The Christian’s Community
A chief is the head of a village. A mayor is the director of a town. A policeman maintains law and order within a certain area. The chief and the mayor have nothing to say about what is done in the next village or town. The policeman cannot enforce law outside his or her own area. All of these have boundaries, or limits. They have no authority outside their own boundaries.
It is different for a Christian. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus told us to go “ . . . to all peoples everywhere . . . ” We do not have a limited area in which to work. Jesus sends us to the whole world. That includes all people everywhere!
In Lesson 1 we studied the spirit of community. In this lesson we will see how your community is a place where you can show this spirit. But as you study, remember that community is a group of people more than it is a place. No matter where you go, you can be part of a community as you share Christ with others!
The Four Communities of Facts 1:8
But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
In the Scripture quoted above, Jesus was talking to His followers. He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the power of the Holy Spirit. He said that after they received this power they would be witnesses.
A witness is a person who has seen an event and tells what he or she has seen. Jesus wanted His followers to tell others about all the wonderful things they had seen Him do—He healed sick bodies, raised the dead, died for the sins of the world, arose from death, and finally went back into heaven. They were to be witnesses to these events. First they were to begin right in Jerusalem, then move out from there to Judea and Samaria and beyond, until they had witnessed to the whole world. Jesus set no boundaries for their witnessing.
Jerusalem – Your Personal World
You must understand the setting of Acts 1:8. Jesus was in Jerusalem talking to His disciples and about 500 other followers. He told them something very exciting would happen to them on the Day of Pentecost. These followers did not fully understand that their ministry was to continue the ministry Jesus began. It is not even clear they understood their Lord was about to leave them. Then suddenly, after giving this promise that they would be filled with power as the Holy Spirit came upon them, Jesus disappeared into heaven and they did not see Him anymore.
The account of what happened next, on the Day of Pentecost, is recorded in Acts 2:1-6. Read these verses, and you will see that the believers received the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised. The people who saw and heard them were amazed and wondered about it.
Later, Peter had an opportunity to explain to the people what was happening (Acts 2:14-32). He reminded them of the resurrection of Jesus and he said, “We are all witnesses to this fact” (Acts 2: 32). About 3,000 people responded to his message and believed in Christ.
The third chapter of Acts records many miracles. The apostles witnessed that the miracles took place through “faith in Jesus” (Acts 3:16). Chapter 4 tells about Peter and John preaching to the people, and the number who believed increased to about 5,000. The message was always about the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Acts 3:15 and 5:32, Peter stated again, “We are witnesses to these things.” Thus, they became witnesses in Jerusalem just as Jesus said they would.
Every Christian man and woman has a responsibility to tell others of the new life in Jesus. The gospel was spread to the ends of the earth by other Christian people, and not just by the apostles (Acts 8:l-4). These people were filled with the Holy Spirit. They had a strong desire to show Christian community to the world. They began to preach or tell the gospel story everywhere.
But where do we begin? We start where the Christians in Jerusalem started at home in our community, among our own family and neighbors, where we come into contact with the same people every day. In your world, where you live, where you work, and where you spend most of your time, this is where loving, sharing, and caring must start. Let your personal world, your Jerusalem, your own people, those you live with, see the spirit of Christian community in you.
Judea – Your Country
As the followers of Jesus faithfully witnessed in Jerusalem, the religious leaders became jealous and began to persecute (punish or trouble) the Christians. Acts 8:1 tells us that all of the believers in the Jerusalem church began to suffer cruel persecution. Because of this, all of them except the apostles left Jerusalem and were scattered throughout the provinces of Judea and Samaria. (Provinces were divisions of the territory included in the Roman Empire.) Acts 8:4 tells us: “The believers who were scattered went everywhere, preaching the message.”
Because the Christians were forced to leave Jerusalem, they fulfilled the second part of Jesus’ command to go to Judea as witnesses. Judea was the Roman province in which Jerusalem was located. The people who lived there were Jews who needed to hear about Jesus.
Many years earlier, God had called a man named Moses to go to his own people to free them from the slavery of the Egyptians. Moses did not feel capable of doing this. But God promised that He would go with Moses and give him the words to say (Exodus 3–4). Maybe it was good that Moses didn’t feel he could do it alone. This caused him to trust God completely.
Perhaps you feel the same way Moses did. The same answer that was given to Moses is your answer. God will be with you. He will help you. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know” (Proverbs 3:5).
After you have been faithful in ministering to your Jerusalem, you need to allow God to send you out into your Judea, your own province, state, or country. You say, “How can I help to bring my country to God?” The key is found in the answer to this question: “How do you eat a whole loaf of bread?” The answer is, “A bite at a time.”
In the Christian life, if you are faithful in the little things, God will open doors of opportunity. There are many ways to reach out to other people. For example, you can start by teaching a Sunday school class in your church. You can help your pastor visit the sick, or those in prison. You can take food to an older person, or to someone else in need. If you are traveling away from home, you can look for ways to show kindness or tell someone about Christ. Trust the Holy Spirit and He will help you find ways to show the spirit of community in your Judea, your country.
Samaria – You Surrounding Countries
One thing is for certain, Samaria seemed a long way off for people living in Jerusalem! In fact, the Jews considered the Samaritans to be foreign people. The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritan people even though they were related. But we read in Acts 8 that after Philip was filled with the Holy Spirit, he went to Samaria to preach the good news about Christ. And Acts 10 tells us that God told Peter to go to a city in Samaria and witness to a man about Jesus. Peter didn’t want to go, but God showed him that he was to witness to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews.
There is another example like this in the Old Testament, in the book of Jonah. The prophet Jonah was a very proud and self-centered man. He received a message from the Lord to go and preach to the city of Nineveh, which was located in the country of Assyria. Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh because the people there were aliens to him.
Because Jonah was not concerned about these people, he refused to go. Instead, he went in the opposite direction on a ship. The Lord sent a great storm and the ship was about to sink. Jonah told the men on the ship that the storm had come because he had disobeyed God. He said, “Throw me into the sea, and it will calm down” (Jonah l:l2). This was done, and right away the sea was quiet.
Then the Lord sent a large fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah prayed from inside the fish and told the Lord he was sorry he had not obeyed. So the Lord had the fish spit Jonah out on dry land, and Jonah was ready to obey God. He went to wicked Nineveh and preached the Word of the Lord.
Many people repented of their sin and were saved. The Lord spared the city and taught Jonah a lesson in obedience.
God loves everyone. The Lord was merciful to the people of Nineveh, and He still wants to be merciful to all people. If we obey Him, He will help us reach people who live in countries near us. God does not favor one person over another. He will forgive all who call upon Him.
How can you share Christian community with people who live in countries near yours? First you can pray for them. You can give of your money or goods to help reach them with the gospel story. Some of you will even be able to go to them. Do not limit God. Allow Him to work out His plan in your life. You do not need a lot of money in order to win those in other places to Christ. If all Christians would obey the command of Jesus, the need would be met, and the gospel would be taken on its outward journey to the ends of the earth!
Ends of the Earth – Your World
It is certain that when you begin to care for people in your personal world, people in your country, and foreign people, you will soon have concern for the whole world. That concern includes every tribe and every nation.
The apostle Paul was the greatest missionary the world has ever known. He moved out of Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and went to the ends of the earth. On each missionary trip he took he reached out further into the known world. His first journey took him into Asia Minor, near his home in Palestine. His second and third journeys took him as far as Greece. On his last journey he went all the way to distant Rome, and possibly to Spain. Truly Paul had a concern that reached to the ends of the earth to tell everyone, everywhere, about Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:l9). The boundaries of community are great. They are unlimited. They reach from your personal world to the ends of the earth. They touch all people everywhere. Do you understand now how you can show a biblical concern a spirit of community? Let us reach out with arms of love and show our spirit of Christian community to the whole world.
I would like to tell you about a young woman from England who had an ends-of-the-earth idea of community. Her name was Gladys Aylward. In 1920, she was a servant to a rich family in London. However, she had a great desire to tell Chinese people about Jesus. But she didn’t even know where the country of China was located.
Finally she learned that she could make the long journey to China by train. She bought a ticket and crossed Europe, then took another train through Siberia. She finally arrived in China after many days and nights of travel.
Gladys Aylward worked in China for more than 40 years telling the people about Christ. Once she stopped a prison riot. She helped many people find Jesus Christ as their Savior. She took care of many hundreds of orphans. During the Second World War she led 100 of these children to safety by taking them on foot over the mountains away from the fighting area. This little woman had a spirit of community that reached out far beyond her own city or country. Her beginning was humble, but her love was God-like. It reached from England to far off China.