Summary: A series of character sketches in the book of Acts, starting with all believers like us.
Acts 1:1-11 - God’s Power through God’s People #1: Us
Today we are beginning a new series. Funny enough, it’s from a book about new beginnings. Today we are beginning a series on the book of Acts, the beginnings of the new covenant, the new relations between God and mankind, the new life found in Christ, the new group of people known as the church… the beginnings of so much of what we know about connecting with God.
Beginnings can be quite humble. It’s been said that the first electric light was so dim that a candle was needed to see its socket. One of the first steamboats took 32 hours to chug its way from New York to Albany, a distance of 150 miles. Wilbur and Orville Wright’s first airplane flight lasted only 12 seconds. And the first automobiles traveled 2 to 4 miles per hour and broke down often. Carriages would pass them with their passengers shouting, “Get a horse!”
But the beginning of the church was quite impressive. Yes, it has grown to a multi-billion group of people over its some-2000-year history, but it really did start out with a bang – 3000 people saved in 1 day. For this sermon series, though, I’m not just recounting history. What I would like to do over the next few weeks is look at the characters in the book of Acts, look at the people that God used to accomplish His purposes. Yes, we may look at a couple of scoundrels in there as well, but I’d like to observe some real people who knew God and were used by Him. Let’s read 1:1-12.
This book was written by Luke, not one of the original disciples but a well-educated Jewish convert to Christianity in its 1st few years. He also wrote the book named after him, also written to this fellow named Theophilus. It’s possible that Luke, being a doctor, was a slave to the Romans, which was a normal Roman practice, and Theophilus was Luke’s master, hence the proper title “most excellent”. That’s only speculation, though.
What we do know is that Luke first wrote to Theo about Jesus’ life, and then wrote this book as a sequel or continuing story about Jesus’ followers. In this 1st paragraph, Luke sums up the major points of Jesus’ ministry: His teaching, His life, His dying and suffering, His rising from the dead, His appearances afterwards, and then the main points of today’s section – His ascension to heaven, His sending of the Spirit at Pentecost, and then His eventual return.
Going through this passage, we can read that “Jesus began to do and teach” while He was here on earth. I find that interesting. He began, but didn’t finish. He’s not done working, at least on one level. Yes, he said the words from the cross, “It is finished.” The work of the sacrifice was done. The anger of God had been appeased. No more blood sacrifices in order to be right with God – those are done. But He’s still working. He’s still teaching. He’s still drawing. He’s still saving. He’s still praying for us. His work isn’t over; He’s not finished with us yet.
In v2, you can notice something else worth mentioning. Jesus was giving instructions “through the Holy Spirit”. So here’s Jesus, one of the members of the Godhead, 100% God, 100% man, and the Holy Spirit was helping Him. I thought as I read this, that if Jesus needs the help of the Holy Spirit in order to get things accomplished, how much more do I? How much do I try to do without asking for His help? How much good do I try to accomplish on my own steam? Just a good question for each of us to ask ourselves.
Next, in v3, we read that in the 40 days following His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples and spoke to them about the kingdom of God. I’ll speak about that in a second or two, but I want to mention this interesting idea. He told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit was given. Hmm – Jerusalem. The city they were currently in, also the city in which Jesus was crucified. Hostilities were running pretty high right then. Jerusalem might not have been the safest place to be. But I like what theologian Matthew Henry said about this: “There (Jerusalem) Christ was put to shame, and therefore there he will have this honour done him, and this favour is done to Jerusalem to teach us to forgive our enemies and persecutors.”
Isn’t that good? Sometimes Jesus leaves us in places we don’t want to be because He has plans for us, plans for us to show His forgiveness and grace to others, plans for Him to use us in our mission on earth. There’s something about Jesus saying to us, “If you will just be where I want you to be, you will see me do great things.”