We may never know all that motivated early day Christians in their efforts to spread the gospel of Christ, but the scriptures give us some good indications. Let us consider these a few when the Lord was giving direct revelation and empowering his servants from power on high.
A. The Spirit told them to go and led them. The Spirit told Peter to go with Cornelius’ servants and brethren at Antioch and to separate Barnabas and Saul for the work which he had called them (Acts 10:19-20 cf; 13:1-4). He told Philip to go to the eunuch. He told Paul not to preach in Asia or Bithynia (Acts 8:29 cf; 16:6-7).
B. The Lord gave them miraculous power to confirm the inspired words they spoke (Mk 16:15-20). Beginning at Pentecost in Acts 2, we read of this event. They spoke in every language which they had never learned, made the lame to walk, healed the sick, and raised the dead to live again (Acts 2:1-11 cf; 3:1-8; 5:15-16; 9:32-43).
C. God divinely protected them. After being persecuted at Philippi and Thessalonica, it was revealed to Paul that no one would harm him at Corinth (Acts 18:9-11). The Lord promised him while he was in Jerusalem that he would preach in Rome (Acts 23:11). This happened in spite of the Jews’ many efforts to kill Paul and the shipwreck which was to carry him there (Acts 2312 cf; 24:1-9; 25:1-7; 27).
Christ is with us when we seek to spread the gospel (Matt. 28:19-20). The miracles the early preachers performed made it openly obvious to every honest person that God was with them (Jn 3:2). Jesus promises to all Christians: “I will in no wise fail you, neither will I in any wise forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). As the Lord was with Paul in the many different places he went, he is with those who labor in the Word today. They can read his word, pray to him, spread his gospel, worship and serve him no matter where they are in the world.
God can also protect his people in ungodly nations. He protected Paul in Corinth during his long transit from Jerusalem to Rome, and he can guard his people today no matter where they are or in whatever situation they may be. Therefore, they can pray to him for protection and go forth confident in his ability to take care of them.
We must allow that there may be places where God does not want us to preach (Acts 16:6-7). Had Paul preached in places forbidden to him by the Lord, he may have wasted precious time to do the will of God elsewhere. Our time would be better spent evangelizing another area, city, or country than to try and teach those who have no intention of obeying the Word. Preachers today must preach to anyone who will give ear to the Word, but they must discern those who would hinder the Word and limit their mission.
Conclusion: The Spirit has ceased guiding men by direct revelation, no longer empowers his people to work miracles, and has stopped revealing God’s work from power from on high. In spite of this, the great commission is as relevant today as when Jesus first gave it (Mk 16:15-16). Our mission to go into all the world and preach the gospel will continue to be needed as long as the world stands (Matt. 28:19-20). We can also rest assured that just like the apostles and early day Christians, that God will guide us and strengthen us in our endeavor to serve the Lord.