The advance of the Kingdom of God has at times involved surprises, changes that moved people beyond the expectations of the time.
(John Lathrop)

Sometimes on news programs commentators will say “we are witnessing history in the making.” In one sense everything that is currently happening is history in the making. But typically when commentators say this they are reporting on something unusual; what has taken place is different from what most people would have expected to take place.

It is a surprise. There has in some way been a departure from the norms of the past. With this in mind we might say that in order for us to experience history in the making we need to first experience history in the breaking.

This is the essence of change. A word of caution here: I am not suggesting throwing off biblical teaching. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I am speaking about embracing all of the will of God.

Allow me to provide a bit of clarification. I am not saying that the past is not important or that we cannot learn anything valuable from the past. The apostle Paul has told us that we can learn from past history (1 Cor. 10:1-11).

In fact, we should. We should learn not only from the negative examples and mistakes of others but also from the things that they did right. The advance of the Kingdom of God has at times involved surprises, changes that moved people beyond the expectations of the time. There are a number of surprises like this in the New Testament.

In John 4 Jesus spoke with a woman at a well. On the surface this just looks like a conversation between two people. As it develops it turns into a spiritual conversation. If you research the historical background of this text or consult biblical commentaries you will learn that Jesus broke a number of cultural conventions by speaking to this woman.

The women happened to be a Samaritan (which is not surprising because Jesus was in Samaria). She surmised that Jesus was a Jew (John 4:9), and so she was surprised that He spoke with her, because Jews did not interact with Samaritans (John 4:9). Jesus’s disciples were also surprised that He spoke with her (John 4:27). Jesus broke with convention.

In Acts 2 we find another surprise. All of the early Christians were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4)! Prior to Acts 2 the only people in the New Testament who were said to be filled with the Holy Spirit were: Elizabeth (Luke 1:41), Zechariah (Luke 1:67), John the Baptist (Luke 1:15), and Jesus (Luke 3:22; 4:1).

With the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 all believers could be filled. This outpouring of the Spirit had been foretold in the book of Joel (Joel 2:28-32a) but no one knew exactly when it would happen or all of the details about what it would look like.

Jesus told His disciples that this experience with the Holy Spirit was important and that they should wait for it, because they would need it in order to do what He wanted them to do, to be His witnesses (Acts 1:4-5, 8). This experience would be a major barrier breaker. It would equip and propel them to go forth into other nations to share the gospel (Acts 1:8).

What Jesus did in John 4 by speaking to the Samaritan woman the church later did in Acts 8. Philip took the gospel to Samaria. He followed the Jesus model. This was in some measure a ground-breaking event. In the beginning the early church ministered only to Jews. Jesus did not do that and the church was not intended to either (Matt. 24:14; 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). Philip’s actions may have been seen by some as unusual, “history in the making.” In reality it was prophecy fulfilled (Acts 1:8).

This article is very brief and does not address every case of history making in the New Testament. When Peter brought the gospel to the household of Cornelius that also caused a stir (Acts 11:1-3). However, in each of the cases I have cited in this article the previous norms of the day were broken.

The things that transpired seemed unusual, like exceptions to the rule, and at that time they probably were. But they became the new normal. It is worth nothing that in each case the issue at hand was outreach.

In some sense it could be said that “history in the making” involved “history in the breaking.” The Kingdom of God is His “breaking into human history.” Guided by His Word and His Spirit may we follow Him into all of the will of God in order to serve His purposes in our generation (Acts 13:36). May we make history, His history!


John P. Lathrop - United States

John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Western Connecticut State University, Zion Bible Institute, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME). He is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies and has twenty years of pastoral experience.

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