Before you start reading this post, I would encourage you to read through Chapter 1 of the Book of Acts, then take some time to answer the following two questions. We are going to be doing a deep dive into the Book of Acts over the next 28 weeks! Follow along with Reverent Rhythms as we get to learn more about the early Church and how the Gospel was shared all over the World!
What experience have you had with the book of Acts?
What do you hope to get from this study?
The book of Acts was written by Luke as a second volume to his letter to Theophilus, the first volume being the book of Luke. He records the happenings of the first-century church as it grows and evolves after Jesus’ ascension. Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 28:19 to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. Luke, in his writings, shows us how the early church went to all nations, preaching the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Luke begins by giving us a quick recap of what his first letter entailed. He says in his opening that the first book that he wrote: “dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach (Acts 1:1 ESV)”. In this, Luke is sayings that when Jesus was on the earth that was just the beginning of his ministry. Jesus ascends into heaven in Acts 1:9-11, but He continues to “do and teach” through the power of the Holy Spirit, by using the Apostles and the early church. Jesus was on the earth for forty days after His resurrection and many people saw Him and interacted with Him. In verse 4, Jesus “ordered [the Apostles] not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4a)”. Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem and to wait there before they received the Holy Spirit. Jesus told them to go to all of the Earth to preach the gospel and to tell people that Jesus was the Messiah that they were looking for but they would not be able to do that without God the Holy Spirit residing in them to give them power and authority. We have that authority! The Apostles walked with Jesus and saw His resurrection and His ascension, but they did not have God dwelling inside of them until the Holy Spirit was poured out on them at Pentecost. After that, they were able to walk in the fullness of God’s authority to proclaim the gospel and to do the Great Commission. We have the same Holy Spirit that was poured out at Pentecost! We don’t have to wait for the Holy Spirit to come. As soon as we accepted Jesus into our hearts, the Holy Spirit comes in and resided in you. We have the Holy Spirit, so we have the same marching orders as the Apostles had, to go and make disciples of all nations. That is the promise that they were waiting eagerly for and we have it now!
Knowing that we have the same authority that the Apostles had, does that change how you live your life?
Luke goes on to record Jesus’ ascension. The Disciples still were confused about what the Messiah had come to do. Before Jesus came to the Earth as a baby, it was prophesied that a Messiah, a Savior would come to the Jewish people and save them. The Jewish people, including the Disciples, thought that the Messiah was here to come and save the nation from under the rule and oppression from the Romans. They thought He was supposed to come and be their king with His kingdom in Jerusalem. When Jesus went to the cross, everyone was so confused. Why would their King be hung on a Roman cross? When Jesus rose from the dead, His followers thought that now was the time for Him to overthrow the Romans. The Disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6)”. Jesus did not come to overthrow the oppressive Roman Empire, but He came to overthrow the oppressive empire of sin. Jesus came and had victory over the devil and He was establishing His heavenly Kingdom here on Earth. When Jesus said “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10)”, Jesus was talking about the Kingdom of God and the will of the Father as a reality here on Earth. When Jesus breathed His last breath on the cross, Satan thought he had won. But Jesus breathed His first breath in the tomb three days later and the Kingdom of God and the will of the Father flooded into the Earth. This is the Kingdom the Messiah came to set up.
Jesus goes on to encourage His Disciples that they are going to receive the power of the Holy Spirit and that they “will be [Jesus’] witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8)”. This is a beautiful verse because this gives us an outline of the rest of the book of Acts but also a great outline for our own walk with the Lord. We see the Apostles receive power from the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, then they start to share the Gospel to Jerusalem, their hometown. Then there is persecution that they face and they have to leave their hometown and go to all of Judea and Samaria, their home state if you will. Then the church grows and they send people like Paul and Timothy to the far reaches of the known world. This is also what Jesus wants from us. When we choose to follow Him, we receive the power of the Holy Spirit and we are immediately called to start sharing the Gospel. He wants us to share His good news to the people around us, our hometown, to people farther out in our sphere of influence, and to people all over the world. Now not everyone is called to preach the Gospel in India, but do your coworkers know Jesus?
Where are your Jerusalem, your Judea, and your ends of the earth?
After this statement from Jesus, he ascended to the heavens. He was lifted into the clouds until he was out of sight. After he ascended, the Disciples were still looking up after Him and there were two angels that said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven (Acts 1:11)”. This implies that Jesus is coming back and like His ascension, He will come back visibly and with a body. We don’t know when but we know that He is coming back and that is so exciting!