How Could the Whole World Have Been Taught?

Globes

In his letter to the church in Colossae, Paul said, “The gospel…was proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (Colossians 1:23). When Jesus gave His apostles the Great Commission, He told them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Paul indicated that by the time he wrote to the Colossians, this had been done. How is that possible? Let us consider the record in the book of Acts.

First, consider the extent to which Jesus said the apostles would be His witnesses – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). They were to be His witnesses throughout the world.

Second, consider the fact that there were thousands of disciples in Jerusalem – On the day of Pentecost when the gospel was first preached, there were “three thousand souls” who obeyed the gospel (Acts 2:41). Not long after that, the number grew “to be about five thousand” (Acts 4:4). This number continued to increase (Acts 5:14).

Third, consider the work of one man (Philip) – “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. […] But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike” (Acts 8:5-12). He was just one of the thousands who were scattered after Saul began persecuting the church (Acts 8:1, 4-5).

Fourth, consider the work of a few men in Antioch – After the disciples in Jerusalem were scattered (Acts 8:1, 4), Luke recorded, “There were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:20-21).

Fifth, consider the work of one church in Antioch – The church in Antioch “sent” Paul and Barnabas out “for the work to which [the Holy Spirit had] called them” (Acts 13:2-3). After preaching in several cities (Acts 13:4-14:25), they returned to Antioch and “gathered the church together” and reported “all the things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). The “churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2) were established through the efforts supported by the church in Antioch.

Sixth, consider the work in one city (Ephesus) – While Paul was in Ephesus, he was “reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:9-10). It is important to note that when the gospel was preached in a major city where people would be regularly traveling to and from there, it allowed the gospel to be spread to a much larger area.

Seventh, consider the work of two apostles (Peter and Paul) – After Judas killed himself (Matthew 27:3-5; Acts 1:16-20) and Matthias and Saul (Paul) were added to the number of apostles (Acts 1:24-26; 9:15; 2 Timothy 1:11), that made a total of thirteen apostles. Yet the book of Acts primarily records the work of just two of these men – Peter and Paul. By the end of the book, Paul had reached Rome – the capital of the empire – where “he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered” (Acts 28:30-31). As Paul’s preaching in Ephesus would have spread the gospel to all of Asia (Acts 19:9-10), his preaching in Rome would have been able to spread the gospel throughout the Roman empire.

Finally, after everything that we read about in the book of Acts (and this was just a sample of what was recorded in the book), multiply that by the number of apostles, disciples, churches, and cities not recorded in the book of Acts. When we consider all of this, it is no wonder why the Holy Spirit indicated through Paul that “the gospel…was proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (Colossians 1:23).

What does this mean for us? It means that an individual or a congregation does not need to teach the whole world. It would be impossible for us to do that, just as it was impossible for one person (like Peter or Paul) or for one congregation (like Antioch) to spread the gospel throughout the world on their own.

That being said, we do have a part to play in spreading the gospel. God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The way this happens is through the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:14). God, through His word, is able to use the efforts of individual Christians and autonomous local churches to cause the growth of His kingdom (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

We should not be discouraged that we cannot reach more people throughout the world. We should also not be tempted to adopt the man-made schemes and institutions to spread the gospel that so many use today. These were not needed in the first century and they are not needed today. We simply need to use the opportunities we have to teach others and support those who are preaching the gospel here and elsewhere.


When you subscribe, you’ll also receive 3 free PDF’s: Plain Bible Teaching on Government, the latest issue of Plain Bible Teaching Quarterly Review, and Social Issues.