Thursday, May 23, 2013

Did the Apostles Violate the Great Commission?

Acts Chapter 8 has been a real sore spot for me and here is why:  After Stephen is stoned (Acts 7) and the remnant of kingdom saints/the little flock is scattered (Acts 8), the 12 apostles stayed in Jerusalem in obedience to the ‘great commission’ (Acts 1:8), even though they faced great persecution.  Then after hearing about the Samarians they just pick up and go there.  Scripture doesn’t say they had a vision from God to do that, like Peter had about Cornelius (Acts 10).  Unless I am missing something, it appears they did this in violation of the great commission.  Is there anything in scripture that sheds light on this?

Acts chapter 8 directly follows the stoning of Stephen.  I see chapters 8, 9 and 10 (Ethiopian Eunuch, Saul of Tarsus, Cornelius) happening simultaneously.  God is doing something; he is showing the world that he is making a change.  God made the change in Acts 9 (conversion of Saul/Paul); but in Acts 8, 9 and 10 God is moving things around and preparing the world for the dispensation of grace.

The 12 apostles were told by the Lord to stay in Jerusalem because that was the center of the prophetic program – first Jerusalem, then Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth, but also because that is where the Lord was going to return.

Acts 1:8, 11
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth…. Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

They knew that they would not reach the uttermost part of the earth until the Lord returned.  Remember this verse; it’s important:

Matthew 10:23
But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.

So when we think of their great commission, the Lord had already told them that he would return before they even left the nation of Israel.  Even though they faced great persecution in Jerusalem, they had great faith.  They saw the resurrected Lord and they watched him go up.  Unlike the other disciples, they were witnesses to his resurrection and ascension.

The 12 apostles did not all go to Samaria.

Acts 8:14
Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:

So when the 12 apostles heard that Samaria had received the word of God (through Philip’s preaching)…

Acts 8:5
Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them

 …they sent two apostles.  In John 20, Christ gives the apostles the authority to remit sins.  Of the 12 apostles, Peter, James and John were the Lord’s inner circle and they had great authority.  Peter was the head apostle. 

Matthew 18:18
Verily I say unto you [Peter], Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

The 12 had authority, but there needed to be two, which is the number of witness for the nation of Israel.

Matthew 18:20
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Deuteronomy 17:6
At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.

Isaiah 8:2
And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.

Zechariah 4:11
Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?  Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.

Revelation 11:3-4
And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.  These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.

So two witnesses, Peter and John, were sent to Samaria and here is why:

Acts 8:15
Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:

The reason the apostles sent two was for a purpose – so that they might receive the Holy Ghost, which was the promise to the Jews worshipping in Jerusalem on Pentecost.

Acts 2:38
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

How did they receive the Holy Ghost at that time?  He didn’t just flow down from heaven like he did for the apostles.

Acts 2:1-4
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

But that is not how everyone else received the Holy Ghost – not until Cornelius, and that was after Saul/Paul was converted.

Acts 8:16-17
(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them [the believers in Samaria]: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)  Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

So ten apostles stayed in Jerusalem, and only two with great authority went for the purpose of laying hands on them so that they might receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is what God and Peter had promised.  Peter quoted Joel to the Jews on Pentecost.

Acts 2:17
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

Peter and John were Spirit-lead and they were fulfilling the word of God.  They didn’t need a vision from God because the Lord had already told them.  The Spirit of God was directing them to lay hands on people so that they too might receive the Holy Ghost; they already had been given that authority.  They were not forced out of Jerusalem by circumstances; they left in obedience to the plan and purpose of God.  They did not violate the great commission.  They did not pack up and leave Jerusalem to relocate.

Here is something else to help you gain understanding.  Who sent Philip to Samaria in the first place?  Remember Philip from Acts 6:

Acts 6:3, 5
Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:

Two of those seven men are famous, Stephen and Philip; and they were chosen by the apostles out of the little flock to represent the Grecian widows.

Acts 6:1-2
And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.  Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.

The events of Acts 7 through 10 were happening simultaneously.  The reason God had to give Peter the vision with the sheet coming down from heaven with the unclean animals in Acts 10 was because he was in no way violating any edict from the Lord Jesus or the scriptures.  God himself had to intervene [to get Peter to go to gentiles], and even then Peter was kicking against it.

Acts 10:13-14
And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.  But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.

Peter knew what was going on, and he knew that what they did in Samaria in Acts 8 was according to the will of God.  So who sent Philip to Samaria?  God did.  The reason Peter and John went to Samaria was because God put it into motion.

Acts 8:5-7
Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.  For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.

God was working through Philip.  He was there working under the power of the Spirit of God.  If he wasn’t, God would not have been doing those wonderful works.  So when the apostles left Jerusalem it was for a purpose which was not in conflict with the great commission.

Hopefully this helps...Maranatha!

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