#111. Mission and Power (Luke 24:47-49)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
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Text

Luke 24:47-49

[47] And repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. [48] You are witnesses of these things. [49] I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."


Exposition

It may seem overkill to spend one week studying three brief verses. But in these verses, and their parallels in the other Gospels, Jesus spells out the mission and source of power for his Church. Therefore, we'll examine these verses in some detail to see what Jesus intends for us disciples.

The Great Commission (24:47-48)

This week's passage includes both a command and a promise. First, the implied command:

"... and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things." (24:47-48)

"Preached" is the Greek verb kerusso, "to make public declarations, proclaim aloud."[1] Though this verb isn't in the imperative mood (such as, "Preach the Gospel"), it is clear that the disciples are to preach the message. The have been eyewitnesses to Jesus' life, ministry, death, and resurrection, and can attest to these things. Jesus calls them "witnesses," Greek martus, "one who testifies in legal matters, witness, one who affirms or attests."[2]

This passage and its parallels in the Gospels and Acts are referred to as the Great Commission, which finds its classic expression in Matthew's account. Most of these passages contain four common elements: (1) the command to preach, witness, or teach; (2) the teaching content of good news or forgiveness, (3) the scope of all nations or all creation, and (4) a mention of the Holy Spirit's work in this ministry.

Reference

Text

Preach,
witness,
teach

Good news,
forgiveness

All
nations

Holy
Spirit

Matthew 28:19-20

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."

X

X

X

X

Mark 16:15

"Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation."

X

X

X

 

Luke 24:47-49

"Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."

X

X

X

X

John 20:21-23

" 'As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.' "

(X)

X

 

X

Acts 1:8

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

X

 

X

X

The Message of Repentance and Forgiveness of Sins (24:47)

Just what does it mean to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins? What does that consist of?

"Forgiveness of sins" is the part we like. "Forgiveness" (NIV) and "remission" (KJV) translate the Greek noun aphesis, "the act of freeing from an obligation, guilt, or punishment, pardon, cancellation, forgiveness."[3] As we come to understand the enormity of our failings, mistakes, weaknesses, and sins, then pardon and cancellation of the debt of sin sound good to us. Very good. That God can love us so much that he will forgive our rebellion against him is "amazing grace."

But Jesus mentions "repentance" first. "Repentance" is the Greek noun metanoia, "primarily a change of mind, repentance, turning about, conversion."[4] Repentance means recognition that we are going the wrong way, and making a deliberate change of mind and direction to turn a corner, to go another way. As the popular song puts it, "I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back."

According to Matthew's Gospel both John the Baptist and then Jesus were preachers of repentance:

"In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.' " (Matthew 3:1-2)
"From that time on Jesus began to preach, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.' " (Matthew 4:17)

We stand in that same line of preaching repentance combined with Good News:

"Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24:47)

When we over-emphasize repentance, we end up with legalism -- salvation by strict obedience to the law. When we over-emphasize forgiveness we end up with a sloppy grace that distorts the Gospel. The two must go together -- a decision and determination to put Jesus first, and a recognition that even so, none of us is sinless -- we need God's continual forgiveness and grace.

Are we saved by repentance? Well, yes, in a manner of speaking. Repentance is the fruit of genuine faith responding to the truth of the Gospel. If we have real faith in Jesus, then we will follow, must follow him. James reminds us that, "faith without deeds is dead" (James 2:26). Paul underscores this by saying, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). Repentance is our part, granted to us by a gracious gift of God (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25). Repentance consists of belief in Jesus and our faltering steps to follow. Forgiveness is God's part, without which no moral life, even an exceptionally moral life, can ever hope to meet God's standards of righteousness.

Sometimes we Christians get hung up on the vocabulary of repentance.

  • Hellfire and brimstone sermons are not the only way to bring people to repentance, though God has graciously used this approach to help many, especially in a previous century.
  • Bill Bright's Four Spiritual Laws (www.greatcom.org/laws/) may seem light on repentance until you realize that the questions, "Which circle best describes your life?" and "Which circle would you like to have represent your life?" are designed to provoke a critical self-assessment of one's relationship with God with a desire for a change, followed by a prayer to "Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be." That is the essence of repentance.
  • Some churches employ "altar calls." Others use "decision cards" to help people take a step of repentance and discipleship. Others might help people to "choose to begin a faith journey with Jesus Christ."

So long as Jesus' disciples are led by his Spirit, the vocabulary and methods used to bring about conversion are not the important thing. But that we continue to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations is of utmost importance.

A Gospel for All Peoples (24:47)

"Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24:47)

The Great Commission provides a departure from Jesus' own ministry. He was quite clear that his primary earthly mission is to "the lost sheep of Israel" (Matthew 10:5-6; 15:24). But he is equally clear that once the Jews have rejected the son, as portrayed in the Parable of the Tenants and the Vineyard (Luke 20:9-19), the message must now to go to others:

"Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people (Greek ethnos, "nation") who will produce its fruit." (Matthew 21:43)

In most of the versions of Jesus' Great Commission we have this element of taking the message to the Gentiles (Greek ethnos).

  • "Go and make disciples of all nations (ethnos)" (Matthew)
  • "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." (Mark)
  • "Preached in his name to all nations (ethnos), beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke)
  • "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts)

This Greek noun ethnos is the root of our English word "ethnic." In Greek it means "a body of persons united by kinship, culture, and common traditions, nation, people."[5] The word is often used in the Greek Septuagint to refer to non-Jews, the Gentiles.[6]

But taking the message of God's love and reconciliation to the Gentiles is not a new theme. It is found a number of places in the writings of the Prophets, such as: Isaiah 2:2-4; 25:6-8; 51:4-5; 66:17-21; Jeremiah 16:19. Micah 4:1-3; Zechariah 8:20-23. It is quite clear from Isaiah's prophecy that Israel, and especially Yahweh's Servant, will be instrumental in becoming "a light to the nations":

"I ...will make you to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles." (Isaiah 42:6)
"I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." (Isaiah 49:6)

When Jesus was just a baby, godly Simeon took him in his arms and spoke these words over him:

"My eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people (Greek laos),
a light for revelation to the Gentiles (ethnos)
and for glory to your people Israel." (Luke 2:30-32)

Jesus' portion of this mission was to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins to his own Jewish people. But now he commissions his disciples to leap over the cultural barriers that have thus far separated Israel from the other nations, and to bring salvation to them.

Beginning at Jerusalem (24:47)

"Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24:47)

Though Jesus has in mind a world wide mission, they are to begin at Jerusalem. In Acts 1:8, Jesus is quite specific: "... You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8) This command becomes the structure of the entire Book of Acts.

  • Jerusalem remains the focus until intense persecution comes (chapters 1-7)
  • Judea and Samaria receive the word under Philip the Evangelist (chapter 8)
  • Paul is converted in Damascus (chapter 9), takes the Gospel to the Mediterranean, and sees it spread to Rome and beyond (chapters 10-28)

In His Name (24:47)

"Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24:47)

The message is not just a generalized message of repentance and forgiveness, but one which is declared "in his name," that is, "on the basis of the name of Jesus."

The phrase "in the name" has a long history in both Hebrew and Greek languages. In ancient Greek the phrase "in the name" is a business technical term, with the idea of "an entry in an account under the name of the holder." In the Old Testament the name can be a substitute for the personal presence and power of the person. It can also carry the idea "on the authority of" or "on the commission of." In the New Testament we see the phrase "in the name of" meaning "in the sphere of power," "in the power," and "in the presence."[7]

In Matthew's form of the Great Commission, the disciples are told to baptize "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19).

What does the phrase "in his name" mean precisely in our Lucan passage? First, it means that their preaching is connected with all that Jesus is and has done, and that forgiveness of sins is available through him only.

Second, to preach "in his name" means to proclaim with his authority, commission, power, and backing. In the Matthew version of the Great Commission, the actual instructions are prefaced by Jesus' declaration of his own authority: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..." (Matthew 28:18-19).

One of the most powerful declarations of Jesus' name and authority begins with a simple miracle of healing performed by Peter upon a lame beggar in the temple: "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk" (Acts 3:6). The healed man begins to jump and dance and a crowd quickly gathers. Peter declares:

"By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see." (Acts 3:16)

Then he is arrested and called before the Sanhedrin to give account for his actions. He is asked: "By what power or what name did you do this?" Filled with the Holy Spirit, he replies:

"It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is
'the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the capstone.'
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:10-12)

Peter's Spirit-anointed message also exemplifies what Jesus meant when he said that his disciples would be his witnesses. Jesus concludes his commission with the declaration: "You are witnesses of these things" (24:48).

Jesus Will Send the Spirit (24:49)

This section ends with a promise and a command:

"I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." (24:49)

"What (my Father) has promised" (NIV) or "the promise (of my Father)" (KJV) translates the noun epangelia, "declaration to do something, with implication of obligation to carry out what is stated, promise, pledge, offer."[8] Of the thousands of promises of God, to which is Jesus referring? The parallel passage in Acts 1 makes this clear:

"On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4-5)

God's promises about this go back to the Old Testament. For example:

"For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants." (Isaiah 44:3)
"And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions." (Joel 2:28)

Notice that in our passage Jesus himself is involved in sending the Spirit. Usually pronouns are just implied in Greek by the form of the verb. But in 24:49, the personal pronoun "I" (Greek, ego) is explicitly given, emphasizing Jesus' own sending.

This promise of the Spirit is especially evident in John's Gospel: 

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever -- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." (John 14:16-17)
"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:26)
"When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me." (John 15:26)
"But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." (John 16:7)

Clothed with Power (24:49)

Jesus has indicated that his disciples will preach repentance and forgiveness of sins -- that they will be his witnesses. Their weakness has been manifest. To be effective they need supernatural power.

"I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." (24:49)

The Greek noun used for "power" here is dunamis, from which we get our English words "dynamo" and " dynamic." When the Spirit comes, his power will become like their own clothing. "Clothed with" (NIV) or "endued with" (KJV) is the Greek verb enduo, "to put clothing or apparel on someone, dress, clothe." Here it is used metaphorically of taking on of characteristics, virtues, intentions, etc.[9]

But Jesus is very clear that the power is not the disciples' own. Rather the source is God. "On high" is the Greek adjective hupsos, "extent or distance upward, height."[10]

Have you ever felt the need for power in trying to communicate Jesus' message? In our own strength we seem so ineffective!

Stay in Jerusalem (24:49)

"I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." (24:49)

 "Stay" (NIV) or "tarry" (KJV) is the Greek verb kathizo, literally "sit." Here it has the extended meaning, "to be or remain in a place, reside, settle, stay, live."[11]

The disciples' natural tendency would be to go home to Galilee. And apparently they did so briefly at Jesus' direction and he appeared to them there (Matthew 26:32; 28:7, 10, 16; Mark 14:28, 16:7; John 21:1).

But Jesus is clear that after his ascension they must wait in Jerusalem and not leave until the Spirit comes upon them. And so they obey him. After Jesus' ascension from Mt. Olivet just outside of the city, they return to Jerusalem to wait for his promise. There are in prayer, about 120 of them (Acts 1:15).

This extended wait goes on for about a week. I calculate this week based on the fifty days between Passover and Pentecost (Pentecost literally means "fifty"), and the forty days during which he appeared to them (Acts 1:3), minus the three days after Passover before Jesus is resurrected.

Finally, on the Day of Pentecost itself the Spirit is poured out upon the gathered, obedient disciples, and the Church is born with 3,000 new converts on the first day it opens its doors (Acts 2). Talk about power -- that is power.

Lessons for Disciples

Dear friends, we need this same power of the Spirit today. Yes, all real Christians have been born of the Spirit (John 3:1-8; Romans 8:9b). But to experience the Spirit's power we must wait before Him in prayer, seeking his time and his way. As we obey Jesus' command to wait for the power, we are wise. As we expect and pray for the power of the Spirit we will be rewarded.

The Pentecostal and Charismatic movements of the Twentieth Century may have over stated a bit that you don't have the Spirit if you don't speak in tongues,[12] but they were very right to insist that in the Spirit is the power to be witnesses. Their emphasis on and reliance upon the Spirit's supernatural power and the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit has seen this movement mushroom all over the world. We can learn much from this move of God.

Jesus' commands and promises were not suspended at the close of Apostolic times. They continue for us disciples to this day

  1. Our message is repentance and forgiveness of sins.
  2. We are commanded to declare this to all people groups throughout the world.
  3. We are witnesses to what we know about Jesus.
  4. We must wait before God until he gives us the power of his Spirit. The power is not in us but in Him.

There is a sense in which this Spirit-led mission of declaring the Gospel to the whole world is center-stage and time-critical for God's purpose in our day. Two verses come to mind:

"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Matthew 24:14)
"... as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming." (2 Peter 3:12)

If, indeed, the timing of Jesus' return hinges upon us preaching the Gospel fully, then we must be about our duty. Come, Lord Jesus!


Prayer

Father, I find myself trying to become independent of you. I try to discern the mechanisms of ministry and spiritual growth so that I can reproduce them independently of you and your power. Forgive me. Help me, with my brothers and sisters, to be utterly dependent upon your power and your direction. But make us very bold in your Spirit's power. Make us -- make me -- a witness who refuses to be silenced by the world. Assist those who seek to bring the Gospel to every people group on the face of the earth and help us in our witness. Then come, Lord Jesus. In your name, I pray. Amen.


Key Verse

"And repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things." (Luke 24:47-48)


Questions

JesusWalk: Discipleship Training in Luke's Gospel, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
All 120 lessons now compiled as a 808-page e-book and paperback. Get your copy for easy reference
  1. What does repentance consist of? What synonyms can we use to describe repentance to our generation? (24:47)
  2. Is forgiveness of sins possible without repentance? Is repentance possible without the forgiveness of sins accompanying it? (24:47)
  3. What does it mean to preach or do some action "in his name"? (24:47)
  4. Why was the shift of focus from the Jews to the Gentiles so significant?
  5. What steps should we be taking in our communities to see that the gospel is carried to every people group in our midst? (For example, Korean, Hmong, Vietnamese, Puerto Rican, Muslim, Chinese.) What steps should we be taking to carry the Gospel to every language of every people-group on earth? How can we facilitate this work?
  6. The first apostles were eyewitnesses by definition (Acts 1:22). In what sense are we witnesses? What evidence are we aware of about which we can speak authoritatively? Of what are you a first-hand witness?
  7. Have you ever met a powerless Christian? What kind of waiting is necessary to receive spiritual power for ministry? How diligently and obediently are you willing to wait for and seek this power from the Spirit?


References

Common Abbreviations www.jesuswalk.com/faq/abbreviations.htm

  1. BDAG 543-544.
  2. BDAG 619-620.
  3. BDAG 155.
  4. BDAG 640.
  5. BDAG 276.
  6. Georg Bertram and Karl Ludwig Schmidt, ethnos, ktl., TDNT 2:364-372.
  7. Hans Bietenhard, onoma, ktl., TDNT 5:242-283.
  8. BDAG 355-356.
  9. BDAG 333-334.
  10. BDAG 1045.
  11. BDAG 491-492.
  12. See my article, "Spirit Baptism, the New Birth, and Speaking in Tongues," JesusWalk, January 15, 2000. www.joyfulheart.com/scholar/spirit-baptism.htm

Copyright © 1985-2014, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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