Many Christians today are not satisfied with Christianity as usual. They are fed up with playing church. They are fed up with the politics, the power plays, and the silliness of people who want to be a big fish in a small pond while people all around them are dying and going to an eternity of hell. They see it as not just rearranging chairs on the Titanic, but the passengers fighting with each other over who gets to decide how the chairs are arranged and who actually will do the work.
The status quo of church has little appeal for many who want to see the church be what Jesus called her to be. Their desire is to look back at the end of the day or the end of the year and say, “Praise God! His kingdom has advanced and He has allowed me to be a part of it.” They don’t want to be spectators. They are not interested in being junior dictators. They want to be participants in the great work God is doing today. For those desiring to be part of God’s work in their churches, their communities, and the world out there, nothing will help more than understanding the book of Acts and applying its truths. Acts is a training manual for modern Christians. What worked so well 2000 years ago directly applies to our service to God today. Acts can be a welcome power boost to our Christian lives, bring new intimacy with the Father, and new joy in doing His will.
Key Truth: Luke wrote Acts 1:1-11 to teach believers that the church must embrace the gift and the mission of the Holy Spirit through prayer in the Holy Spirit.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the Holy Spirit.
Key Verse: Acts 1:8
Pray and Read: Acts 1:1-11
Luke the Physician picks up the story of Jesus from where he left off in his gospel. Acts is a sort of sequel to his gospel and has been called the fifth Gospel. It is the bridge to and the structure for the epistles (letters) written to the churches.
Acts shows how God’s plan of salvation is consummated in Jesus Christ and goes out to all peoples, both geographically (Acts 1:8) and ethnically (Jews and Gentiles). Peter Wagner has written, “Acts shows how a committed nucleus can move out in the power of God to break down every possible remaining barrier to world evangelization.”
In chapter one, Luke focuses attention on Jesus’ post-resurrection promise of the Holy Spirit, a central theme of Acts (Acts 1:4-5). Though the disciples are still concerned with the coming kingdom, Jesus focuses them on being a witness of the King and promises them the power of the Holy Spirit when He comes “in a few days” (Acts 1:6-8). Then Jesus rises visibly into the heavens (Acts 1:9-11), and the little group of believers returns to Jerusalem to wait constantly in prayer (Acts 1:12-14).
1. The church must embrace the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1-5)
2. The church must embrace the mission of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:6-8)
3. The church must embrace prayer in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:9-14)
Exposition: Note well,
1. THE CHURCH MUST EMBRACE THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (Acts 1:1-5)
a. Acts 1:1 – Jesus’ great redemptive work was complete. Now He spends a clear, historical period of forty days with His followers before the day He was taken up. His disciples needed more training to understand after the tremendous fact of the crucifixion, death, and resurrection, so He personally guides them into insights into the Scriptures so they could understand and proclaim the message of Christ to the world. Note the similarity between Luke 24:19 and Acts 1:1 with its focus on Jesus’ ministry of word and deed. Note also the word “began,” implying that Jesus’ earthly ministry was only the start. Jesus now would continue His proclamation of the Kingdom and His redemption through His people.
b. Acts 1:2 – Holy Spirit: Luke’s Gospel emphasizes the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christ. Acts emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit in the growth and ministry of the early church. Acts has been called the “Acts of the Holy Spirit” rather than the “Acts of the Apostles.” The Holy Spirit is mentioned in Acts 1-2, 4-11, 13, 15-16, 19-21, and 28.
c. Acts 1:3 – Many convincing proofs: Luke records in Luke 24 four of these appearances. The apostle Paul records that Jesus appeared not only to the twelve apostles and to James, but even to 500 at the same time (1 Cor. 15:5-7), many of whom were still alive at the time of his writing. Anyone who needed eyewitness verification of this incredible claim of bodily resurrection from the dead could easily obtain it.
d. Acts 1:3 – Spoke about the kingdom: The central message of Jesus’ earthly ministry was the kingdom of God. It will now become the central theme of the book of Acts. The kingdom, though, would take a substantially different form from what Jesus’ Jewish followers expected.
e. Acts 1:4 – The gift my Father promised: The OT prophets announced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the new covenant. Isaiah 32:15 looks forward to the time when “the Spirit is poured upon us from on high.” Ezekiel quotes the Lord saying, “I will put my Spirit in you,” (Ezek 37:14; 36:27). On the day of Pentecost, Peter connected the Spirit’s outpouring with Joel 2:28-32. Jesus taught extensively on the Holy Spirit the night before His crucifixion (John 14-16).
f. Acts 1:5 – baptized with the Holy Spirit: This event, to take place “in a few days” is described in Acts 2. It is defined in 1 Cor. 12:13 which says Spirit baptism is the work of the Holy Spirit in uniting believers with Jesus to form the living body of Christ. At Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit first came upon Christ’s disciples, the church was born. The word baptize means to submerge or to place in relationship, and the Holy Spirit does exactly that. (Acts 11:15-16; Rom 6:3-4; 1 Cor. 12:13; Matt. 3:11; John 1:32-33).
2. THE CHURCH MUST EMBRACE THE MISSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (Acts 1:6-8)
a. Acts 1:6-7 – Restoring the kingdom: The disciples continued to be confused about the nature of God’s kingdom (Isaiah 32:15; 44:3; Ezek. 36:25-28; 37:14; 39:29; Joel 2:28-3:1). Most Jews expected a Messiah to come, overthrow the Roman oppressors, and set up the earthly kingdom. The disciples, steeped in Jesus’ OT teaching of the kingdom and understanding new things, naturally want to know if this is the time. It is not a bad question or one out of line. Jesus gently warns them to avoid speculating about the timing of the end, i.e., the times-chronoi (emphasizing the duration of the period) and seasons-chairoi (emphasizing the crises marking their consummation); only the Father knows when this will happen. Jesus’ statement tells us that, contrary to Replacement Theology, the kingdom certainly will be restored to Israel one day. The only question is when (Deut. 29:28).
b. Acts 1:8 –Jesus tells them that they will soon receive the fulfillment of the new covenant promise of the Holy Spirit, and He will then empower them to serve as witnesses worldwide. Christ does not deny the prophets’ vision, but instead redirected their attention to being a witness of the kingdom. God will keep His OT promises in His own time (Isaiah 42:1, 4, 6; 43:10-12; 44:3, 8). The disciples’ job was to concentrate on bringing Christ to the world. Look at the pairing of the ministry of God’s power and missions. This is the central theme of Acts, and it is stretching. We usually want to do one or the other.
c. Acts 1:8 – You shall receive power: The New Testament age would be marked by the Holy Spirit who alone will empower their witness and point to the finished work of Jesus. A key to understanding the book of Acts and Christianity for that matter is recognizing that the power of the Holy Spirit that operated in Jesus also operated in the apostles and can operate in us as well (Acts 10:38).
d. APPLICATION: For example, communicating Christ effectively requires as much spiritual power as performing miracles. How encouraging to realize that the Holy Spirit is with us and it is He who works when we share the Lord with others. The point is this: We need to embrace the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our ministries to the greatest extent possible in order to serve God well in our world.
e. Acts 1:8 – Witnesses: A witness is a person who gives evidence (martureo), basing his or her testimony concerning actual events on direct, personal knowledge. The apostles gave this kind of evidence concerning Christ’s life and resurrection.
f. APPLICATION: You and I give this kind of evidence concerning God’s work in our own lives. We often swing to extremes in Christianity. We either focus on the power of God for ourselves and our families, neglecting that the Kingdom requires us to be constantly on mission with God. Or we instead focus on doing the mission of God’s Kingdom, but in our own strength, without the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through us. God’s power and being on mission with God go together like the two wings of a bird.
g. Acts 1:8 – You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth: Jesus’ itinerary becomes the outline for the book of Acts: Jerusalem (Acts 1-7), Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1-11:18), and the ends of the earth (Acts 11:19-end). This verse is the Great Commission of Acts (Gen. 12:1-3; Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47-49; John 20:21-23): See also Acts 2:4, 43, 47; 3:16; 4:8-10, 29-31, 33. Isaiah 49:6 says that the light of the Gospel will extend to the Gentiles, “that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth” (Psalm 67:1, 7; Isaiah 45:22; 52:10; Acts 13:47).
h. ILLUSTRATION: In the 1970s, Southern Baptists announced Bold Mission Thrust, our plan to reach the entire world by ourselves by the end of the 20th century. Do you remember that? We didn’t achieve it because we thought we could do it by ourselves, without other members of the Body of Christ and most importantly, many embraced the mission without embracing the work of the Holy Spirit.
i. APPLICATION: The gospel is for every nation, tribe, and tongue.
3. THE CHURCH MUST EMBRACE PRAYER IN THE HOLY SPIRIT (Acts 1:9-14)
a. Acts 1:9 – Cloud: This is not a normal cloud, but rather one which covers the divine glory of God (Heb. 1:2-3) as in the Tabernacle (Exod. 40:34; 13:21) and the cloud which enveloped Jesus when He was transfigured (Luke 9:34-36).
b. Acts 1:10 – Two men dressed in white: These were angels appearing in dazzling white just as at the tomb (Luke 24:4). Two of them establishes their credibility as witnesses for Jewish law: “A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deut. 19:15).
c. Acts 1:11 – Ascension and return: Jesus’ ascension confirms Him as the resurrected Lord. The ascension is a coronation of the king who has been both divine and human all along and His sitting in authority at the Father’s right hand (Acts 2:36; 5:31; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 1:3; 1 Peter 3:22). The Father and the Son will then send the Holy Spirit (John 7:39; 15:26; Luke 24:49).
d. Acts 1:11 - The angels assure the amazed disciples that Jesus will not only return, but He will do it in a similar way (Mark 13:26). The visible return of Jesus to heaven is evidence for His future return from heaven. As He did it the first time, He is fully able to do it the second time (Zech 14:3-5). Will come back in the same way you have seen him go: In other words, Jesus will come back bodily (Luke 24:39ff; 1 Cor 15:3-8), fulfilling Daniel 7:13 and Jesus’ prophecies (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 21:27; Rev 1:7, 13; 14:14).
e. Acts 1:14 – Women: Luke was careful in his gospel to show the active involvement of women among Christ’s followers, and in Acts he continues to show women and their role in the spread of the Gospel (see Acts 18).
f. Acts 1:12-14 – Joined in constant prayer: The disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy (Luke 24:52-53). They were told to wait, so they wait actively in prayer in an upper room (Luke 22:12). There are fifty days between the prophetic Jewish holidays of Passover and Pentecost. Subtract the forty days of Jesus’ physical presence with the disciples and the days Jesus was in the tomb, and the “few days” Jesus mentioned were about a week to ten days. They prayed in one accord, singlemindedly (omothumadon), used 10 times in Acts.