Summary: What is the DNA of the true church?
With Great Joy
In the previous passage we learned that the Ascension of Jesus into glory to sit at the right hand of the Father is the central point of Luke and Acts which makes the Ascension the most important event of the two books. We discussed the reasons why. The Jesus’ return made the procession of the Holy Spirit possible to the church. Jesus continues to do and teach through the agency of a Spirit filled church from a heavenly vantage point. The Ascension is the proof that Jesus’ work on earth was a complete success and Jesus was returning home. The promise of His return for His church is signified to the Apostles which will be the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah which says the Messiah would come in glory to the Mount of Olives at the end of time. It was a revelation to the Apostles of Jesus’ divinity and power which would sustain them through the difficulties of witnessing in a hostile world.
We have seen that obedience to the King of the Kingdom is part of the DNA of the church. God’s church is to obey the commands of the Triune God. In this passage, this obedience is demonstrated by their returning to the upper room in Jerusalem to await further orders. This is probably the same upper room which Jesus had the last supper with the Apostles. The importance of obedience to one’s master cannot be understated. Servants in the ancient world were expected to be completely subject to the will of their master. This is still true of the church today. The Kingdom of God is not a democracy but an absolute monarchy. The church must get its marching orders from the Spirit and not innovate and get ahead of God. After the disobedience of the Children of Israel in not believing the report of the spies, God told them they would have to wander in the wilderness for forty years before they would be able to enter Canaan. They presumed to now obey what they should have obeyed at first, to enter the Promised Land. But God said they would have to wait. They got ahead of God and went up. Many died in the battle, and Israel was utterly defeated. The same will hold true for a church which tries to get ahead of God. The Apostles wanted the glory of the Kingdom now, but God said wait instead in Jerusalem for the Spirit. The time was not yet for entering into the heavenly promise for the disciples. It was Jesus’ time, but not theirs.
The church obeyed and returned. It says that they spent the time in prayer and supplication. They were not passive in their waiting. They spent time in prayer and supplication as well. The Book of Acts shows that the DNA of the apostolic church is that it is a praying and interceding church. And if this is the DNA of the early church, should it not be the DNA of the church today?
The numbers of the early believers would swell to about 120 in the next ten days before Pentecost. Besides the eleven, women including the mother of Jesus and Jesus’ brothers were there. There may have been others at first as well. This is the last mention of Mother Mary in the Scripture which seems to indicate that the veneration given her is somewhat overstated. She is an important figure in the drama, of course, but no more so than anyone else in that room. Mary Magdalene had already disappeared. So had Lazarus and Mary of Bethany. The Bible is not about the people per se, it is about God. God is the hero of Scripture and God alone. The Bible is very honest about the faults of its human participants, even of those we call saints. We know about the sins of David. Mary came with Jesus’ brothers at one point in His ministry to take Jesus away because if we read the Gospel of Mark, they thought Jesus was out of His mind and needed to be removed from public view as an embarrassment. We certainly know from John that Jesus’ own brother did not believe in Him before the resurrection. Now they are here as believers, but the glory of their conversion belongs to God. Peter the denier and the cowardly apostles were there. They were men and women just like us with similar passions. They has good and bad points about them. We are not to worship them. Instead, we are to give glory to God for showing such extraordinary grace to such undeserving people. The same is true for our own conversion.
Another strand of DNA is revealed here in this passage. It says that they were united in prayer. This means that they were all working on the same page. This is only possible if they are reading God’s playbook. The trouble with innovation is that individuals compete with their ideas of how to grow God’s church. Everyone wants their ideas to set the rule. The result of this is worship wars in the church. Should we have liturgy, traditional worship, or modern worship? The old are divided against the young. The church is segregated by politics, race, and economic status. Someone has noted that the Sunday morning worship service is the most segregated hour in America. Is this the church that God wants?