Summary: God begins the write an exciting story after Jesus returns to heaven. He does it not through kings and princes but through ordinary people called to extraordinary things through the power of the Holy Spirit. What’s your part in the story God is writing?
Every good story contains lots of drama and action. The story we are about to study has it all: ship wrecks, riots, chases, miracles, prison breaks, magic, the supernatural, snakes on a plain, courtroom drama, powerful preaching and debating, strong bonds made and broken, and lives changed. The great thing about the book of Acts is that it’s all true!
Acts was written by Dr. Luke, the same man who penned the gospel of Luke. Acts is like Luke, the Sequel. It was part two of his book series. I love Luke because he writes like a reporter or a historian. And he writes this book, not for a Jewish audience, but for us Gentiles. Luke probably wrote Acts around 63 or so A.D., prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. Let’s take a quick look at Luke 24:44-53 to set the stage.
I love Acts because it is a “rubber meets the road” kind of book. It is about ordinary people called to do extraordinary things and empowered to do so by divine intervention through their everyday lives. It’s not about kings and officials (though they are bit players in this drama) but about you and me kind of people.
So why did Luke write Acts? Let’s go back to Luke 1 for that:
Luke 1:1-4 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
We don’t know who Theophilus is, but his name means “god lover” which is really cool. Many may have “undertaken” to write a narrative, but only 4 made into the Bible, and Luke is one of them, along with Acts. He takes his material from eye witness accounts. He isn’t just jotting down notes but writing “an orderly account.” The purpose? To create a certainty of the things of Jesus Christ.
Another way of looking at Acts is to break it up into two sections. Section 1, from chapter 1 through 12 are the Acts of Peter, chapter 13 – 28 are the Acts of Paul. The book is called The Acts of the Apostles, but really could be called The Acts of the Holy Spirit. It should give us garden variety Christians hope that given a heart that is willing, we too can be used to further God’s kingdom.
1 – 3
What Jesus “began to do” is now going to continue to be done by the Apostles and us. We must see ourselves as a continuation of the ministry of Jesus on earth.
It all starts with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. After the resurrection Jesus showed by “demonstrated, decisive evidence” (“many proofs”) that it was He and He was alive with a new kind of life and a new kingdom, one not of this world or this age but of God and the age to come, which we can experience right now in fellowship with the Lord.
4 – 5
Here we have Jesus’ instructions while “staying” or “eating” with his disciples. They were to stay in Jerusalem and wait for a baptism like no other. Jesus referred back to Luke 24:49 and John 14:16. He had told them this was coming. It wasn’t a preparation for salvation like John’s baptism with water; it was preparation for service by a purifying and empowering work of one Being taking up permanent residence in another. This empowering and purifying work was foretold in many places (Is 44:3, Jer 31:31, Ezek 36:26, Is 32:15, Is 4:4, Malachi 3:2).
Jesus said it would be “not many days”. Waiting on God sometimes comes without a deadline. Too often, we act before waiting long enough. Not that we always wait for tongues of fire and a mighty wind, but we wait for the urging and direction of the Spirit speaking in our hearts!
6 – 11
The disciples, bless their hearts, still don’t get it. The prevailing wisdom was that the Messiah would throw off the Roman yoke and restore physical Israel to freedom and world prominence once again. It is not a physical kingdom but a spiritual one—that is it is a kingdom of another dimension and doesn’t involve the political machinations of this age. It is real. However, Israel will be restored at Jesus’ next coming.
But notice that Jesus says “you don’t need to know all the big picture stuff now.” Instead of wanting to get a handle on the whole, Jesus focuses them back on their part of that whole. Isn’t that good advice? We want to know the “why” of everything God is doing instead of just focusing on our small picture for today. Jesus’ kingdom on earth would come, but not now.