Jesus Church Plant

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 Throughout all of redemptive history we see God using people as part of his rescue plan. He doesn’t need people to carry out His work however he chooses to include us in the work of restoring His creation to its original purposes.  The interesting thing we see throughout the Bible is that God almost never chooses who you would expect. The same was true when establishing His church. If you were starting a business, putting together a sports team or even planting a church one of your first questions would be who’s going to be on your team. You want the most talented driven people on your side because you know that businesses and teams rise and fall based on their people.   So the best plan for success is to pick the most qualified people.

 In Acts we find like all through the Bible God does the exact opposite. He doesn’t look for the best people, because the truth is there are no qualified people, all people inherit their sin nature from Adam. So Jesus picked all the people who would normally be picked last, or overlooked to lead the movement of His great rescue plan here on earth. He picked these guys then prepared them by living life with them, teaching them, loving on them, and then He empowered them.

 Today we will be studying in Acts 1:12-26 and we will be learning about the time after Jesus ascension into heaven leading up to the arrival of the Holy Spirit.  I am going to start with Jesus ascension both in Luke and Acts to go back and give us context for our study today.

In Luke:

50 “Then He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. 51 And while He was blessing them, He left them and was carried up into heaven. 52 After worshiping Him, they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they were continually in the temple complex praising God.Luke 24:50-52 HCSB

“The reference in Luke to Bethany is appropriate because it closely links the closing scene with the triumphal entry scene at 19:28–40. The closing scene of the Gospel, set as it is in Bethany, becomes Jesus’ triumphal exit. In the same way that the triumphal entry closes the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem, so the triumphal exit brings an end to Jesus’ exodus.[1]

In Acts:

12 “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem—a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they arrived, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.14 All these were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the  mother of Jesus, and His brothers.” Acts 1:12-14 HCSB

In Acts their response was to obey and pray. The first part of being sent was to stay. Combining Luke and acts we see they were joyful and they prayed. In Luke we see they were continually in the temple complex praising God, and in Acts they were united in prayer first in the upper room. These two give us the full picture. Both books were written by the same author however different points were being stressed for the context of the narratives. In Luke he is stressing they have joy because they were given hope, Christ had opened up their minds to understand the scriptures about who he was and what he must do, then he promised them the Spirit, which would empower them to be His witnesses. “He promised them the Spirit in them was better than Himself beside them.” –Greear

  In Acts the main point was that because of that same hope they finally were able to devote themselves to prayer. They had repeatedly failed at prayer previously. They had fallen asleep when Jesus was praying in the garden, and their response to His being taken by the guards was to flee and hide. Peter actually denied knowing Jesus three times during His trial. But now they had hope and a sense of desperation, they had just been charged with continuing the movement started by Jesus, God himself. And having finally been given the full picture and full understanding they were united in one mind and their dependence was on God.

In verse 13 we have a list of the 11 as well as Mary the women and His brothers.

Looking at those who Jesus chose as His disciples we have a group most church planters wouldn’t have chosen. There was nothing great about these men, just a great God who called them. God doesn’t call the equipped he equips the called. A great explanation of this comes from Matthew 11:11

11 I assure you: Among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared, but the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Matt 11:11 HCSB

  Jesus was addressing disciples of John the Baptist who were asking Jesus if He was the Messiah that had been prophesied. He assured them He was by quoting scripture then when on to affirm John as having been the greatest man that had ever lived. He also said that the least in the kingdom of God would be even greater than John. Jesus was using God’s definition of great not the worlds. We find God’s definition in Jeremiah:

23 “This is what the Lord says: The wise man must not boast in his wisdom; the strong man must not boast in his strength; the wealthy man must not boast in his wealth. 24 But the one who boasts should boast in this, that he understands and knows Me — that I am Yahweh, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things. This is the Lord’s declaration.” Jer 9:23-24 HCSB

  John was not great because of anything special about himself, rather he was great because unlike anyone before him he could point out the Messiah the most clearly. From his mother’s womb he began pointing out Jesus, later he called Jesus the Lamb of God who has come to wash away our sins, pointing to Jesus death on the cross to make atonement for our sins. However John would not live to see the full extent of Jesus ministry as John was beheaded before Jesus death and resurrection.

  These men that Jesus called to be His disciples were great because they knew Jesus personally and had witnessed events that proved His deity, and Jesus gave them understanding of the scriptures. Like the apostles we today by our grace of place in redemptive history are greater than John, because we can look back on scripture and realize the full extent of Jesus redemptive work on the cross for our sins. We can more clearly point to Jesus for what He has done, rather than what He would do.

It’s also worth mentioning that Mary was present. Just as she had a part in birthing Jesus, she was included in the birth of the church. We also see in the birth of the first church the restoration of Jesus earthly family. There is also account of Jesus brothers being present. This is very note worthy as Jesus brothers hadn’t believed in Him previously, in fact they thought He had gone insane. “The disbelief of Jesus’ brothers is recorded in Mark 3:21–35

21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3:21 HCSB
Previous to this text Jesus had called the twelve and commissioned them to preach and cast out demons. His family’s response was to go get him because they thought he had gone mad. It continued on in 31-35:
31 “And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.Mark 3:31-35 HCSB

 “Perhaps Jesus’ resurrection appearance to James (1 Cor. 15:7) was responsible for the conversion of Joses, Judas, and Simon also (cf. Mk. 6:3). James became the leader of the Jerusalem church (cf. 12:17; 15:13–21; 21:18), and ‘the Lord’s brothers’ were acknowledged alongside the apostles as a distinctive group in the Christian community (cf. 1 Cor. 9:5)”[2] This truth is something that hadn’t stood out to me previously when reading through the text. Though Jesus was perfect, and in fact was God the Son in the flesh, he had a broken family. However one of the works of the Gospel was to restore His earthly family, and bring them into His kingdom as part of the church family. The work of the gospel was to restore God’s people to Himself, and restore relationships among people.

Next we have an account of the final act they needed to be ready, they needed to restore the twelve, by electing the last apostle to replace Judas.

15 “In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

       “ ‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and “ ‘Let another take his office.’” Acts 1:15-20 HCSB

Scripture Gods living word

Peter was their leader, and referred to the group as brothers, again stressing the familial relationship of the church.  In verse sixteen we have clear reference to scripture being Gods word, and our need to follow it.  “the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David.”  We also see reference to this in 2 Timothy”

 16 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 timothy 3:16-17 HCSB

 The Greek word translated to breathed here is theopneustos, which is literally God –spirated” or breathed out, which affirms that the living God is the author of Scripture and that Scripture is the product of his creative breath. This is the same creative breath that spoke the universe into existence and breathed life into man. This word is also used when Jesus appeared to the men in the garden after His resurrection:

22 “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22 HCSB

Here like in the beginning of creation story places us in a garden and Jesus giving life and power with His breath, just as God created with His breath and words.

Peter then quotes psalm 69:25 and 109:8, which both point to the failure of those who oppose God. By electing a twelfth they show God wins, the opponent did not succeed. Also Judas was another sign or evidence of who Jesus is, the events of his betraying Jesus then his demise fulfilled prophecy. And in following scripture they are to appoint another to take his place. The replacement had to be a witness of Jesus ministry from baptism through ascension.

Jesus Christ—He is the One who came by water and blood, not by water only, but by water and by blood. And the Spirit is the One who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: i the Spirit, the water, and the blood —and these three are in agreement. If we accept the testimony of men, God’s testimony is greater, because it is God’s testimony that He has given about His Son.” 1 John 5:6-9 HCSB

The men that met the standard Peter put forth in Acts 1:21-22 had witnessed Jesus baptism in the Jordan by John, and after that baptism God spoke audibly confirming Jesus was his son in whom he was well pleased. This miracle inaugurated Jesus ministry here on earth, and served as evidence of Jesus divinity. God’s voice was heard audibly to a crowd of people and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove empowering Jesus for the work he was about to do. The replacement also would have had to witness Jesus death and resurrection. These also were clear signs of Jesus divinity. At His death the temple curtain tore from top to bottom, there were earthquakes, tombs opened, and after His resurrection the dead came back to life and walked around Jerusalem. These events caused the guards of Jesus to proclaim He was the Son of God. The resurrection even more so because it exemplified Jesus power over death, then He appeared to many before leaving earth via levitation into the clouds. This replacement would restore the number of the apostles to the original twelve making them ready to receive God’s gift of the Holy Spirit. Having witnessed these events the replacement could give full account of Jesus ministry and the evidence of His deity, for the purpose of spreading the gospel with authority. These twelve would be the leadership of this first church plant, and the purpose of this movement was to grow Gods family, as we see also in first John:

 “1What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life— that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us — what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” 1 John 1:1-4 HCSB

Ministry is highly relational. The goal here is not just to convert people, but to have them join the family, to be known and loved by God and by other followers of God. This restores God’s original design in creation. Before sin entered creation man and God were in perfect relationship, as well as humans with each other. Sin caused humans to hide from God and each other. The gospel restores that intimacy, and the driving force of the gospel is the Holy Spirit who empowers all believers for ministry.

My takeaway from this text is that knowing God is what makes us great, and God makes us great for a purpose. Knowing Jesus is what enables us to testify about Him. Also the purpose of knowing Him is to glorify Him and join the mission of growing His family, bringing the dead to life.

[1] Peterson, D. G. (2009). The Acts of the Apostles (p. 117). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[2] Parsons, M. C. (2008). Acts (p. 29). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.