As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently copied the entire book of Acts into a document, and began crossing out every mention of gospel proclamation, along with all that resulted from it. Additionally, I crossed out all references to the power, work, and leading of the Holy Spirit.
You can find this annotated version of Acts here:
If you skim through the document, you will see just how much the book of Acts features the power of the Spirit and speaking the gospel. When those are removed from the book, the narrative is stripped to almost nothing.
There are several things we can learn from this.
Acts is an aimless text without the Holy Spirit and the act of speaking.
This should be no surprise, as these two themes are set forth at the very beginning. Jesus says in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Here you see the power of the Spirit and the work of testifying (speaking) highlighted as that which will direct the rest of the narrative. So when you remove these two elements, you are left with an aimless story that does not make much sense.
There is no advance of the Kingdom without the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit brought an unnatural power and boldness to the disciples. This is evidenced in Acts 4:31, where the Spirit filled the believers to the end that they continued to speak the word of God with great boldness. If you remove this empowering work of the Spirit, you short-circuit the advance of the gospel as the disciples are left powerless.
There is no advance of the Kingdom without the proclamation of the gospel.
As you can see in the document, gospel proclamation constitutes a significant portion of the book of Acts. If you remove all such cases, the outward advance of God’s Kingdom from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth is stalled.
Removing gospel proclamation removes persecution.
If you want to rid the narrative of the nasty persecution that takes place against believers, all you have to do is eliminate gospel proclamation. Almost all the persecution experienced by the disciples was a direct result of their bold testimony of the gospel. It remains no different today. If you want to avoid persecution, then you must avoid gospel proclamation. The only problem with that is…
Removing gospel proclamation removes fruitfulness.
When you eliminate gospel proclamation from the narrative of Acts, almost all ministry fruitfulness vanishes. This helps us understand why Jesus articulated the importance of bearing witness at the beginning of the book (Acts 1:8).
Bold proclamation of the gospel under the power of the Spirit is the central thrust of our mission.
All of the above realities should inform our understanding of mission. Our mission primarily consists of boldly testifying to the gospel under the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). This is our central aim. This should shape how we view and pursue mission work, both individually and collectively, lest our ministries be stripped of their power and fruitfulness.