Acts // Part 2 - Preparing For Launch
Topic: Book Exposition Passage: Acts 1:2–1:5
You will be My witnesses
Part 2 – Prepare for Launch
Last Sunday we looked at verse 1. We talked about the author Luke and his reader Theophilus. We talked about how the gospel ministry was the beginning of Jesus' works and teaching. We talked about many of the things the Lord did in the early church as well as what he's done in the past centuries and what he's doing today; how he is still saving sinners, intercedes for his people, how he's pouring out power in the world, how he's ruling and reigning from the throne of grace and how he is still teaching through faithful ministers of the gospel.
This morning we're going to be focusing on verses 2-5. In our text Luke listed 4 key things that Jesus did to prepare his disciples to be his witnesses in the world. I will identify each of them as we move through the text. Let us begin by reading our section and praying.
Read Acts 1:1-5
1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 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. 4 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; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized withthe Holy Spirit not many days from now."
In verse 2 we see the first key thing that Jesus did to prepare his disciples to be his witnesses in the world.
He gave commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
What were the commands that Jesus gave to the apostles or disciples, what is Luke referring to? A good reference Bible provides the answers in the reference column. My ESV lists these passages:
42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.
15 And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
47 Repentance andforgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in the name of Jesus to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
21 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you."
Jesus commanded that they: Preach that Jesus has been appointed judge over all people. Proclaim the gospel to everyone everywhere. Proclaim to the nations beginning in Jerusalem that repentance and forgiveness are in the name of Jesus. Proclaim the gospel in peace. These are the things that Jesus commanded them to do.
Luke also said that Jesus gave the commands through the Holy Spirit, what does this mean?
The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is the decipherer of God's truth and a deliverer of God's power. The Bible teaches that the truth of God cannot be understood without the Spirit of God because it is spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14). It is the Holy Spirit that reveals God's truth to people. Without his work, there is no understanding. The Bible also shows how the Holy Spirit brings divine power down from heaven. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit blasted into a room like a mighty rushing wind and then he filled 120 people with his divine presence and power (Acts 2:1).
What happened in our text appears to very similar to what happened back in John 20:21-22.
In that passage it says that Jesus breathed out the Holy Spirit onto the disciples.
21 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
Jesus gave the disciples commands through the Holy Spirit which means that he breathed out a special anointing of the Spirit on them so that they could understand what he had commanded and so that they would have the power to obey. This was a temporary anointing which was meant to last until the Day of Pentecost.
This makes incredible sense when you consider how the Holy Spirit worked during the OT. All through the OT Scriptures we see examples of how God put His Spirit into kings, generals, and prophets so that they could do His will. And many times the Spirit would depart from them after the work had been completed or after they blew it. But things would forever change for the sons and daughters of God at Pentecost. It would be there that the Sprit would not only descend upon God's children but that He would remain upon them. And so Jesus gave the disciples a temporary a filling of the Spirit to sustain and carry them through until the Day of Pentecost. I love how John Piper put it.
It was through the ministry of the Holy Spirit that Jesus spoke, and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit that the disciples received, the word of commission. The Spirit helped them in those days before Pentecost to understand the command, to accept the command, and to be glad with the command.
The second key thing that Jesus did to prepare his disciples is in verse 3.
He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs.
Check out some of the passages that show how Jesus presented himself to them after the resurrection.
36 As they were talking about what had happened, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, "Peace to you!"
He ate fish with them.
40 But God raised Jesus on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
31 And for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people.
34 "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!"
The Scriptures also say that Jesus presented himself to others.
1 Corinthians 15:5-7
5 And that Jesus appeared to Cephas (Simon Peter), then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
Verse 3 says that Jesus did this over a period of 40 days.
Why did he keep coming back over and over? Because they doubted that it was really him. Here are some examples of this.
17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.
24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe." 26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." 28 Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
This went on for 40 days. The disciples went back and forth, up and down, I'm in, I'm out, I believe, I'm not sure! O how feeble and finicky the human heart is! Verse 3 of our text illustrates something very important; our propensity to doubt and to disbelieve.
It finally got to the point where Jesus blew them out.
14 Jesus rebuked the disciples for their unbelief and hardness of heart.
Has this ever happened to you? I've always loved the passage where the man came to Jesus and asked if he would cast an unclean spirit out of his son. This demon would try to destroy the boy through seizures when he was near water or a campfire. Jesus asked the dad if he believed and he said yes but I have big time doubts. The man was humble and willing to admit his faults and so he exclaimed, "Help my unbelief Jesus." The bible says that Jesus healed the boy. I bet that cured his unbelief.
Jesus worked for 40 days to cure the disciple's unbelief. He presented himself to them over and over and over. Why?
Because they had to become convinced that he was alive before they could be sent out to be his witnesses. Jesus equipped them through commands and through breathing the Holy Spirit on them, and by proving to them he was alive.
The 3rd key thing Jesus that Jesus did to prepare them was:
He spoke to them about the Kingdom of God.
This is at the end of verse 3. This is huge. The Kingdom of God has to be one of the most misunderstood and abused doctrines in Christianity.
Let's spend a few minutes talking about it. Most Christians today agree that the kingdom of God is a central theme in the New Testament and the main theme in the gospels. But people can't agree on what the kingdom means. There are three main views of the kingdom. Together they give a good definition of the kingdom. Separate they present a skewed picture of the kingdom.
The first view of the kingdom is the ethical view. According to this view, the kingdom is about living rightly. It's about ethics. It's the Sermon on the Mount. Love your enemies. Forgive those who sin against you. Don't be judgmental. Give to the poor. Don't commit adultery. Welcome the outcast. This is the view of the old theological liberals and of many of the new emergent church leaders. The kingdom of God means living out God's shalom on earth. And that's not an incorrect view of the kingdom. It's just not complete. The kingdom of God does mean living a certain way and enjoying a peace and harmony and justice that only Christ can bring, but that's not all that the kingdom brings. If the kingdom is only a message about ethics, there's no good news, because the utopia isn't coming in this age and we can't keep the Sermon on the Mount perfectly. So the kingdom is ethics, but it's more than ethics.
The second view of the kingdom is the experiential view. According to this view, the kingdom is about what's in your heart. To receive the kingdom of God you must be like a little child (Mark 10:15). This is the pietistic view for the kingdom. Be humble. Rely on God. Have an inner experience. Get in touch with your spiritual side. And this is not incorrect. The kingdom of God is about changed hearts and humility and experiencing the love of Jesus. But that's not all. If the kingdom is only about an experience, there's no Jesus. The kingdom is not just an experience, or even an experience of Jesus. It's also a message about who he is, what he's done, and what he demands.
This brings us to the third view, the eschatological view. Eschatological simply means last things. According to this view, the kingdom of God ushers in the reign of God and brings us out of this present evil age and into the age to come. The kingdom means the king has come to finally vanquish his foes and save his people.
The goats will be separated from the sheep. Those who believe in Jesus will be saved. Those who reject him stand condemned. This is the conservative evangelical view. And it's right. As much as liberals and emergent folks don't like it, the kingdom is about who's in and who's out. Who submits to the king and his rule and who doesn't. But that's not all the kingdom is about. It's also about heart transformation and living out righteousness and justice.
So the short way of describing the kingdom is to call it the reign and rule of God. The long way to say it is the kingdom is about God having sway over our society, our hearts, and our allegiance.
But this raises another question. Is the kingdom present or future? Is it here or are we waiting for it to arrive? And the answer is "Yes." The kingdom of God is present and future; it is here and it has not yet arrived. Until you understand this–what scholars call the already and not yet of the kingdom–you won't understand the gospels or Revelation or much of the New Testament.
Let me read two verses which illustrate this tension. Matthew 4:17 "From that time on Jesus began to preach, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." It is similar to Luke 17 when the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom will come. And he replied, "The kingdom of God is among you." With the coming of Jesus Christ, especially in his death and resurrection, the kingdom has come. That's why Jesus could say the kingdom is at hand.
But here's the second verse. Matthew 6:10, the Lord's Prayer, "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Jesus indicated here that kingdom had not yet arrived and that we should pray for it to come fully on the scene.
I want you to picture a couple of diagrams in your head. This was the Jewish mindset. You have two ages: this age and the age to come. This present is evil; the age to come is where the Messiah reigns and his enemies are destroyed and there is peace and righteousness. They saw this as a straight line. The current age becomes the age to come. But that's not how Jesus explained it which is part of the reason why they rejected him as their Messiah. Jesus taught that his arrival was the in-breaking of the age to come and that the present age would be overlapped until he returned in glory. This in-breaking is called the kingdom of God.
Here's an analogy that might help. The Kingdom of God is like election day and inauguration day. In this country the president is elected on the first Tuesday in November, but his presidency doesn't officially begin until January 20. He's won. His opponent has been defeated. It's all over the newspapers and on the internet. The whole country is preparing for the transition. The winner starts forming his cabinet and putting together his administration. The new era has begun, but on the other hand it hasn't. In one sense, we live in the time between the election and inauguration. Christ has defeated sin and Satan and death and therefore it is appropriate to talk about Christ as the King. The news is all over the place.
And we are supposed to make sure everyone hears about this news. But opposition to the King is still strong, and in some ways, growing stronger all time. Jesus is the already, but not yet King. And it will be this way until his enemies are thoroughly defeated and his reign is fully in place.
This is also how your salvation works. Your life is not a straight line with a clean break between the old self and new self. The old self remains to some degree. And it will stay with you until you pass into the Lord's presence for all eternity or until He returns, whichever comes first. We do not go from the old sinful self to the new perfectly holy self at the moment of our conversion. There is a sanctifying process that lasts your whole life. And that process comes to an end when you breath your last earthly breathe. At that point the old self is forever vanquished and your perfectly holy self is forever established.
So as a Christian you are already holy, and not yet holy, and becoming holy. And the kingdom of God is already here, not yet here, and getting here. Until we understand those sequences, we won't understand how the gospel and the kingdom of God work. These were some very difficult truths for the disciples to embrace. They saw the present age and the age to come as a straight line. They wanted so badly for Jesus to dethrone the Romans and the Herodians and to set up his earthly reign. This is why Jesus labored intensively to make these truths as plain as possible to them all the way up to the point of his ascension. And just before Jesus was about to be taken up, he worked another miracle be opening their minds so that they could understand what he had taught them, the Scriptures (Luke 24:45).
The fourth and final key thing Jesus did to prepare the disciples was:
He ordered them to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came.
This is in verses 4 & 5.
This was a command that Jesus issued. "Don't leave until the promised Holy Spirit comes."
The Spirit did come 10 days later on the Day of Pentecost. He blew like a rushing wind into the room where the church was gathered and then He immersed himself into each of the believers. The Bible calls this action the "Baptism of the Holy Spirit".
Jesus taught about this in John 14:16-17.
John 14:16, 17
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, the Spirit will dwell with you and will be in you.
This teaching must have been surprising to the disciples. As Jews they would have been familiar with how the Holy Spirit worked. What would have been surprising is the notion that the Spirit would be in them forever. As I said before, this is not how the Holy Spirit operated in during the OT period or even before the Day of Pentecost. In the past, he came and went.
He would rest upon a person until the Father removed him for whatever reason.
But things changed at the Day of Pentecost just as Jesus said it would. The Spirit's presence shifted from temporary to permanent. And the Bible teaches that every person that repents of their sin and receives Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior becomes permanently immersed, indwelt, or baptized by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). From that moment on life really begins to change because the Holy Spirit becomes the believers guide, teacher, disciplinarian, and source of divine power.
Jesus understood this stuff. And he knew that in order for the disciples to be his witnesses through preaching the gospel, by performing miracles, and by planting churches in the Mediterranean region and beyond, they would have to be baptized and lead by the Holy Spirit. This is why he commanded that they stay in Jerusalem until the Spirit came.
What have we learned this morning? We've learned that Jesus did several key things to prepare his disciples before sending them into the world to be his witnesses.
He gave them commands through the Holy Spirit. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs for 40 days. He taught them about the kingdom of God. He commanded that they stay in Jerusalem until the promised Holy Spirit came.
How does all of this apply to us? I'm confident that the Holy Spirit has already applied several things to your faith but I do have a handful of important things I'd like to add.
If we are going to be Jesus' witnesses in the world; we must know, receive, and obey the commands found in Scripture. This is absolutely essential. Ignorance, rejection, and obstinateness towards God's word, destroys not only gospel ministry, but churchmen and churches.
An ignorant congregation will always be a source of nothing but trouble to a church. A Bible reading congregation may save a church from ruin. Let us read the Bible regularly, daily and with fervent prayer, and become familiar with its contents. Let us receive nothing, believe nothing, and follow nothing which is not in the Bible, nor can be proved by the Bible. Let our rule of faith, the touchstone of all our teaching, be the written word of God.
If we are going to be Jesus' witnesses in the world; we must be settled on who Jesus is, on what he's done, and on what he's going to do. We must believe what the Bible says about him.
If we are going to be Jesus' witnesses in the world; we must understand the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is where God rules and reigns.
The Kingdom of God was brought to our world by Jesus and it has remained here through God's children. The kingdom of God is not fully here but it will be in the future.
The Holy Spirit
If we are going to be Jesus' witnesses in the world; we must baptized by the Holy Spirit through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and we must be daily lead by the Holy Spirit as well.
2000 years ago Jesus prepared his disciples to be his witnesses in the world. He's been doing that same thing throughout all the prior centuries and he's doing it today. The church is the vehicle that Jesus uses to proclaim the gospel, to train people for the ministry of the gospel, and to send people out to share the gospel. This is our commission. This is our responsibility as a church. May we humbly submit to our Savior, King, Lord, High Priest and Teacher, Jesus Christ and may we be sensitive and attentive to our gracious guide, the Holy Spirit, as he leads us away from this place into our community and world to be witnesses for Christ.
More in Acts
May 10, 2015Acts // Part 108 - The Mission Of Paul In Rome
May 3, 2015Acts // Part 107 - The Mission Of Paul On Malta
April 26, 2015Acts // Part 106 - Paul's Incredible Journey To Rome