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Did the original Apostles fulfill the Great Commission?

by Robert Randle  
7/20/2010 / Devotionals

Matthew 28: 18-20
And Jesus [Yeshua] came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father [Abba], and of the Son [Ben], and of the Holy Spirit [Ruach Kodesh], teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age [world]." Amen

Mark 13: 9-10
"But watch for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings [of the Gentiles] for My sake, for a testimony to them. "And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations."
(Cp. Luke 21: 12)

16: 15, 19
And He said to them, "Go into the entire world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." So then, after the LORD had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.

*Luke 24: 47, 49-51*
"And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name [Jesus-Yeshua] to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. " Behold, I send the Promise of the Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high." And He led them out as far as Bethany (Cp. John 11: 18), His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them that He was parted from them and carried up to heaven.

John 20: 19, 21-23
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled [in Jerusalem??] for fear of the Jews stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you." So Jesus [Yeshua] said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Hoy Spirit (Ruach ha Kodesh). If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

Acts 1: 4-5, 8-9: And being assembled together with them, commanded them [Apostles] not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; "for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." "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. "Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

COMMENTARY: The reason that the Apostles were commanded to spread the Gospel to the rest of the world is that they were "eyewitnesses" of these things from the time in Galilee when Jesus started His ministry and teaching about the things pertaining to the kingdom of God until seeing His eventual crucifixion and resurrection outside Jerusalem, and subsequently also His ascension back into heaven (Cp. Luke 24: 48; Acts 1: 21-26).

The book of ACTS is unique in that it traces the birth and history of the early Christian Church starting in Jerusalem of Judea and spreading to Samaria and other parts of the Roman Empire, Asia Minor, Asia and Europe. Outside of beginning with the Apostle Peter as a prominent leader in the beginning later to be eclipsed by the religious fanatic and zealot, Saul of Tarsus [the Apostle Paul], the Scriptural narrative doesn't reveal any of the original Apostles doing any evangelizing or other ministry outside of the local Judean region; in fact, not a whole lot is mentioned, outside of the miraculous, about these early followers of Jesus of Nazareth, period! Here are some excerpts below in the following:

Acts 4: 33
And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the LORD Jesus [Yeshua]. And great grace was upon them all.

5: 12
And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the [Jewish] people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon's Porch.

Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.

And daily in the temple, and in every house, they [the Apostles] did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ [Yeshua as the Moshiach].

6: 1-4
Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews [not Jews??] by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution [of food??]. Then the "twelve" [apostles] summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. "Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit [Ruach ha Kodesh] and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; "but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word."

NOTE: It is not known in what sense the "ministry of the word" meant [teaching at the temple or synagogue, or is it missionary work?].

8: 1
Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the Church which was at Jerusalem; and they were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, {except the apostles}.

NOTE: Why did the Apostles choose to remain and not follow the mandate of the word of the LORD Jesus [Yeshua] to bear witness and testify to His truth in other places?

14, 25
Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. So when they had testified and preached the word of the LORD, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans [on the way back??].

NOTE: This is the first and only time in the Brit Chadashah [New Testament] that Evangelism was done by an Apostle outside of Jerusalem, but it still only involved Peter and John.

9: 26-27a
And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles.

15: 1-2
And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they [the leadership of the Antioch Church] that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.

16: 4
And as they went through the cities [Derbe, Lystra, Iconium], they delivered to them the decrees to keep [observe or practice], which were determined [decreed] by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.

The LORD Jesus [Yeshua] commanded the "Twelve" to take His message of salvation to the rest of humanity, but from what the book of ACTS reveals, there is no mention of them [besides Peter and John] involved in any work outside of the Temple in the vicinity of Jerusalem in Judea. According to Church History: Andrew the Apostle preached in Greece, Asia Minor, Thrace, and he was crucified in Achaia; Philip the Apostle preached in Phrygia and died in Hierapolis [Egypt]; Thomas the Apostle preached in Parthia [Persia] and died at Edessa, although some believe that he died in India; Bartholomew the Apostle preached the gospel in India, probably Arabia Felix or according to some, in Armenia; Matthew the Apostle was a missionary to the Persians, Parthians and Medes [Iranians], and died as a martyr in Ethiopia; James [son of Alphaeus] the Apostle there is no clear information; Simon the Zealot [Canaanite] there is no information; Judas [son of James]/Lebbeus/Thaddeus the Apostle founded a Church at Edessa but no more is known about him.

Ironic, isn't it that that the one main person whose writings seemed to have prevailed and survived two millennia is that of Saul of Tarsus. It cannot be understated as to the value and importance that the Apostle Paul's letters and theology has contributed to the "Faith" and without his writings, Christianity probably would not exist in the form that it is practiced today. The thing is, though, Paul is a Jew from Tarsus of Cilica who also happens to have been a free-born Roman citizen and was taught by one of the great Jewish rabbis of the day, Gamaliel (Cp. Acts 22: 3, 27-28). It is possible that when the Apostle Paul expounded on critical points of doctrine, he used the method of inductive [abstract] reasoning (Cp. Acts 17: 1-2, 16-21; 19: 8-10) taught in the Greek Philosophical Schools instead of the more concrete and practical Jewish exegetical teaching methods. The Apostle Paul appears to have spoken Greek (Cp. Acts 21: 37), and many of his fellow laborers in the Gospel and friends were Greek-speaking Jews or Greeks, such as Timothy (Cp. Acts 16: 1, 3); Titus (Cp. Galatians 2: 3); Trophimus (Cp. Acts 21: 27-29); and others (Cp. Acts 19: 31; 20: 4; Romans 16: 1-23; Philippians 2: 25; Colossians 1: 7; 4: 7-17; 2 Timothy 4: 9-12; Titus 3: 12-13).

There is a curious statement by the Apostle Paul found in Colossians 4: 10b-11, which says: with Mark the cousin of Barnabas. . . and Jesus who is called Justus (Cp. Acts 18: 7??). These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision [Jews]; they have been a comfort to me. Perhaps the Apostle Paul forgot about his married Jewish partners Aquila and Priscilla whom he first met in Corinth (Cp. Acts 18: 1-3, 18a, 21a, 24-26; Romans 16: 3). It would not be an absurd statement to mention the Apostle Paul's theology and perhaps non-traditional Jewish experience which he penned in his letters just might be filtered through a Greco-Roman [Greek/Latin] worldview, and he is so adamant that this Gospel ["MYSTERY"] which was revealed to him, because he didn't learn it from any human being is so unique and special that no other 'gospel' can be accepted; that is, on danger of eternal damnation (Cp. Galatians 1: 8-9, 11-12). Of course, he is not the only one to receive this great truth (Cp. Colossians 1: 26-28), but it is unfortunate that none of the other original Apostles have left a written narrative about their experience with the LORD and what He taught and did, as well as other biographical details that can be authenticated to have come from their hand or one of their fellow co-laborers or disciples that retains more of a traditional Jewish or Hebraic perspective.

Robert Randle
776 Commerce St. #B-11
Tacoma, WA 98402
July 19, 2010

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