How did the original disciples / apostles understand that commission?
First, what was that commission?
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe (watch, keep, obey) all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-19 KJV)
Second, what were the all things Jesus had commanded them?
- And as ye go,
- preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
- Heal the sick,
- cleanse the lepers,
- raise the dead,
- cast out demons.
- Freely you have received, freely give.
The original disciples were already quite familiar with that commission. They had observed it while following Jesus, and then had experience in it themselves. It was always more than just preaching. It was much, much more.
The 11 apostles: “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” (Mark 16:20)
The 70 disciples: “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20)
Peter (apostle): “Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted [him] up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.” (Acts 3:6-7)
Stephen (disciple/deacon): “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” (Acts 6:8)
Philip (disciple/deacon): “And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.” (Acts 8:6)
Paul (former enemy, a new apostle): “And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.” (Acts 19:11-12)
Paul’s own testimony: “Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” (Romans 15:19) “Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.” (2 Corinthians 12:12)
Barnabas: “Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.” (Acts 15:12)
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Baptism in the Holy Spirit) as recorded in Acts 2 gave them — and us today — the power, the ability to perform the ministries included in the Great Commission.
Church history records that this commission was carried out with miracle signs and wonders from the beginning of the church, although over time for many people it became only the “going” and the “preaching,” not the power of the gospel.
Today the Great Commission is again being fulfilled by believers who know who they are, fulfilled the way it was intended, illustrated by Jesus and carried out by the original church.
How did they do it?
For examples of how the Great Commission was supposed to be fulfilled and actually was fulfilled by the original disciples, see How to Heal the Sick, https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2015/09/23/how-to-heal-the-sick/