Power and Purpose

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  While meditating on the beginning of Acts this week I was reminded that I in myself am inadequate, there is nothing I have to offer that can gain me favor with God, or that can benefit you. All that I am is fallen, depraved in nature, but God has seen fit to redeem me by the work of Jesus Christ, and when he redeemed me he indwelt me with his Spirit. So as a redeemed son of God Jesus is continuing His mission through me, and through all who believe. The God who spoke and breathed creation into existence, also breathed life into man for the purpose of relationship with God and other humans, and that same God breathed the words of Scripture, and that same breath gives us understanding. Our ability to do the work He has given us to do comes from the power of God. This is what we will find in the first chapter of the book of Acts. Jesus gives His people power and a purpose. The power he gives is the Holy Spirit and the gifts that come from the spirit, and the purpose is to join Him in the redemptive work of restoring His image bearers back into the intended relationship with Him. Before we jump in to the text I want to preface with context to help us understand the bigger picture.

Background

  The book of Acts is the second part in a series, the sequel if you will. Luke and Acts were written by Doctor Luke, who was a companion of Paul. He addressed them both to Theophilus. It is assumed that Theophilus was a man, but it is also possible that based on the Greek name, which is translated into English as “lover of God” means it was addressed to gentile Christians. Luke was written so that Theophilus could be sure of the gospel he/they had been taught. Whether this was specifically addressed to one man or all gentile Christians the broader audience was the gentiles who had been taught the gospel to confirm the truth they had been taught, and bring them to maturity. This book also serves that purpose for readers today. There is also an important principle we can derive from the very purpose of this book. Luke tells us that after hearing the gospel it is important to study it, so that we can be certain of it. After hearing it, we need to confirm it. There is proof that the gospel is valid and real, and that is what Luke offers us, evidence so we can be certain and have confidence.

Main points

Today as we walk through Acts 1:1-11 there are two main points that we will find in the text. Jesus mission continues through the church, and Jesus gives us both purpose and power.

Prologue 1-3

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.”  Acts 1:1-3 ESV

In Acts 1:1-3 Luke claims the authorship of the book of Luke as well, and gives us the purpose of that book. It was to tell all that Jesus had began to do and teach. “This is important because the development of the church builds on the life and work of Jesus.”6  The text is also telling us He’s not done yet, what Jesus began in the Gospels, in His life on earth, he continues to do and teach. Lets take notice of the words he uses here. He said that which Jesus began to Do, which was his actions and deeds, as well as that which he began to teach which was His words and instructions.   Jesus’ ministry was and is a ministry of both word and deed.

He began his work until He was taken up, but before He left He gave “orders.” This is key. Luke is telling us ahead of time that before Jesus ascended he gave orders. We are about to receive instructions from Jesus in the beginning of this book. Do you want to know God’s will for your life? Here it is; In the power I give you, go make disciples. And it’s not a suggestion or an option, it’s a command, this is the purpose He has for His people. It’s also not a new revelation in scripture, this reflects Abraham’s calling in Genesis 12:1-3. He chose Abraham and said He would bless him with the purpose of being a blessing. God’s blessing was not intended to terminate on Abraham, rather it was meant to be shared, and used to bless all people. Also the blessing that he bestowed on Abraham was not health, wealth, or happiness. God’s blessing was being chosen for relationship with Him, and God revealing Himself to him.  

 Next in verse three Luke established Christ did suffer, he physically died and rose again. After he suffered he presented Himself alive. This alone is a convincing proof of His deity, and it wasn’t a one-time event, he continued to spend time with them for 40 days appearing to many. In Luke 24:36-43 He appeared to them, He told them to touch Him, confirming He had flesh and bones, He showed his hands and feet, and He ate with them. These are all proofs of His physical resurrection, which is important because this would later be one of the very things people would question. He offered these proofs to those who would be His witnesses to refute that, which would be brought in question. Our Lord Jesus is alive! In verse 45 he gave them additional proofs, the proof of understanding, “he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” “true understanding of scripture, so that one understands how all of redemptive history fits together is a gift of God.”1 This is a proof he gave to the disciples, and gives to all believers. We also find mention of Jesus giving understanding in 1 John “and we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true, and we are in him who is true, in his son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 5:20 ESV

   From this introduction to the book of Acts we can take away the knowledge that our Lord Jesus is alive and His mission continues today. That mission is also one of both word and deed. It’s not enough to speak the gospel we also need to do the work of loving people and serving them. The converse is also true, it’s not enough to love people and serve them we must also tell them the gospel. His ministry, our mission is a holistic ministry of words and deeds.

Holy Spirit Promised 4-8

Next we will learn that this mission is only possible with the Holy Spirit.

“And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:4-8 ESV

  In verse four His first order was to wait. They could not do his work until they received power from him. Also note they were to wait in Jerusalem. They would have wanted to go where it was safe, this was the scene of the crime where Jesus had been crucified, and they were in danger. They were to wait here, because Jesus would continue his mission there. It’s also note worthy that Jerusalem was where the temple was. This was the center of worship for all who worshiped the one true God because the spirit of God dwelt in the temple. However when Jesus died along with making atonement for our sins the curtain in the temple was ripped from top to bottom symbolizing that we had been given access to God. The coming of the Holy Spirit especially in Jerusalem would symbolize the transfer of God dwelling in a building to God dwelling in the very hearts of His people. This is possible because of the work of Christ. When he made atonement for our sins he set His people apart as Holy and now our bodies act as the temple of our Lord.

  In verse five Isaiah 11:1-3, 32:14-17, 44:1-4 are reflected in which baptism of the Holy Spirit signifies the beginning of the arrival of the eschatological era. That is it was prophesied in scripture that the arrival of the Spirit would mark the beginning of the restoration of the Kingdom. Water baptism is a sign of repentance and forgiveness, and the reception of the spirit enables the believer for ministry. However the disciples naturally think of the promises of restoration of the kingdom of Israel. Jesus doesn’t deny but qualifies the timing, and reformulates what that looks like. Also “Authority for determining the events of History is ascribed to God.”

  In verse eight we find the mission, our orders. Our power comes from the Holy Spirit. This power has a purpose.   The power enables them and us to be witnesses, and take the good news to the world.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 ESV

We also find this account in Luke and Matthew.

“The He told them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” The He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He also said to them, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are my witnesses of these things. And look, I am sending you what My father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.” Luke 24:44-49 ESV

Then Jesus came near and said to them “ All authority has been given to me in Heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matt 28:18-20 ESV

  The essence of what Jesus was saying here was, “Go make disciples, and teach them to obey!” “The last command He had given them was to make disciples so your not done disciplining new Christians until they are making disciples themselves.” – Max Barnett. Also note as we will see in the first church the focus was making disciples, if you make disciples you will plant churches, but you can plant churches without making disciples, that is not God’s plan. The purpose of the church is to make disciples.  The church is a family, and in that family are spiritual fathers who are to raise up and send out their children.  All churches are to be sending churches, if the church does not birth new churches it ends up looking like a family with the thirty year old son living in the basement playing video games.  We have a mission to make disciples and send them, not keep them, and we do this in the power of the Spirit.

  From this section of scripture we find both the promise of the Spirit and the command to go make disciples. A principle we can apply here is phrased well by a quote I heard from my professor in class last semester. “Jesus commands come with his enabling, He doesn’t command the impossible with out enabling us to do it.”-Carl Laney. Here Jesus commanded us to go make disciples, but he also commanded to do that in the power of the Holy Spirit. He provided the means in order to accomplish the task He gave.

Ascension 9-11

 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and 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 1:9-11 ESV

After He gave the command he gave them another proof of his power and position. He made them all eyewitnesses of his bodily ascension. He is still both fully man and fully God. He arose from the dead, then ascended in bodily form. Angels came and confirmed he had gone to heaven and would return again in bodily form just as he had gone.

Closing

  The spirit of God inspired scripture, gives understanding of scripture, and empowers Gods people for His work. Our mission today is the same as it was given here in Acts. As God’s chosen people we have the purpose of making disciples, and we have been given the power to complete the task. We now need to study the gospel and learn it well and rely on the power of the Spirit to enable us to live out the gospel in word and deed. 

Bibliography
    1. “Acts.” The ESV Study Bible, ESV Bible. Wheaton, Illinois. Crossway. 2011.
    2. Brand, Chad; Draper, Charles; England, Archie. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, Tennessee. 2003
    3. Erickson, Millard, J. Christian Theology, Grand Rapids Michigan. Baker Publishing Group. 1983
    4. Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1984
    5. Hughes, PH.D. Robert B.; Laney, TH.D. J. Carl, “Acts.” Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 1990.
    6. Schultz, Richard L., “Acts.” The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary. Ed. Burge, Gary M, Hill, Andrew E. Grand Rapids Michigan, Baker Publishing Group. 2012.