Not long after Jesus began his preaching ministry (Matthew 4:17) he selected his twelve apostles to assist him in carrying on the work. The word apostle literally means “one sent” and so these godly men would be sent out with the primary purpose of preaching and teaching. “Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother. Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector (publican), James the son of Alphaeus and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him” (Matthew 10:2-4).
The apostles were given what is often called a “limited commission” because Jesus said to them “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6). Jesus limited their commission of preaching and teaching in that they would only go to the Jews. Jesus himself would extend his preaching to those beyond “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and about three years later he would instruct the apostles that were still living to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature…” (Mark 16:15). The mission had now been expanded after Jesus’ resurrection.
Jesus’ plan of taking salvation to all people fulfilled prophetic revelation so that those that had known and had the Law of Moses for more than 500 years would be able to hear the gospel first and respond to it (Isaiah 2:2-4, Acts 1:8). The Jews should have been the most prepared people in the world to receive the gospel because of their long standing heritage in being direct descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because they and only they had received the Law (Exodus 20:1-17), and having access to the prophets’ messages. In spite of the fact that the Jews had received the Law of Moses they had now become a secular people and the Law was to them what the Bible is to most people in the United States today. Most people in our country believe in God and the Bible as the Word of God, and they often have some ritualistic religious practices, just as the Jews did during Jesus’ time, but practically speaking the Bible does not guide their lives and was not guiding the lives of the Jews. The Jews for the most part truly were the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”.
Jesus instructed the apostles to preach the message that “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:7). That was the same message that Jesus had been preaching (Matthew 4:17) and what he taught them to pray for (Matthew 6:10). The kingdom of heaven was near in time because in three years the kingdom or the church would be established (Matthew 16:18-19, Acts 2:36-38,41,47). Jesus instructed the apostles “And as you go, preach…” (Matthew 10:7). When and wherever they might find themselves, in whatever town or city, as they went in the morning, during the day, or in the evening they were to be preaching the message of the kingdom to the people. That meant that they did not need to wait for a formal assembly of people such as in the synagogue, or some other religious meeting, but in those places and to each and every person that they met they were to communicate the gospel of Christ.
There is a sense in which that phrase “And as you go…” applies to each and every Christian because communicating of the gospel is not limited to an assembly of Christians such as a worship service or a Gospel Meeting. The gospel can be taken to the world as we go by sharing a Bible tract, Mabelvale’s invitation cards, and friends and others can be directed to the Mabelvale Facebook Public page in order to view Bible studies throughout the week. All of this and more can be done as we go. The coronavirus pandemic took the world by surprise, but it should not stop the preaching of God’s Word as we go.