The term “missional” is growing watered down. When a church says they want to be missional, we oftentimes cannot comprehend what that actually looks like. In our pursuit of living our lives on mission, as people, small groups, and churches, our best bet in defining how we’re going to do that will not come in using blanket statements or conceptual ideas, but digging into the Word and adapting a missions model explicitly from it. In my view, Acts 1:8 is one of the most multi-layered, practical and extensive helps to us in better defining a model for missions.
After Luke bridges the gap from Luke’s gospel in Acts 1:1-2, he brings us onto the scene where Jesus is communing with the apostles and “speaking about the kingdom of God” and how they will be “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (v. 3-5). This language confused the apostles, as they were expecting political domination. (v. 6-7). Jesus clarifies the mission of the kingdom in Acts 1:8: “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.”
It seems simple. The apostles get the Holy Spirit, and they’re going to go places. But there is deeper gravity to these thirty-four words than you may anticipate. It’s important to notice upfront that these are Jesus’s final recorded words according to Luke. As a man who knew all things (Jn. 16:30), it’s highly significant that Jesus chose these words as the last things He would leave His apostles. They obviously carry a weight we need to explore further.
The Predictive Statement
This call to mission by Jesus is completely different than the Great Commission. In arguably the most popular “missional” passage, Jesus commands the disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” in Matthew 28:18-20. But unlike this passage, Jesus’s words in Acts 1:8 serve as a predictive statement. Predictive statements are used in Scripture to inform us of how things prophetically will be. These statements are further authenticated when an omniscient Jesus says them.
When Jesus says “you will receive power” and “you will be my witnesses,” this is His way of telling the apostles that there’s no room for debate in this matter; if they are true apostles, this will be who they are and what they do. That’s significant truth for us. If we consider ourselves part of Christ’s missionary movement in the world, there’s no expectation to meet a command or try a suggestion; we will simply be what He describes in this verse.