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Fr. Wilson P. Abraham

What is the Motivation of the Mission? Why should there be a Mission?

By Fr. Wilson P. Abraham,  Vienna University 

(Rev Fr Wilson P Abraham is a priest of Diocese of Thumpamon, Presently he is completing his reserch in Vienna University )

Introiduction

The word “mission” derives from the Latin word missio, which means “a sending. This word was introduced as a key term by Ignatius Loyola. For him mission was the field of work. It meant the ‘destination’ or ‘territory’ to which members were sent by their superiors. Soon the word came to mean the ‘going’, ‘functions’ or ‘tasks’ performed in the place of destination. As missions it signified a country of missionary work like India, China, and Japan, where the gospel was yet to be made known. The New Testament depicts Jesus Christ as the first missionary. The Father sent him to preach the good news to the poor. His personality is described in terms of his mission, is identified with that mission. For Jesus his mission is not just a function or a task or a profession, it envelops and occupies his whole being and life. In the light of the course, ‘Mission in the Synoptic Gospels’, I would like to explain the motivation of the mission and why there should be a mission?

I. The Mission of Jesus Christ

According to Luke 4:17-21 Jesus introduces himself as a missionary as prophesied by Isaiah (Is 61). The consciousness of being sent by God was the fundamental to his life and activity. Being “evangelizer” is not one of the activities of Jesus. It is the very essence of his mission and of his identity.

1.1 Principal Mission Statement (Mark 1:14-15):

In the gospel of Mark, the whole life and mission of the pre-crucifixion Jesus is summed up in one sentence: “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” With this sentence Mark opens the narration of Jesus’ ministry. It is a programmatic sentence in Mark, i.e., a sentence which formulates Jesus’ programme of action.

1.2 The Good News: Jesus’ message was euangelion, “Good News”.

Good News summarises his mission. The notion of good news should not be taken for granted. The starting point is no longer human conversion but God’s initiative. He pours his love unconditionally without putting the preliminary condition of conversion. The mission is essentially the continuation of the proclamation of the Good News. The Good News is that of the ‘Kingdom’ of God’s basileia. As the one who sent by God, as the missionary, Jesus did not hesitate to preach the Kingdom of God and to bear witness to his heavenly Father. The term Kingdom of God indicates the eschatological salvation realised by God. The realization of God’s kingdom was the core of Jesus’ preaching.

1.3 An All Inclusive Mission: Jesus’ mission was an inclusive.

It embraces both the poor and the rich, both the oppressed and the oppressor, both the sinners and the devout. His mission was one of dissolving alienation and breaking down walls of hostility, of crossing boundaries between individuals and groups. Jesus is not to be identified with any one race and culture. He is the Lord from heaven. He is the universal man. All others are from beneath; He alone is from above (Jn 8:23). He begins his ministry in Galilee probably because, compared to Judea, Galilee was an agrarian society in which people were marginalised and poor.

1.4 Justice and Liberation for the Poor and Oppressed:

Justice and liberation for the poor was at heart of Jesus’ mission. In the reply of Jesus to the messengers of John the Baptist, we see “Go and tell John what you hear and see; the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them (Mt 11:5, Lk 7:22). ‘Good news to the poor’ is given a dramatic emphasis by Luke who quotes the whole of Isa 61:1-2 in solemn declaration at the Nazareth synagogue.

1.5 Focus on Galilee:

Jesus concentrated his ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing in Galilee. This can be interpreted as symbolic messianic action. Galilee was the obscure border province that had played no role in the history of Israel since the time of Isaiah (8:21-9:1). Matthew interprets Jesus public ministry in Galilee as fulfilment of Is 9:1-2. The ‘great light’ of Yahweh’s messianic revelation shines not on Mount Zion in Jerusalem but in the villages and towns of Galilee.

2. Jesus and the Reign of God

The reign of God (basileia tou Theou) is undoubtedly central to Jesus’ entire ministry. It is likewise, central to his understanding of his own mission. Two features in Jesus’ preaching of God’s reign are: 1) God’s reign is not understood as exclusively future but as both future and already present. The future has invaded the present. 2) It launches an all out attack on evil in all its manifestations. God’s reign arrives wherever Jesus overcomes the power of evil. In Jesus’ ministry God’s reign is interpreted as the expression of God’s caring authority over the whole of life. He began his ministry being attentive to the events and reading the signs of the times. He began his kingdom ministry after the arrest and death of John, which indicates the prophetic continuity between the ministries of John and Jesus. Jesus declares the arrival of the moment of God, the kairos.

“Kingdom of God” does not mean a territory that belongs to God but the coming of God into his rule and the exercise of that rule or sovereignty. The primary stress of basileia is its givenness and gratuity. The basileia is announced or proclaimed. The coming of God in his rule is a pure matter of God’s initiative. It is his action, his grace, his free gift.

2.1 The Parables:

Parables are primarily revelation. We find nothing to be compared with the parables of Jesus. His parables take us into the midst of throbbing everyday life. It is popularly defined as “earthly stories with a heavenly meaning. A. M. Hunter finds that the parables have a lot to say about the men of the kingdom. The function of the various parables was simply to provide illustrations of various aspects of the Reign- Kingdom of God. They are not moralizing fables. They are part of Jesus’ campaign for the revelation of the marvels of the Kingdom, of the advent of God in his mighty rule of God.

2.2 The Miracles:

Miracles are messianic signs, proclamation of the Good News in the language of deeds. They reveal both the presence of the rule of God and its paradoxical character. They illuminate the ministry with momentary demonstrations of God’s power. The wondrous signs which God works through Jesus are knockings at the gate. They show that the reign of God, which only God can inaugurate, is at the door. Miracles of Christ had a fourfold purpose. They are: to authenticate his messianic claim, to inculcate faith in the individual, to induce national repentance and to alleviate human suffering.

2.3 Sermon on the Mount:

They are the announcement of the joy of God promised to the poor. It is a disciple’s ethnic. This means that it is not directed to the world as a blueprint for running governments or welfare programs, but to disciples whose sins have been forgiven, who live under God’s reign, for their personal relationships. Because it speaks to the disciples, the sermon can base its appeal on what they know of the heavenly Father. It does not propose a new Law that would be impossible to observe. Neither does it describe an impossible ideal so as to make us aware that we are sinners. It is the joyful announcement of the deep transformation that God has brought about in human kind.

3. The Abba Consciousness of Jesus

The heart of Good News is the Abba consciousness of Jesus. There is no evidence so far that anyone addressed God as “my Father” in Palestinian Judaism of the first millennium. But Jesus did just this. To his disciples it must have been something quite extraordinary that Jesus addressed God as “my Father.” Jesus’ understanding of himself was as God’s chosen, obedient Son. He is “the Son.” His foundational experience of God as “Abba” led Jesus to challenge the narrow particularism. It was the ‘yes’ spoken to God by the one who, absolutely and uniquely was His Son.

The significance of “Abba” as an address to God: The complete novelty and uniqueness of “Abba” as an address to God in the prayers of Jesus shows that it expresses the heart of Jesus’ relationship to God. He spoke to God as a child to its father: confidently and securely, and yet at the same time, reverently and obediently. Jesus regarded “Abba” as a sacred word. “Abba” as a form of address to God expresses the ultimate mystery of the mission of Jesus. He was conscious of being authorised to communicate God’s revelation, because God had made himself known to him as Father (Mt 11:27).

4. Message of the Arrival of the Kingdom of God

Jesus proclamation focused on the ‘kingdom of God. This is the cantus firmus, the heart, of Jesus’ proclamation.

4.1 The Call to Repentance (Metanoia):

Jesus called people to repentance (Mk 1:15).The prophetic idea of repentance contained in the Hebrew word shub, signifies a positive ‘turning of the whole person to God.’ Repentance consists of a twofold movement: away from the old and toward the new. The New Testament uses the verb metanoein (“to repent, change one’s mind, feel remorse, be converted”) for the first part of the movement, and sometimes epistrephein (“to turn around, turn”). The verb pisteuein (“to be convinced of something, believe, trust”) is used for the second part of the movement. The repentance of Jews can be called an ‘insider conversion’: when Jesus calls his Jewish listeners to repent, he calls them to correspond fully to the already existing covenant relationship with the one true God, which means in the context of his message of the kingdom of God to accept the dawn of God’s return to Israel that takes place in his ministry of teaching and healing.

4.2 The Call to Faith:

Faith is a trust which does not allow it to be dissuaded. The call to repentance corresponds with the call to “faith in the good news.” Jesus’ call to believe in the Good news, in the context of his proclamation of the arrival of the kingdom of God; can be explained in the following terms. • Faith in the good news is the answer to God’s coming for the salvation of human kind. • The faith that Jesus demands is trust in God’s gracious rule and at the same time trust in Jesus as mediator of God’s rule(Mk 1:1; 8:35; 13:10; 14:9). • The faith demanded by Jesus is faith in the sense of confidence and trust. • Jesus’ call to believe in the good news is therefore an expression of his unique authority.

4.3 The Threefold pattern of service:

Preaching, teaching, and healing: Man as created by God is a unity made up of body, mind, and soul. All three parts of man were involved in the fall. He recognised that sorrow, suffering, disease, and death are all part of the kingdom of Satan that He came to destroy (Mt 12:22-29, 1Jn 3:8). Therefore he offered healing for the whole man: body, mind, and soul. Only when all three forms of healing were received, was the person ‘made whole’.

5. Universalism in Jesus’ Ministry Jesus’ mission was not an explicit universal missionary programme.

His work was for all practical purposes confined to Israel. Most of the universal mission commissions are found in the post –Easter context. Jesus concentrated his activities in Israel and does not seem to have carried out his mission beyond the ‘chosen people.’ There many instances in the gospels, when the “good outsiders” come to him and show their unconditional trust. Probably Jesus wanted to make sure that his message was well received by the Jews first, lest they would turn away from him. Hahn says “Jesus reaches beyond the boundaries set up by his contemporaries and provocatively offers God’s mercy to the poor, to outcaste and sinners, and even occasional gentiles.”

6. Missions and Resurrection

There can be no doubt that the gospels writes portray the resurrection as the great climatic event in the earthly life of Jesus Christ.

6.1 The Resurrection:

There is a direct connection between the resurrection and Christian mission. It is expressed most clearly in Mt 28:5-7. Having come and having seen the empty tomb, having been persuaded that the Lord was raised indeed, the disciples could not remain silent. They had to share the Good News with the world. The resurrection validates and universalises the mission of Jesus. The cross was the outcome of hatred and rejection; the resurrection is the triumph of God’s love. The title ‘Christ’ refers to the eschatological and universal validity given to the mission of Jesus by the resurrection. No evangelist could understand the resurrection apart from the mission. For the four evangelists, the mission is the ultimate significance of the resurrection of Christ and indeed of the whole gospel.

6.2 The Great Commission:

The longest, best known and most quoted form of the Great Commission is that found in Matthew 28:16-20. It begins with a declaration, continues with a commission and concludes with a promise. The focus of the passage is squarely on mission. The disciples were to include in their teaching all that Jesus had imparted to them. Jesus dominates all its three steps. It is his authority which is the basis of mission. Mission means to teach what he has commanded. It is sustained by his supportive presence.

6.3 The Power of the Holy Spirit:

The special anointing by the Holy Spirit at the baptism of Jesus was to prepare Him for the public ministry(Lk 4:18).It was in the power of the Holy Spirit that He “went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil”(Acts 10:38). It was through the Holy Spirit that he offered himself to God on the cross (Heb 9:14). It was in the power of that same Holy Spirit that he raised from the dead (Rom 1:4).

6.4 The New Israel:

Jesus doesn’t intend to found a new religion. He announces the Good News to Israel. But this good news implies a radical conversion and so new sense of God that the identity of Israel is deeply transformed. In the line of the New Covenant already announced by the prophets (Jer 31:31ff), he proclaims the advent of a new Israel, the true Israel of God, initiated in the community of the disciples.

7. The Twelve

It is symbolic that the disciples were ‘twelve’ in number and Jesus’ demand was to a nation composed of twelve tribes. This could also point to the eschatological people of God. The twelve disciples represent the people of God in the final restoration. According to J. Jeremias “in the final judgement, the distinction between the Israel and the Gentiles would disappear.” The symbolism of the number “twelve” shows that Jesus intended right from the beginning a necessary missionary activity: the twelve disciples are called to contribute in both a fundamental and a climactic manner to the restoration of God’s people promised by the prophets, and it implies the success of their mission also.

8. Mission as Missio Dei

According to this concept, the new image mission is not primarily an activity of the Church, but an attribute of God. God is a missionary God. It is not the Church that has a mission; it is God’s mission that has a Church. Mission is where ever God is at work fulfilling his missionary purposes. There is Church because there is mission, not vice versa. To participate in the mission is to participate in the movement of God’s love toward people, since God is a fountain of sending love.

Conclusion

The concept of mission is an ever evolving process. God is a God of mission. He wills mission. He commands mission. He made mission possible through his Son. The Kingdom of God and mission are central to Synoptic gospels. As Jesus’ mission was the communication of the gospel of the kingdom, so is the Church’s mission in the world. The good news of the kingdom is that God has come to his people to save. He is the good news. The responsibility of the Church is to communicate the good news of the kingdom throughout the world as a witness to all the nations. The purpose of mission is to promote correct relationships. In Jesus’ ministry people matter more than rules and rituals. Love for people in need is not secondary to love for God. It is part of it. Love of God in Jesus’ ministry, is interpreted by love of neighbour. Jesus is the mystery in the heart of the mission, the most authentic image of what good news means. His disciples are to be his ‘witnesses’- witnesses to all he said, all he did, and all that he is.  

Bibliography

Abesamis C.H, The Mission of Jesus and Good News to the Poor, Philippines, ClaretianPublications, 1991

Bosh D. J, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, New York, Orbis Books, Mary Knoll, 1995

Comblin J, The Meaning of Mission, New York, Orbis Books, Mary Knoll, 1977

Jeremias J, Jesus and the Message of the New Testament, U.S.A, Fortress Press, 2002

Jeremias J, New Testament Theology, Part One, London, SCM Press Ltd, 1971

Kane H. J, Christian Missions in Biblical Perspective, U.S A, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1976

Kavumkal J and Krangkhuma (Ed.), Bible and Mission in India Today, Bombay,St. Pauls Publications, 1993

Legrand. L, Mission in the Bible, Unity and Plurality, Pune, Ishvani Publication, 1992

Reumann. J, Jesus in the Church’s Gospels, Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1977

Schnabel J. E, Early Christian Mission, Jesus and the Twelve, Vol I, U.S.A, Inter Varsity Press, 2004

Taylor J. V, For All the World, The Christian Mission in the Modern Age, London, Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, 1966

Vanchipurackal. G, Why the Missions? Bangalore, Claretian Publications, 1989

Xaviour.A and Stanlykumar M.D, The Word is Near to You, Collected Papers of Lucien Legrand MEP, Vol II, Bangalore, St. Peters Pontifical Institute, 2002

 

Article No:2

CHURCH IS MISSION: MISSION IS TO BE A WITNESS – A LUCAN PERSPECTIVE

By Fr. Wilson P. Abraham (M.Th 1 Year) St. Peter’s Pontifical Institute, Bangalore 1.

Introduction

Jesus Christ launched the Christian mission. The Apostles were to carry it on. Their mission was to be a continuation of His - designed for the same purpose, endowed with the same power, entrusted with the same message. ‘The Church on earth is by its very nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, it has its origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit.’[1] The Acts of the Apostles constitutes our principal source of information on the origins of Christian mission. The book is composed in the form of a missionary account, and, from the outset, proposes a progressive outline of apostolic witness, beginning in Jerusalem and extending to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8)

Luke presents a picture of the Church as he thinks it should be, not so much as it really is. Yet, even if his portrayal is idealized, there can be no doubt that the early Christian community did constitute a remarkable fellowship. In this paper I would like to present a Lucan perspective of Church, mission and witness based on Acts of the Apostles.

2. The Early Church as a Missionary Church

In Acts of the Apostles Luke present the early Church as a missionary Church. Important characteristics of the early Church given by Luke are

A) A Witnessing Church: The risen Jesus commanded the Apostles to be His witness. They were equipped by the Holy Spirit for this task and began to speak boldly for Christ. The early Christians had a compulsive desire to bear witness to Christ. “We are witness of these things” declared the Apostles, “and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:32, 42).

B) A Praying Church: Prayer was a regular feature of the early Church (Acts 2:42, 3:1). The Church had issued from a prayer meeting in the upper room in Jerusalem, when 120 faithful people looked to God for the promised outpouring Holy Spirit. The centrality of prayer is stressed all through the Book of Acts (6:4; 12:5; 16:25)[2]

C) A United Church: A wonderful bond of unity was evident in the early Church. He describes this unity ‘‘with one mind, by common consent, together in decision making (4:2; 15:25).

D) A Spirit - Filled Church: The Acts of the Apostles can be appropriately called ‘the Acts of the Holy Spirit.’ ‘Spirit is the main hero of the story. In terms of structural analysis of the story, it is not the Apostles who are the actors while the Holy Spirit is the adjuvant but rather the opposite.’

E) A Sacrificial Church: Luke saw a positive relationship between the sufferings of Christians and growth of the Church. In the gospel, Luke had been careful to relate the Messianic sufferings to the universal outreach of the Good News. In addition, the persecutions of the disciples, with attendant sufferings, are described and set in the context of biblical prophecy (4:23ff). The growth of the Church presupposes sufferings.

F) A Caring and Sharing Church: One of the trademarks of the early Christian community is ‘sharing’ depicted (4:32, 34-45). This sharing was voluntary, temporary and spontaneous, but it speaks volumes of the kind of loving, caring persons who had filled the ranks of the Christian fellowship.[3] 

3. The Church Does Not Have a Mission

It is a Mission The Church is in its nature and its total life a mission and missionary endeavour; in its very essence it seeks to be, and is called to be, Jesus’ witness in all its words and deeds, in all its life, whether gathered or scattered. The Church exist to bear witness to the new creation in Jesus Christ and to be the beach head of that new creation in the midst of the old. The task of the members of the Church is to be witnesses to Jesus. This means more than simply telling one’s personal story of faith or transformation, as important as that may be. To be Christ’s witnesses is to bring forward into our own time and place the truth of the gospel.[4]

4. Lucan Missionary Paradigm

Luke realized that Jesus mission and ministry had to reinterpret for the Church of his own time, and he believed that this reinterpretation would be mediated by the Spirit. The Spirit becomes the catalyst, the guiding and driving force for mission. At every point the Church’s mission is both inspired and confirmed by manifestations of the Spirit. For Luke the concept of the Spirit sealed the kinship between God’s universal will to save, the liberating ministry of Jesus, and the worldwide mission of the Church. In Acts the content of the witness (the martyria) refers, on the whole, to the Church’s proclamation of the gospel. In Acts 1:22 Luke quotes Peter saying that the task of the new apostle to be elected would be to ‘‘become with us a witness to His resurrection.’’ Again Luke seems to suggest that the martyria pertains not only to Jesus’ resurrection, but to His entire life and ministry (Acts 13:31). Jesus Himself proclaimed the kingdom of God. This is essentially the witness in Acts also do.[5]

5. The Key Verse

Acts 1:8 “But you will receive the power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” It is obvious that Luke built his entire book around this verse. The two important words the verse are ‘power’ and ‘witness’. These two words form the motif for the entire book. The resurrection made the disciples witnesses; Pentecost provided the power to make their witness effectively. Four important aspects in Acts 1:8 are:

1). The central theme of Christian witness is Christ.

2) Exclusive medium of the Christian witness is the Church.

3) The ultimate scope of Christian witness is the world.

4) The unfailing secret of the Christian witness is the Holy Spirit.[6]

6. Deed Divine and Human

The mission of the Church is first and foremost the work and deed of God. In Lucan terms, it is the deed of the Spirit. The Church en mission will find cohesion and identity in this divine strength, which dwells within it and thrusts it onward. But Luke is very interested in human mediation. He has to keen a sense of history for it to be otherwise. Luke wants to reconcile the gospel message with the fact of time. He wants to display eschatology in history. This has an effect on this conception of mission. Luke is interested in Israel’s and gentile past. He underscores a historical continuity with the past more than an eschatological breach. Luke is open to dialogue. He is pioneer of the theologies of inculturation.[7]

7. Mission is to be a Witness

Mission and witness are integrally related. The sending of the risen Jesus is the most basic mission, which is effected by His chosen witnesses who are equipped with and endorsed by His Spirit. Paul, also equipped with the Spirit, is specially sent to the gentiles in a general sense as well as at specific moments. The witness of the Apostles revolved around a central theme: Jesus Christ. Their witness included four important truths regarding Christ. a) The identity of His person b) The nature of His death c) The fact of resurrection d) The hope of His return.[8]

8. The Holy Spirit and Boldness in Testimony

Luke sees the power of Holy Spirit working through the apostles, teaching them what to say and giving them the boldness to say it. This power is realized on the Day of Pentecost when there is a remarkable outpouring of the Spirit, enabling the apostles to testify with spiritual authority and boldness. This boldness is an outstanding characteristic of their testimony. Peter on the Day of Pentecost when he speaks to the very men who crucified his Master; John and Peter when they appear before the Sanhedrin; Barnabas and Paul when they do missionary work in Antioch and Iconium; Stephen; Philip and Apollos when they preach Christ. Above all, this boldness shines out of the apostle Paul. For Luke the idea of witness is a living metaphor.[9]

9. The Witnesses and their Witness

The ‘hinge chapters’ of Luke- Acts have identified those chosen to be Jesus’ witnesses. As former companions of Jesus, the twelve have a historically unique position, later acknowledged by Paul. The narrative proceeds to show them at their risk. The speeches, which provide the reader with the impression of hearing their testimony first hand, testify to the three crucial events (Jesus’ death, His resurrection, and the proclamation of forgiveness), each explained according to the Scriptures.[10]

10. The Nature of the Witness

For the witness to be effective it must be powerful. This is precisely what we find in the apostolic witness as described in the book of Acts. Luke says:’ with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.’’ When we analyse the apostolic witness we find that there are three ingredients:

1) It was verbal: The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of utterance and when He fills a person that person invariably begins to witness.

2) It was visible: Besides preaching the Word, The apostles performed miracles, thereby giving visible demonstration of the power of Christ both to heal and to save.

3) It was vital: By personal experience the apostles knew both the truth and the power they preached. They were a living demonstration of the power of the gospel. Punish them with many stripes, and they rejoice that they are counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake. Threaten to their lives and they reply: ‘‘for to me to live be Christ and to die is gain.”[11]

A) Peter’s witness:

a) At Pentecost: Peter envelops his explanation of the coming of the Spirit with reference to Jesus’ exaltation with quotations from Joel 2:28-32.His sermon moves from the coming of the Spirit on the witnesses, to the promise of the Spirit for the hearers.

b) In the Temple: After healing crippled man, Peter tells the Jerusalem crowd that Jesus’ wrongful killing was according to the prophets.

c) Before the religious authorities: He explained the healing in terms of the ongoing power of the name of Jesus, the one they crucified, but whom God had raised.

d) Before the Sanhedrin: Peter asserts that their decision to kill Jesus as one assured of God was reversed when God raised Him.[12]

It is Peter who consecrates the overtures of Samaria (Acts8: 14-17) and to the uncircumcised. It is this attitude of Peter’s that founds universal mission, justifies the extension of the word to new worlds and endows this extension with legitimacy and validity.[13]

B) Stephen’s witness:

With a renewed description Luke identifies Stephen as ‘a man filled with grace and power, who worked great wonders and signs among the people’ (6:8). Stephen, filled with Spirit identifies Jesus explicitly as the Just One, the one who foretold from many generations, now ‘betrayed and murdered’ (7: 52). Stephen has given his own kind of witness to Jesus, in a context of Temple destruction and its causes. But his witness goes beyond his speech. Though Stephen’s witness is somewhat out of the ordinary in its condemnation of the temple, it is rich and shows both old and new ways of defining the person of him on behalf of whom one gives witness- even with one’s life.[14] Stephen accuses the authorities of not listening to God’s word-which is now being proclaimed by Jesus’ witness. His death also introduces the one who will become the 13th witness. The witnesses bring Israel the ‘word’ of the promised Deuteronomic prophet, and yet the Sanhedrin persists in the same hard-heartedness which led to them killing ‘the righteous one’.[15]

C) Paul’s witness:

Luke has given Paul a very great role in Acts. From the time after the apostolic council in Jerusalem (Acts 15), Paul denominates the scene in missionary expansion of the Church. He assumes the responsibility for carrying on the cause of Christ which typifies the role of the Church in her preaching. According to Luke the purpose of Paul’s conversion is primarily to spread the gospel to the gentiles. This is clear in three accounts (9:15, 22:15, and 26:16-18) and this mission is commissioned by the Risen Lord. For Luke, Paul represents the missionary concern of the Church, towards the gentiles. The Christian communities from gentile converts are strengthened and encouraged by Paul who understands their specific problems. His concern for them makes him to endure all fortunes, persecutions and dangers.[16]

11. Persecution and witness

According to Luke persecution for Jesus’ name forms part of Christian life. It is the heritage of a Christian. Jesus had foretold that His disciples would suffer. Persecution is a visible sign of risen Jesus’ presence in the Church. It is in persecution that the disciples of Jesus not only follows the Lord, but is identified with Him. Persecution leads in the divine plan, to the spread of the gospel more intensively, through the encouragement and power of the Holy Spirit. So persecution is the ‘sign ’for the Christians to rejoice at the thought that God is going to bring about the growth of Christianity.[17]

12. The Techniques of the Witness

The witness of the early Church, carried out under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, was neither halting nor hazard. Luke presents a definite plan of action designed to produce certain desirable results. They preached the gospel, they preached the gospel, they promised forgiveness, they promised forgiveness, they practised baptism, and they established Churches.

13. The speeches in Acts

The speeches in Acts are inscribed as a permanent record of testimony of Jesus’ chosen witnesses. As the narrative presents this testimony, the reader id given the opportunity to join with the minor characters that devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (2:42) and evangelised it to others. The reader is not amongst the witness, but amongst those who hear and proclaim their witness.[18] Luke’s Church may be said to have a bipolar orientation, “inward” and “outward”. First, it is a community which devotes itself “to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayers.” Teaching refers not so much to the contents of Jesus’ preaching as to the resurrection event. Fellowship refers to the new community in which barriers have been overcome; the breaking of bread refers to the Eucharistic life of the community. All this is accomplished in the power of the Spirit. Secondly the community also has an outward orientation. It refuses to understand itself as a sectarian group. It is actively engaged in a mission to those still outside the pale of the gospel. And inner life of the Church is connected to its outer life.[19]

14. Jerusalem

The city Jerusalem, for Luke, a highly concentrated theological symbol. The entire central section of Luke’s gospel can be put under the rubric of ‘Jesus en route to Jerusalem. The Christian mission ‘beginning from Jerusalem’ is a substantive, keynote ‘beginning’, not just a matter of geographical fact. It is the centre for a mission to Israel. Luke tells us, various intervals in Acts, about large numbers of Jews who were converted; it is evident, however, that the most spectacular conversions take place in Jerusalem. It is here, in the centre of Israel, that the gospel celebrates its greatest triumphs.[20]

15. Conclusion

Through Acts of the Apostles Luke gives a clear picture about the fact ‘Church is mission: mission is to be a witness’. The missionary enterprise of the early Church was not the responsibility of the women’s missionary society or the foreign mission board. Nor was the work of witnessing left to professionals like elders, deacons, or even Apostles. Laity and clergy alike were all involved. In those early days the Church was mission. In Acts, ‘witness’ become the appropriate term for ‘mission’. To some extent the terms, ‘apostle’ and witness are synonyms. As Acts presents the word of witness, Jesus and His salvation continues to go to the nations. Being members of the nations, the readers are called to listen to the word of the witnesses and to respond with repentance and faith.

[1] A. Flannery, (gen. ed.), Vatican ІІ, Ad Gentes Divinitus, Chapter І, 2, p. 715

[2] A. J. Lazar, Growth in the New Testament: A Lucan Perspective, Bangalore, Asian Trading Corporation, 2008, p. 254.

[3] A. J. Lazar, op. cit., p. 255.

[4] A. B. Robinson and R. W.Wall, Called to Be Church, Cambridge, Wm. B. Reedman’s Publishing Co., 2006, p. 44.

[5] D. J Bosch, Transforming Mission, New York, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, 1995, p .116.

[6] J. H. Kane, Christian Missions in Biblical Perspective, USA, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1976, p. 51.

[7] L. Legrand, Unity and Plurality: Mission in the Bible, Pune, Ishvani Publication, 1992, p. 99.

[8] J. H. Kane, ibid., p. 55.

[9] A. A. Trites, The New Testament Concept of Witness, London, Cambridge University Press, 1977, p 151

[10] I. H. Marshall and D. Peterson, (ed.), Witness to the Gospel, UK., William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapid, 1998, p. 199.

[11] J. H. Kane, op.cit., p. 61

[12] I. H. Marshall and D. Peterson, Ibid, p. 201.

[13] L. Legrad, Op.cit., p. 97.

[14] J. J. Kilgallen, Witness in the Acts of the Apostles, SM Vol. 53 (2004), pp. 135-157.

[15] I. H. Marshall and D. Peterson, Op.cit., p. 202.

[16] A. Rajan,Growth of the Church in Acts, BB Vol. IV, (1978), p. 110

[17] F. Pereira S. J. Persecution in Acts, BB, Vol. IV, (1978), p. 154

[18] I. H. Marshall and D.Peterson, Op.cit., p. 213

[19] D. J. Bosch, Op.cit., p. 120

[20] D. J. Bosch, Ibid, p. 94.

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