1] The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2] until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3] to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
4] And being assembled with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5] for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6] Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7] And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put into His own authority. 8] But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
9] Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10] And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11] who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (NKJV)
Our Lord’s ministry after His resurrection is briefly described in the first 8 verses of Acts 1. Forty days ministry is reduced to just a few words in v. 3. Yet they serve to remind us that Acts didn’t happen in a vacuum, but is the continuation of what had begun in the lives of the apostles some three years earlier, and, indeed, in the life of mankind in the Garden of Eden.
Acts continues where the Gospel of Luke leaves off. In that account, we have some post-resurrection appearances of our Lord, and then it closes with this: And He led them out as far as Bethany. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen. Luke 24:50.
Luke uses the ending of his account in the Gospel as the beginning of his letter to Theophilus. The Gospel gives us an account of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach. Some Bibles refer to Acts as “the Acts of the Apostles.” This, I think, is incorrect. Only three of the apostles, Peter, James and John, are mentioned, and of these three, we read mainly of Peter. We don’t really count the mention of Judas, which happens only because he had to be replaced. But even Peter gives place to Paul. The other disciples, and Matthias, the replacement for Judas, disappear from the pages of Scripture.
As Luke tells us what the Lord Jesus began to do in His physical body, so Acts tells us what He continued to do through “His [spiritual] body, which is the church,” Colossians 1:24.
Our post today is divided into three parts, not a word-by-word study, but a summary, if you will, of essentials which weren’t only for the apostles but are for us as well. These essentials serve to remind us that Christianity is not just another “world religion”. In fact, it’s not of this world at all, or it has no value at all. Its doctrines are unique. Its Holy Book is authoritative in a way unlike any other book known to men. Its character as revealed by its Author is such that there is no hope relative to eternity apart from it.
These three essentials remove as unimportant most of the traditions tacked on by men over the centuries. These essentials are –
1. The Foundation of all we believe, vs. 1-3.
He…presented Himself alive…v. 1.
The Resurrection of Christ is God’s seal of approval, if you will, to the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus. As we’ve said before, it marks as different the deaths of the men who died with Him that day, as well as every other death that’s ever happened. If that is false, nothing else matters. After dealing with some questions about the resurrection of our Lord and of the idea of resurrection in general, Paul wrote, If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable, 1 Corinthians 15:19.
The preaching of the early church was filled with the hope and truth of the Resurrection. Preaching to the crowd who gathered because of the healing of a man born lame, Peter said that Christ has been killed, but “God raised [Him] from the dead, Acts 3:15. The authorities, coming upon this scene, were greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead, Acts 4:2. Defending his message before these same authorities, Peter said, Let it be known to you all, and to all the peoples of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead…, Acts 4:10.
Extending the Gospel to Gentiles, after having been assured it was alright, in his remarks Peter told Cornelius and those gathered in his house that “Him [Jesus of Nazareth, v. 38] God raised from the dead, Acts 10:40, 41.
Paul held aloft that same torch. In Acts 13:30, he told the Jews in Antioch in Pisidia, concerning Christ, that the Jews “took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. But God raise Him from the dead.” He repeats his thought in v. 34, “He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption.”
There are multiple references to the Resurrection throughout the rest of Acts and the NT. It isn’t just some fiction or fable designed to fool people. The disciples were hard to convince he was alive! Cf. John 20:24 with Thomas and Luke 24:9-11 with the eleven…and all the rest. Peter and some of the others fully intended to go back to fishing as their livelihood, John 21:1-3.
He…presented Himself alive….
2. The Fitness For All We Do, 1:4-5, 8.
These verses were given specifically to the apostles. They are not for us today, though many speak of seeking “the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Pentecost cannot be duplicated anymore than the Crucifixion can be duplicated. Nor is it necessary.
Having said that, even the apostles were “filled with the Spirit” more than once. Cf. Ephesians 5:18.
Why did they need this? In order to receive the power, the “ability” to do what the Lord told them to do. The word translated “power” is the word we get our words “dynamite,” “dynamo,” dynamic” from. It refers to a power that gets the job done! This is not something we have naturally! We might have various natural gifts and abilities, but they’re not enough to “get the job done,” in spite of what we might think. Even the OT recognized this. Faced with an impossible task, Zerubbabel received this encouragement, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the LORD of hosts, Zechariah 4:6. Finney might have thought that “moral suasion” or human ability and wisdom was enough, but he was sadly mistaken. We see the results of his teaching, and that of his followers with their emphasis on “making your decision” and “results” and “raising your hand for salvation” in the mess all around us, even in the churches.
All believers have something of the Spirit, it’s not something we have to “ask” for. In those Gospel verses which are sometimes used to teach otherwise – the Spirit had not yet been given. That is not true now. The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all [lit., “for the mutual benefit.” – the “gifts of the Spirit” aren’t about us, but about serving others], 1 Corinthians 12:7. One and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills, 1 Cor. 12:11. Indeed, if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ [that is, the Holy Spirit], he is not His, Romans 8:9.
3. The Focus of All We Hope, 1:6-7, 9-11.
In Acts 1:3, Luke tells us that for forty days, the Lord had taught of things pertaining to the kingdom of God. During His ministry, it had occupied an important place. Matthew 8:11; 19:27-29; 20:20-23; Mark 14:24, 25; Luke 22:15-18, 29-30 are just a few of the references to the kingdom of God, or of heaven given in the Gospels. The disciples had heard most, if not all, of these and some of them speak directly to the involvement and importance of the disciples in that kingdom, cf. Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30. Just in passing, and without particularly meaning to be difficult, I can’t really see how these two verses are “fulfilled” in the church.
According to Luke, the Lord continued teaching after His resurrection. As a result of this teaching, one of the disciples asked what seems to me to be a reasonable question: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6. If, as some believe, God is done with Israel and there is no kingdom for her, it seems to me that this would have been an ideal place for the Lord to have told that to His disciples. But there’s no whisper of such a thought. The disciples had asked, “Is it time“? The Lord answered, “It is not for you to know times or seasons…,” vs. 6, 7. It’s no use trying to set dates, though that doesn’t stop folks from trying; all that is under the “authority” of the Father – and He isn’t telling us.
In the meantime, there was something for the disciples – and for us – to do, to be witnesses to [Him] in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” v. 8.
In His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to His disciples, saying, “…when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you,“ John 16:13, 14.
Pay special attention to v. 14: “He will glorify Me….” Literally, it reads, “Me He will glorify….” It’s emphatic – the ministry of the Spirit is to glorify the Lord Jesus. Not Himself. Not believers. Not the “gifts.”
The Lord Jesus.
Any ministry which emphasizes the Spirit or His gifts or any believer doesn’t understand the ministry of the Spirit. In everything, the Lord Jesus is to have first place, if not the only place, Colossians 1:18. There are far too many in the modern church like Diotrephes, 3 John 1:9.
But it isn’t just who our Lord was or what He did or taught. These are vitally important. The angel made a promise to the disciples as they gazed heavenward toward that One they loved: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven,” Acts 1:11.
Having finished His earthly mission, our Lord ascends, leaving His disciples with a blessing and a promise. They never forgot.
Nearly 70 years later, the last surviving apostle, given a vision of His eternal exaltation and splendor, and hearing again from His blessed lips the promise of His coming, wrote in the last verse of the New Testament but one, the heart cry and soul’s desire of His people ever since. Is it yours? Is it mine? It must be. It must be!
EVEN SO, COME, LORD JESUS!