Summary: The main person of the church is the Savior, the mighty power of the church is the Spirit, and the major purpose of the church is souls.
The Unfinished Work of Jesus
How do you launch a worldwide enterprise? In the
last century, Coca-Cola did it. You can go just about anywhere in the world today and buy a Coke. They are the world’s largest multi-national corporation. Right behind them is Microsoft.
The church is Jesus Christ’s worldwide “enterprise.” He prophesied that He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). The Book of Acts tells us how His church began in Jerusalem and spread to the ends of
the earth. It provides a vital link between the gospels and the New Testament epistles.
How did the Christian faith that began with a
few followers of Jesus in Israel spread to Rome and points beyond? How did an ardent Jew who was not even a believer become the apostle to the Gentiles? How did the early church, which was exclusively
Jewish, begin to reach out to and incorporate the Gentiles?
Without Acts, we would be hard pressed to answer these questions.
Luke wrote the book of Acts with the primary purpose to provide an account of the beginnings of the Christian church in order to strengthen his readers’ faith and to give assurance that its foundation is firm. Perhaps a skeptic had tried to convince Theophilus that his faith was based on myths or legends. Luke
wants to show through his gospel and Acts that the accounts were based on eyewitness testimony given by credible men who were not promoting it for personal gain. In fact, they proclaimed the message in the face of strong opposition and even death.
Luke also intended to explain how the church spread from Jerusalem to Rome, encompassing both Jews and Gentiles, in accord with God’s purpose.
One key to understanding Acts is to see that it is a
transitional book, showing how the worship of God moved from the Jewish temple, to the hesitant acceptance of Gentiles into the Jewish church, and finally to the Christian worship of predominately Gentile churches all over the Roman empire. Acts shows us how God went from working primarily with the Jews as a nation to working with the church, comprised of Jews and Gentiles on equal footing.
I think if I just dive right in, you’ll see why this book is so relevant for us today. It is book about the unfinished work of Jesus.
So let’s focus tonight only on the first several verses.
I. The Incredible Person
The key word for understanding the relevance of the book of Acts is the word "began." In the first book—in the gospel—Luke dealt with all that Jesus BEGAN both to do and to teach until he was taken up into heaven. The gospel of Luke ends with the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. And Luke says that the story he told, ending with the ascension of Jesus into heaven, was the BEGINNING of the ministry of Jesus Christ.
A. The Ministry of Jesus Christ
"The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began to do and teach." The word “began” implies that Christ’s work on earth was not finished, yet in His high-priestly prayer to His Father, Jesus said, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" (John 17:4). When He died on the cross He said, "It is finished" (John 19:30).
Is the work of Christ finished or not?
Christ’s redemptive work on the cross is done, but His work is still going on. This is absolutely crucial for understanding the purpose of the book of Acts and who we are as a church and what this age is all about. Because the clear implication is that NOW—now that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father—He is NOT finished. He is not done with His work and with His teaching. He is carrying on His work though the believer.
The incarnation of the Son of God into human flesh, the once-for-all sacrifice of himself for sin on the cross, the mighty resurrection and Ascension to the Father’s right hand is just the BEGINNING of what Jesus came to do and to teach. The rest of what He came to do, He does NOW through the believer.
That is the point of the book of Acts and that is
why we exist as a church and that is what this age is all about. The book of Acts is not just the acts of the apostles; it is the acts of the risen, living, enthroned Jesus.
WHETHER IN THE GOSPELS OR IN ACTS, INCARNATION IS SECRET STRATEGY BY WHICH GOD CHANGES THE WORLD. The book of Acts is the work of Christ through the Holy Spirit as He works in and through the church. The book of Luke records what Jesus “began both to do and teach” in His human body; the book of Acts tells us what Jesus continued to do and teach through His spiritual body the church. See Mark 16:20.