Did the Jerusalem Church get too ‘High on Power’ from the ‘Power from on High?”
“Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” Luke 24:49
a. How the 10 days of waiting for Pentecost became years of prolonged delay!
Although Jesus gave the command for the Disciples to wait in Jerusalem to be endued with ‘Power from on High’ the church in Jerusalem did get ‘high on power’ and forget the purpose of Pentecost!
Paul warned about not to be ‘drunk with wine’ where there is excess but encouraged to be ‘filled with the Spirit’ which is the means of fulfilling Jesus’ Mission. It seems that today there is the excess of self-absorbed activities in the Church which are almost drunk with self-centered blessing and benefits of Pentecost and are totally oblivious of Jesus Mission. Jesus’ purpose was to wait in Jerusalem was ‘until‘ they received the power to fulfill the Great Commission and then ‘begin’ a journey to nations of the world.
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
b. Power of Pentecost was for a Missional Purpose.
God orchestrated the events of Pentecost with some significant features specifically for the purpose of Missions.
- First it was the celebration of the first fruits of the Harvest. Pentecost happened with an anticipation of a great harvest in mind to be reaped through evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. The 3000 converts were only the first fruits of millions of souls to be reached beyond Jerusalem.
- Second God brought about 16 major ‘nations’ or the ‘ethne’ to Jerusalem to witness this for missional purpose. This event was not only for the people in Jerusalem but for the nations through which the Gospel could reach to the uttermost parts of the earth!
“And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”Acts 2:8-10
Whether the Disciples understood this far-reaching objective of Pentecost is not clear. For, almost 6 years, the Church in Jerusalem was caught up with the revival in the Local Church and forgot the purpose of the Spirit outpouring, which was to go from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth.
- Third, it was a fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy for ‘salvation of all mankind’ and not just for the ‘blessing’ of the Church. The early Pentecostals also called this the second blessing not realizing that Pentecost is an ’empowering’ to take the Gospel to all mankind:
And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.’ Acts 2:21
c. How Pentecost almost died in Jerusalem.
While the Church in Jerusalem was to be the launching point of the Great Commission it became the endpoint of the mother Church. Instead of preaching the Gospel to ‘all Nations’, the purpose of Pentecost almost died with the Jerusalem Church.
- The Jerusalem Church experienced revival but it did not spread beyond their own city.
- The Local Church became the focus instead of the ‘Global’ commission.
- While the Commission of Pentecost was to reach Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ‘Ends of the earth,’ they were content with staying in Jerusalem.
- They reached their city but not beyond it.
- Instead of Pentecost it was the ‘Persecution’ which led them to Samaria.
- Missions became a controversy (Peter going to Gentiles) instead of a Celebration.
- The first Council was held to discuss restricting Missions (Gentiles being included).
- Being involved in Missions (all Nations) was not a priority; instead, partially fulfilled the Mission: Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria only.
d. Waiting Too Long after Pentecost.
The Jerusalem Church waited far too long after Pentecost to fulfil the Great Commission of discipling ‘all Nations’ or the ‘ethne’; the people groups.
This is evident from the following:
- They did not even travel to Samaria which was only 70 miles from Jerusalem for almost 2 years to take the Gospel to them. It was the persecution after Stephen’s death which caused the scattered Church to go to Samaria.
- They were primarily focused on their own ‘ethnic’ group, the Jews, like the majority of the Churches in the world today. Peter was so focused on the Jewish Church that God had to radically challenge him through 3 visions to break his ‘local church centered’ mindset to send him to Gentile Cornelius. Some think that this was almost 7 years after Pentecost.
- Antioch Church was begun not by those in Jerusalem but by those scattered by persecution, primarily those from Island of Cyprus and Cyrene of North Africa who went as far as Syria with the Gospel. This happened nearly 10 years after Pentecost in Jerusalem!
“But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:20-21)
- It is notable that the disciples were first named Christians in a city far away from Jerusalem.
- It was the Antioch Church which became the first Missionary Church fulfilling the Pentecostal Mandate of ‘sending to the nations.’ (see Acts 13:1-3)
Let us put Missions back to Pentecost!
This month as we celebrate Pentecost, let us bring back the primary of purpose of Pentecost which is Missions – taking the Gospel to ALL the Nations. Let us bring Missions back to the center of the Church and not as a program of the Church. For, Missions does not exist for the Church, instead, the Church only exist for Missions. No Church has a right to exists if it does not fulfill the Mission of Christ to take the Gospel to ALL the Nations.
The Apostle Paul discovered the ‘Power of Pentecost‘ in its original form and intent to fulfil its purpose when he took the Gospel to the Unreached People and Places:
“For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named…” Romans 15:18-20
It is from this vision of Paul that we derive the concept of reaching the “Unreached People”:
as it is written: “To whom He was not announced, they shall see; And those who have not heard shall understand.” vs 21
a. From the 16 Nations to 3500 Unreached Nations.
The Jerusalem Church missed a golden opportunity of discipling the 16 key major nations or ethnic groups which could have become the catalyst for reaching all the people groups. Letnot the Church today also miss the great opportunity we have today to reach the Unreached People Groups of the world.
There exists the possibility of fulfilling the Great Commission as Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24:14:
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
There are nearly 3500 people groups today to be reached with Gospel. The Worldwide Assemblies of God Fellowship (WAGF) alone has over 365,000 local Churches and nearly 65 million members who are more than capable of reaching these people groups. If 100 Churches come together to pray, give and send 1 missionary to each of these 3500 Unreached People Groups, this can be done!
b. Focus on Missions on Pentecost Sunday on June 5th:
This Sunday, the June 5th as we celebrate the Pentecost Sunday, we encourage you to pray and share the purpose of Pentecost and make every Church to pray and adopt Missions as the priority and primary focus of every Assemblies of God Church in your Nation.
Join the Global Concert of Prayer in June
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”Matthew 9:37
As Jesus laid down prayer as the first priority of fulfilling His Mission, the WAGF nations are joining this month for the second Global Concert for Prayer (GCOP) in June where we worship, pray and intercede for the ‘Fires of Revival’ will be kindled back again in every Church to see a decade of revival and outpouring of the Holy Spirit will happen just as it happened at Pentecost.
We encourage every Church to join in the 50 Hours of Prayer in the Global Concert of Prayer from June 27-29th, 2022. Please use the following material to promote this Prayer Concert in your Church and Nation.
Thank you for committing to Pray for Pentecost Missions in this month of June.
Picture resources: St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, IndianCatholicMatters, Joshua Project.