acts 1 helps connect the mission of God to Luke's purpose in Acts. Following our work in Acts 1, we will take a deep dive into Peter's Pentecost sermon, paying special attention to how he connects the Bible to his world, calling others to pursue all of life as ministry.

Gathering Through Sending

Acts 1:6–8

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

If the first few verses of Acts answer the questions of who the main characters are in the story and why Luke has written this particular story, these verses answer what God is doing to accomplish his purpose.

What does God do? He sends to the ends of the earth to gather from all nations.

God's saving work in Christ should not be separated from God's sending work through the risen and ascended Jesus. The risen Jesus works through the people he sends. In the Gospel accounts, Jesus gathered and renewed his disciples through his death and resurrection. In Acts, the risen and ascended Jesus now sends them just as the Father sent him (see John 17:18; 20:21). Hence, although we have argued that Acts could be understood as the Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus, the book has also rightly been referred to as the Acts of the Apostles.

Two very important things rise out of this Gather-Renew-Send pattern: (1) God’s commitment to his word, and (2) He is sending us where we already are.

God Will Gather the Nations

First, as we read through Acts we see God’s commitment to stay true to his word. Luke structures the entire narrative of Acts around God sending witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). It would be fair to think of this as Luke’s outline for writing.

  • Acts 1: Introduction
  • Acts 2-7: Jerusalem
  • Acts 812 Judea and Samaria
  • Chapters 13-20 – The Missionary Journeys (the beginnings of the end of the earth)
  • Chapters 21-28 – The Journey to Rome (the heart of the end of the earth)

The apostles minister in Jerusalem until the people of God are “scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1). Luke then tells us stories of ministry in Judea and Samaria until Paul and Barnabas receive a clear call to the Gentiles (Acts 13). The narrative then shifts to focus on the gospel spreading to the end of the earth in places like Corinth, Athens, and Ephesus. Acts ends with Paul sitting at the heart of the end of the earth as they knew it then, the city of Rome, and Paul does there what Jesus was doing at the beginning of the story—proclaiming the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3 and Acts 28:31). And God gathers as they go. He gathers people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, keeping the promise he made to Abraham (Genesis 12:3; see also Isaiah 43:9-12) and giving us a glimpse of heaven on earth (Revelation 5:9-10; 7:14) Luke tells his story in this way to show that God is still at work in the risen Lord Jesus to fulfill all that he promised. His mission is not complete, but his work isn’t done yet. Stay tuned.

He Sends Us to Gather Where We Are

Second, from the standpoint of the Bible, God is sending us to gather the nations … right where you are. You don’t have to get on a plane and fly to a faraway land. You don’t need a train, or a bike, or even to go on a short run (although if God calls you, please go!). God has sent you where you are, and from the vantage point of the biblical authors, we are at the end of the earth (unless you are reading this from Jerusalem, Judea, or Samaria!). If you are in Christ, when you walk out the door this morning and go to work, catch a movie, hangout with friends, visit someone in need, or you just stay at home, you are fulfilling God’s promise to send people to the end of the earth. Your faithful presence where you already are is a sign of God’s unswerving commitment to fulfill his promises, even ones he made nearly 2,000 years ago. 

 

 

Mark Catlin