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18 [The risen] Jesus came to [his eleven disciples] and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you (Matthew 28 WEB).

We read in the Gospels that Jesus ascended into heaven to be with the Father, leaving his disciples to carry out this mission of spreading the Good News of his victory over sin and death so that many more may become his followers. Shortly after his ascension, the Lord’s disciples began to fulfill this Great Commission in the city of Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1-2). The Apostle Peter emerged as the chief spokesman, proclaiming to the Pentecost crowds that the same Jesus who had been crucified just weeks earlier had been raised back to life by God–that Jesus is the Messiah–the Christ–the Lord and Savior. Many were alarmed and asked Peter what they must do. Peter told them to repent and be baptized (immersed in water) for the remission of their sins and they would receive the give of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38). Luke (the author of Acts) reports that three-thousand responded to this first proclamation of the Gospel and were baptized into the name of Christ Jesus. This has been regarded as the official launch of the Church.

The Church grew in Jerusalem. Then it began to spread. Eventually it was taken to non-Jewish people. The Apostle Paul, who had started out as an enemy of the Church, advanced the Gospel of Christ throughout much of the Greco-Roman world of his day. He established many fellowships of Christ-followers. He wrote letters to these communities of faith–at least many if not most of these are preserved in the compiled texts of the New Testament. To the church in the city of Ephesus, Paul stressed the unity that believers share in their identity as Christians. He conveyed that the members of the Church have different gifts and roles. The point of it all is that followers of Jesus should be transformed in their character and conduct as they are forgiven by the grace and mercy of God; and that they become well-grounded, informed, and firm in their faith so that they can effectively serve while resisting doctrines and teachings that would distort the Gospel, cause division in the Church, and even lead some of them back into depraved and destructive life-styles. As Paul wrote to the Romans, the point of confessing converts being baptized into Christ is that they might be raised to a newness of life (6:1-6).

For two-thousand years now the Church has continued to carry out the Great Commission. Of course, the history of the Church is complicated and messy. And yet, despite the flaws, misconceptions, and even corruption of professing Christians down through the centuries, it seems that God continues to be content to have the Gospel of Christ spread “through the foolishness of what is preached” (1 Corinthians 1:21) rather than regular, global blasts of shock and awe delivered by legions of angels. It is by the witness of flawed and frail mortals living as best as they can by faith that the Gospel of Christ continues to spread throughout the world, from generation to generation, to this day. Our local church is a part of that overall effort. You are welcome to join us in that good purpose and noble endeavor.

Grace and peace,

Chris

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