Abstract: The polar opposite teachings of cessationism on the one hand and the necessity of supernatural gifts on the other need no longer force the Church unwittingly to do “business as usual” on the foreign mission field. Rather missions as recorded in Acts is today being restored.
Missions as recorded in Acts contrast sharply with foreign missions as is done today by the Church in gospel-resistant regions of the Third World. In Acts compelling instances of the miraculous brought souls to Jesus Christ, often in impressive numbers. Today, with the relatively rare exceptions of superstar charismatic evangelists, the dimension of the miraculous is for the most part lacking in missions. Lacking this dimension, contemporary missions is reduced mostly to a reliance on humanitarian good works to reflect (however dimly) the love of our Father in heaven for the world.
Due to the tenuous situation regarding the preaching of the gospel in many Third World countries today, it is quite reasonable to continue the indirect approach of humanitarian works for proclaiming the good news there. However, why can we not incorporate the cogent element of the miraculous into our humanitarian works, thus profoundly accelerating the endtime harvest to approach what we see in Acts?
Must we cling to the tired excuse of cessationism in order to exclude the dimension of the miraculous in the proclamation of the gospel to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and idol-worshipers today? Must we hide under the self-vindicating teaching that the miracles recorded in Acts are but a description of what took place back then, and no longer prescription of how we are to preach the gospel in the Third World today?
No, the Church no longer needs to find cover for itself under those human arguments—find-sounding pretexts for why missions today does not follow the pattern of Acts.
Is it necessary to speak in tongues?
Moreover, if we study the Scriptures closely, we will see that it is not necessary to be a tongue-speaking charismatic to be used by the Lord as the early disciples were in Acts.
Well before Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended to fill the disciples, Jesus had already given them supernatural power and authority to cast out all demons and to cure diseases to be used in proclaiming the kingdom of God to the lost (Luke 9:1-2). Therefore ministering in the realm of the supernatural does not totally depend on being baptized in the Holy Spirit and then receiving the supernatural gifts of the Spirit—as some charismatic teachings might hold.
The primary purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was to give the disciples power and boldness to witness for Jesus Christ—something which was noticeably lacking before Pentecost. The most dramatic example of this was Peter, who just days before boldly proclaiming the gospel before the gathered crowd at Pentecost, had fearfully denied Jesus three times. Note that in the gospels even before receiving the Spirit’s power at Pentecost, Peter and the other disciples were already healing the sick effectively.
Luke 9:6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.
This is not at all to say that we should minimize the importance of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Rather we are saying that it is not absolutely necessary to be a traditional tongue-speaking charismatic in order to heal the sick miraculously as compelling evidence to the gospel-resistant that Jesus is the Messiah.
Born-again disciples, missionaries and harvest workers who do not speak in tongues and have not been trained in the use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit can in fact be trained to heal the sick and cast out demons just as Jesus trained his disciples in the gospels before he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God.
And that is exactly what is happening today. During these Last Days the time is short, yet so much work remains to be done. According to the Joshua Project, 3.11 billion souls or 42.2% of the world’s population has never heard the gospel even once (joshuaproject.net). The Lord is now therefore restoring to the Church the extraordinary pattern of missions as recorded in Acts.
In Acts we see the Lord fulfilling his promise in John 14:11-12 to his disciples.
Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
In fulfillment of this, the Lord used his disciples to heal the sick and cast out demons with great power and authority in Acts.
The Lord is fulfilling this rock-solid promise to His harvest workers in the Church again during these Last Days in order for the gospel of the kingdom to be preached IN THE WHOLE WORLD as a witness to all nations—TO ALL PEOPLE GROUPS—before the end.