Essential Ingredients Part I
Part I of 2
The thing about ice cream is that no matter what flavor combinations you dream up, there are still some basic ingredients that are essential. From a biblical perspective, this is also true for individual churches, denominations and ministries. Cream and sugar are essential to any flavor of ice cream. Sorry boss, eggs are not essential in ice cream. Fun fact, the difference between vanilla and French vanilla is FV has eggs. I like ice cream with eggs but many good recipes don’t have them! 😉 There are essential ingredients to the Church and its ministry as well. Whatever form it takes—a local church gathering, a short-term mission trip, a homeless shelter, a Sunday school class, a ministry to addicts, or a rodeo-clown for Jesus—the essentials of Jesus’ commission remain the same: proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God, healing the sick, and casting out demons.
There are many flavors of church and ministry, but are the essential ingredients there in these numerous settings? Is the transforming message of God’s in-breaking Kingdom and its expression in various forms of healing and freedom from the demonic clearly evident in each of these ministry activities offered in the name of Christ?
The Kingdom Message
When Jesus sent out His disciples, He gave them power and authority to carry out the instructions he gave them. These were His instructions: “Preach this message: ‘The Kingdom of heaven (God) is near , Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.’” And that is what they did. The instructions are pretty clear and specific; and apparently they understood it because when they returned they said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name” (Lk. 10). Jesus rejoiced with them, affirming their obedience in carrying out his instructions with the power He had given them. He assured them that the kingdom of Satan was being defeated through their proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with a message that incorporated the practical ministry of healing and the casting out of demons. The same was true for the early believers who continued Jesus’ ministry as the church grew.
“Preach this message: ‘The Kingdom of heaven (God) is near, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.’” And that is what they did.
After His resurrection, Jesus universalized this commission for all believers to “make disciples of all nations.” With this commission, He promises the gift of the Holy Spirit, who will provide the empowerment to continue the same ministry through all believers throughout the world. After receiving the Great Commission and the promise of Jesus’ Spirit, who filled them and empowered them to carry it out, it is clear that these new believers then did the very same things that The Twelve and The Seventy-two Others (Lk. 10) had been doing when Jesus was among them here on earth. These new believers began proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God and the message of Jesus, healing sick people, and casting out demons (Acts 8:12).
Stephen and Philip were not apostles, yet each carried out this commission by preaching and testifying to the message of the Kingdom, with miracles that confirmed it (Acts 6:8; 8:5-8). Paul, to whom Christ appeared after His ascension to heaven, was also commissioned “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:17-18). He also preached the message of the Kingdom of God, healed the sick and cast out demons (Acts 19:8; 28:23; 14:9; 16:18). Jesus’ first commission to The Twelve was carried out with consistency by The Seventy-Two, and later in the continuation of the Apostle’s ministry, and among those who were not apostles as well.
commissioned “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:17-18)
What may be less obvious but of equal importance, is that we do not observe any of these believers engaging in another kind of ministry or variation of this commission. Whether they were gathered as the church, on the road, in prison, facing shipwreck, visiting homes, engaging in some form of public ministry, on their way to church (the temple), in the marketplace or involved in missionary work, they continued to maintain the essential ingredients of Christ’s original commission to “Preach this message: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is near , Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.’”