On the morning of Nov 24th, the Jiangxi Province Christian teacher training class was hosted in Jiangxi Bible School Grace Church. Pastor Yang Huai'en, the principal of Macau Bible School, was invited to share from Acts. He shared from some important milestones of the development of the Kingdom of God in Acts.
"After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God." (NRSV Acts: 1:3) After Jesus was crucified and resurrected, he didn't ascend into Heaven immediately. Instead, he stayed with the disciples and taught them things about the kingdom of God. Pastor Yang said that the forty days course was very important, and the theme of the course was the kingdom of God.
Israel was always hoping that one of the descendants would revive the kingdom of Israel. However, the kingdom of Israel is not equivalent to the kingdom of God. When Jesus comes, he is going to build the kingdom of heaven. Facing persecution, his response was that his kingdom was not on earth. "Loving one's country is good. Christians should pray for their countries. However, God values building of the kingdom of God. God created all, and he is the God of all. He is the God of China, and he is also the God of America."
Several important milestones in the development of the kingdom of God
The Holy Spirit Came and broke the Language barrier
Before Jesus was lifted up, he told his disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit. After Jesus ascended to heaven, the disciples returned to Jerusalem waiting for the Holy Spirit. It came on the day of Pentecost, when there were many speaking in tongues. It was not the language which people understand among themselves, but languages were understandable. "This was the reverse of the Tower of Babel. Back then the country of the Jews had already perished for 6 centuries, more than 500 years. People were scattered everywhere and spoke different dialects. Therefore, people were surprised, 'is he still speaking our language?'"
Pastor Yang explained that speaking in tongues is not a magical thing. Jesus asked the disciples to preach the Gospel to the whole creation, so the first ability given by the Holy Spirit was the ability to understand.
Peter and John performed Wonders and Severe Persecution Began against the Church
After the disciples waited for the abilities, they started to proclaim the good news. Peter and John healed the crippled beggar, and that was a great wonder. It became a powerful testimony and the priests had nothing to say. Nevertheless, the church still suffered from persecution.
The Stoning of Stephen and the Word of God Spread to the Gentiles
Stephen gave a wonderful sermon but ended up being stoned to death. Pastor Yang said that compared to Stephen, the persecution of Peter was light. Later Stephen had greater persecution, which came from the people instead of the priests.
Before Stephen was arrested, the Bible showed that "The word of God continued to spread." But that was only in Jerusalem. Jesus commanded the disciples to go proclaim the Gospel to the entire world, but they needed to wait for the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit came, the Gospel was still not spread to the whole world. However, after the church suffered from great persecution with the disciples scattered everywhere, the Gospel was spread to the gentiles. "The Gospel in Europe is the same. The people in the Central Plains saw the people in the North as barbarians. The Europeans never thought about the Gospel entering Europe, not until the invasion by the gentiles."
The Cornelius Incident, Spreading the Gospel Had Support in Theology
To spread the Gospel to the entire world, the first matter was language, and then theology. In the Jews' perspectives, the gentiles were nothing but the firewood of hell. Until Peter fell into a trance (Acts: 10) and heard a voice saying, "What God has made clean, you must not call profane." At the time, Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort sent a servant to invite Peter, and Peter also went with him. After the visit, Peter realized that God favored the gentiles too. "As far as spreading the Gospel to the gentiles is concerned, the Cornelius incident was a breakthrough in theology and had great impact." After this, the churches of Jerusalem made arrangements and started supporting preaching to the Gentiles in theology. "Such a breakthrough was outstanding."
In fact, the commandment of preaching to the Gentiles existed long before. Only prejudice prevented them from seeing and hearing. God repeated the visions to Peter three times, so he had to listen.
The Revival of the Church in Antioch
In Acts 11:26, "it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called 'Christians.'" So to speak, the church in Antioch was the first modern Christian church. Compared to the first generation churches, it had more vitality, and was more dynamic. Meanwhile, the Gospel soon spread from there to other places.
Paul's Vision of the Man of Macedonia, the Gospel Spreading from Asia to Europe
Macedonia belonged to Europe, and the Gospel spreading from Asia to Europe began here. Now it had entered the third stage. Why did God stop Paul? Sometimes it is not for us to understand the guidance and leading of God. Macedonia and Asia were, in fact, two cultures. Paul started suffering many frustrations, but later he finally bore fruit in Philippi.
The Gospel Spread to Rome
Paul went to Rome eventually. Pastor Yang said that Rom e was the center of the world at that time, and it was equivalent to "the end of the world." The record of the spreading of the Gospel in Acts ends in Rome, but not the end of the world. However, to proclaim the Gospel from Rome to the end of the world was the work of Titus and Timothy. Now it is our job, and we will continue with this great mission.
The Chinese also have a share of spreading the Gospel to the world. Now the whole world needs the Gospel, and Christians of every generation need to preach. Like in Turkey, it is very difficult to preach the Gospel to them. First, there is the language barrier, and then the risk of being killed. "To preach the Gospel there will cost not one person, but several generations."
Pastor Yang once lived in the Middle East for two years. He said that the people there have a high level of acceptance of Chinese people. So may God help to raise the Chinese churches and the churches in Jiangxi. Do not say we're weak. Paul was weak at the time and walked some roads that weren't right. Yet, God is going to use us. "May God use the churches here."
Translated By: Grace Hubl