August 23/24, 2014
Those that are in Christ, the Church, are a sent people – sent to participate in the Holy Trinity’s work of salvation and proclamation of truth into the world that God loves. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a part of the Church of Jesus, which is universal. The sent nature of the church is evidenced at the very heart of the church–its birth by Jesus’ commission and in its thrust into the world by the Holy Spirit’s power. We are missionaries sent to proclaim the truth of the Gospel and to display the power of the Gospel to transform lives through making disciples.
We are taking a thematic look at the book of Acts. The major theme of Acts is that as a disciple, you are sent. Our place in the Biblical story today is in what many call the mission period. We have been sent to make disciples under the power and authority of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Jesus.
Last week we learned through the Great Commission in Matthew 28 that Jesus sent us to make disciples. There must be a cyclical nature to making disciples. We have been commissioned to make disciples that make disciples. Every disciple of Jesus must be committed to making disciples.
The Gospel according to Luke is considered to be volume one of Luke’s writing. In Luke he told the story of all that Jesus began to do and to teach. Now in volume two, the Acts of the Apostles, Luke is going to tell the story of what the risen, living, reigning Christ continues to do and teach through His Spirit and His followers. To be clear, this book contains only a few acts of some of the apostles during the first 30 years after Jesus’ ascension. It tells the story of how the Church spread from Jerusalem to Rome. Jesus is the main character in the Gospels and the Holy Spirit working through the apostles is central in Acts.
The context of this promise
Acts 1:8 is a powerful and foundational verse for the Church of Jesus. It’s meaning is greater when we understand that it is part of an answer to a question. The disciples knew that the Old Testament promise of the outpouring of God’s Spirit was a promise for the last days when God would establish his kingdom on the earth, restore his people and would result in a great outpouring of God’s Spirit (Ezekiel 39:25,29; Isaiah 32:15; Joel 2:28; Zechariah 12:10). So when Jesus says that the long awaited outpouring of the Spirit—the baptism with the Holy Spirit—is just a few days away, they would naturally ask for a clarification: “Do you mean the end is that close? The final kingdom is about to be established in just a matter of days, weeks or months?”
Jesus does not rebuke them because this was not a foolish question. He does not correct their theology of restoration (Acts 3:21), He corrects only their assumption that they can deduce the timing of it. Then Jesus directs their attention to the fact that they “will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you”. Our text parallels and overlaps Luke 24:47-49. These words immediately before His Jesus’ ascension clearly are meant to guide them and us in the time between His ascension and His return.
More than ordinary Christian living
This experience of the “coming upon”, or “being clothed”, by the Holy Spirit was something beyond ordinary happy Christian living. The power that Jesus promised would come upon them is not something that was for only the first generation of Christians. We can seek this power from Jesus today. In the Old Testament “coming upon” or “being clothed” with the Holy Spirit always referenced extraordinary empowerment (Judges 6:34; 1 Chronicles 12:18; 2 Chronicles 24:20). What happens in Acts 2 makes it obvious that this was an extraordinary event – wind, sound, tongues of fire, miraculous languages, prophecy, exuberant praise, and 3,000 conversions!
I believe that the experience that the disciples would have on the day of Pentecost, (Acts 2:11 – “telling of the mighty works of God”) has happened again and again in the life of the church, and will extend the gospel to the end of the earth. “You will receive power…and you will be my witnesses”. This fresh vision of God is what Jesus meant by being a witness. You will no longer be merely advocates who can prove Jesus’ life and death like a lawyer. Instead, being under the influence of this power, you will speak with the unwavering assurance of one who has tasted and knows the reality of Jesus - that all of your doubt is gone. The Spirit baptism moves you from being an advocate of Christianity to being a witness of the living Christ.
The Holy Spirit’s empowerment will move you from sharing truths of the Gospel message to proclaiming them boldly as realities that you have experienced. This is the power and the witness that will take the gospel to the end of the earth.
The promise is for us too
This promise of empowerment is for us too. This extraordinary experience of the fullness of God is given, Jesus says, to enable His witnesses to take the gospel to the end of the earth – to all nations. That assignment is not completed yet and so the promise of Holy Spirit empowerment is valid until the Great Commission is complete. As long as there are lost people in our city, in our nation, and in our world, Jesus longs to give this Holy Spirit empowerment to every believer and send them as witnesses.
If we love the glory of God, and if we long for His Kingdom to advance, and if we have compassion on the lost and hurting people of our community and world, then we will increasingly want this power and we will seek this power. We should cry out for this power! Acts 1:14 says that the disciples “devoted themselves to prayer” until the Holy Spirit came. So should we.
When giving the “Great Commission” to His disciples, Jesus promised to be with them to the very end of the age. The Holy Spirit is the giver of spiritual gifts for ministry to others. Paul told the early church to “pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts” 1 Corinthians 14:1. Yearning, praying, desiring, and seeking to be “clothed in power” and have the Holy Spirit “come upon” me will cause me to be a first-hand witness of Christ’s life so that all the world might know the Gospel message.
We are sent with the Holy Spirit!
This week, as you reflect on the message, think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing and fellowship as you open God’s Word together.
Read: Matthew 5:17-20
Take a moment to gather the context that Jesus is in when he says what he says in these verses. How is context important when we consider verses of the Bible?
What does it mean that Jesus fulfilled all the law?
Why is this important for us?
What role does the law play in our lives as Christians?
Think for a moment about the Pharisees. What is one word you would use to describe them? Why that word?
Why must our righteousness exceed the Pharisees righteousness? How is this possible?
In our pursuit of understanding the Gospel, we learn that as Christians, we have an alien righteousness (a righteousness that is not from us or worked by us, but is outside of us, or alien). This right-standing before God (righteousness) is actually imputed to us, which means that we are seen “as if” we had lived a perfect sinless life as Christ did.
How does the idea of this perfect righteousness being imputed to you make you feel about God and his character? What does it tell you about your need for a Savior?