Summary: The Gospel of Luke and Acts were both written by Luke and were both addressed to Theophilus. Are you Theophilus?
Please stand with me as we read The Apostles Creed
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord;
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hades; the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit; the Church universal; the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen!
Please turn in your Bibles to Acts 1:1-11 which we will read in a minute or so ...
You may wonder why the version found in our hymnals has substituted the phrase “the Church universal” for the common words “the holy catholic church”.
The word “catholic” has become synonymous with the Church of Rome and so it has adopted a different meaning than when the Apostles Creed was written.
The English word “catholic” comes from the Latin word “catholicus” and the Greek adjective “katholikos”, both of which mean universal. That’s all they mean, universal!
We do not know when the Apostles Creed was written. But the phrase “holy catholic church” in the Apostles Creed was never intended to endorse or confirm our belief in the Roman Catholic Church but only to show that the Church founded on our Lord Jesus Christ is a universal church.
We value the Apostles Creed as a guide just as we value the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed but these creeds are NOT Scripture and all of our beliefs are based on God’s Holy Word and any deviation that may be found in any creed must yield to the teachings found in the Holy Scriptures.
So … Why did we read the Apostles Creed today? We read it because it affirms what is found in the Bible; the fact that forty days after Jesus’ resurrection He ascended into heaven. He returned to the Father from Whom He came.
This past Thursday was Ascension Day so today we will turn our attention to the Ascension of Jesus our Lord as He returned to the God the Father.
The ascension of Jesus back to the Father was a determined part of the plan of salvation and a necessary part of the plan as well.
With that in mind let’s go ahead and read Acts 1:1-11
The book in the Bible called Acts was written by Luke; the same Luke who wrote the Gospel of Luke.
Luke was a gentile! The Jews despised the gentiles; called them dogs, but here’s gentile Luke writing two of the books in the New Testament. Actually, Luke wrote the largest amount in the New Testament. Paul wrote more books and so did John but Luke wrote the most words.
How beautiful and useful was this endorsement of the Jewish Messiah as the apostles spread out throughout the gentile world proclaiming the Savior who had come from the Jews!
Both of the opening verses of the Gospel of Luke and Acts contain salutations and greetings to “most excellent Theophilus”.
Theophilus means “Loved by God” and/or “One Who Loves God”.
Theophilus may have been a gentile official who took the name when he became a Christian or it may be a name which Luke used to write to all who love God and are loved by Him.
We know that you are Loved by God, God loved you so much that He sent His only begotten Son so that you might have eternal life. The question is … do you love God?
Are you Theophilus?
If you are Theophilus, One Who Loves God, then the ascension of Jesus, the Son of God back to God the Father in heaven is very important to you. The ascension of Jesus was and is an integral part of the plan of salvation that was determined before the foundation of the world.
So far, in all of human history, Jesus the Messiah is the only person who died and was raised again in a glorified, immortal body who has ascended to heaven.
It is written of Enoch in Genesis 5:24 that, “Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”
And it is written of Elijah in 2 Kings 2:11 that, “As [Elijah and Elisha] were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.”
So, in a sense we can see that Enoch and Elijah were taken up into heaven without death and without resurrected, glorified, immortal bodies so how that will all work out I don’t know and it’s not really our concern.