Martin Luther King holiday is Monday…
This is the start of a new series on the book of Acts in the New Testament. You might know that Doctor Luke, who also wrote first the Gospel book of Luke, then wrote this book of Acts. This book is also sometimes called the Acts of the Covenant. Another word for covenant is contract; thus this book is about the acts of the first century Christians under the new contract with God through Christ Jesus. The Book of Acts was likely written between 61-64 A.D. Around 30 years after Jesus died on the cross. You might think that is a long time, however to put it into perspective, I could most assuredly write a book today about Desert Storm which took place back in 1991, and that was 25 years ago. Although I might not recall all the fine details, I most certainly could write the important truth about what I experienced. I also now have the benefit of knowing a lot of the other dynamics surrounding the event that I wasn’t privy to while it was all going on at the time. So from my perspective, it is reasonable to think that this book written by Dr. Luke is an accurate accounting of what the early Christians were going through.
But what about the author? What do we know about Dr. Luke? Although he wasn’t one of the twelve Apostles, he was an obviously an eye witness to Jesus’s ministry. We know that Luke was a physician and the only Gentile to write any part of the New Testament. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, Paul acknowledges Luke and draws a distinction between Luke and the other colleagues.
Luke was the author of both the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. Luke does not name himself in either of his books, but Paul mentions him by name in three of his letters. Both the books of Luke and Acts are addressed to the same person, Theophilus (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1). No one knows exactly who Theophilus was, but we know that Luke’s purpose in writing the two companion books was so that Theophilus could know with certainty about the person and work of Jesus Christ. Perhaps Theophilus had already received the basics of the Christian doctrine but had not as yet been completely grounded in them.
Luke’s purpose was to document and get evidence for a historical account of Jesus’ life, the starting of His churches, and the mission of the first Christians. In these books, Dr. Luke interviewed and lived with eye-witnesses so we could know first hand, and so our faith in Jesus could be validated.
I watched a movie with my daughter Adeline this past week called The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. I also read that same book about ten years ago and found it very insightful. It is a story about a investigative reporter whose wife, through circumstances, came to know and trust Jesus. Lee Strobel sought out to disprove the bible by gathering evidence. However in the process, he himself became a Christian. A great movie and I highly recommend it and the book as well. But Luke is somewhat like Lee Strobel. He was gathering and documenting evidence and interviewing people during the time of the first Christians and the first churches were established.
Luke was a close friend of Paul, who referred to him as “the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14). Perhaps Luke’s interest in medicine is the reason his gospel gives such a high profile to Jesus’ acts of healing.
Paul also refers to Luke as a “fellow laborer” (Philemon 1:24). Luke joined Paul in Troas in Asia Minor during Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 16:6–11).
Luke accompanied Paul on his journey to Jerusalem and Rome and was with him during his imprisonment there (2 Timothy 4:11). Luke’s vivid description of his travels with Paul in Acts 27 seem to indicate that he was well-traveled and well-versed in navigation.
Scholars have noted that Luke had an outstanding command of the Greek language. He was familiar with sailing and had a special love for recording geographical details. All this would indicate that Luke was a well-educated, observant, and careful writer. That is Luke, the man who wrote our book of Acts. May God bless this sermon series, and may we each be blessed through the effort
To start out today, although the primary message will be from the first chapter of Acts, I felt it prudent to give you a quick reading of the last verses of Luke, for which our study in Acts takes off from. In this reading, Jesus had risen from the grave and now appears to the Apostles.
Please turn in your Bibles to Luke 24:36, pg 56 in the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God, and let us start with prayer.
36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
So that is the end of the gospel book of Luke. It is a great book, and if you haven’t taken the time yet to read the accounts and story of Luke, I would encourage you to do so. One thing you would notice at the beginning of Luke and the book of Acts, is that both of the books of were written to a man named Theophilus. We don’t know who exactly is this person as he is never mentioned again in scripture. It seems most likely that Theophilus was a high-ranking or influential Gentile for whom Luke wanted to provide a detailed, historical account of Christ and the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire. Whether this Theophilus was a wealthy relative of Caesar, an influential government official, a wealthy benefactor who supported Paul or Paul’s lawyer does not really matter. We cannot know for sure who Theophilus was, but we can know what Luke’s intentions for writing were. His stated reason for writing to Theophilus was “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:3-4). Luke wrote this historical account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and detailed the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. His intention was to give Theophilus certainty that the “things he had been taught” were indeed true and trustworthy.
Now, would you please turn in your Bibles to Acts 1, pg 119
1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
So you can see there is a little overlap between the first book Luke wrote and this one. They both address Jesus’s last dialog with the Disciples and His ascending into heaven. Jesus told them back at the end of Luke 24, that they shall be witnesses and must wait for to be clothed with power from on high. Then again here in Acts 1:8 He says that they shall receive power from the Holy Spirit and they shall be witnesses. So receiving the Holy Spirit’s power precedes and leads to being witnesses for Christ. But they must wait for it in the city before they begin to launch out to the nations from Jerusalem.
So here is the main points that I think Jesus and Luke are teaching us: First, Special power is essential for an expanding witness for Christ.
In both these texts Jesus is sending them from Jerusalem to ever-expanding circles until all the nations are evangelized. In Luke 24:47 Jesus said, “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached to all nations beginning from Jerusalem. And in Acts 1:8 he says, “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth”—hence an ever expanding witness effort for them and for us even today.
The second point is this: It takes Holy Spirit power to carry out an expanding witness for Christ. We know that these disciples were already Christ followers before they received this power that Jesus was promising here. And we will see in the weeks to come that they did receive the Holy Spirit just as Jesus said they would. But Jesus told them that they had to wait for it.
Think about times in your life that you are told to wait.. Anyone here like to wait for things? Not me, I am a terrible waiter, lol. But we all have to wait for things on occasion don’t we. Even for Fast food we sometimes have to wait.
Have you ever had a layover at the Airport? I once had a 30 hour in the Airport wait before and let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty ugly.
Jesus told them to wait to receive the Holy Spirit. I wonder if they knew what He was even talking about, can you imagine being in their shoes? And what do you picture the disciples doing in the ten days between this final farewell and the day of Pentecost when they will get the Holy Spirit? Today everyone would probably break out the cell phones or lay around and binge watch some series.. lol
Luke 24 tells us they were continually in the temple worshipping God with great joy; and Acts 1:13-14 tells us they met in an upper room and devoted themselves to prayer. So they were praying in their smaller assembly and they were joyfully worshipping and blessing God in the public temple.
What do you do when you have to wait? How do you make the most of your “meanwhile”? The definition for the word meanwhile is : during the time before something happens or before a specified period ends.
There is always a meanwhile. We are even now in a meanwhile period, the time between when Jesus left and until the day Jesus comes back. Here is a question for you, when you get to heaven, what will you be able to say you did with this precious meanwhile period that God has given you?
Or what about this meanwhile time between when you were saved, and when you will die, what will you be able to say you did with this precious time that God has given you? I am here today to plead with you to make the most of the time you have in the meanwhile. That is God’s will for you, and in that, He will make your joy complete. Choose to give your meanwhile to Jesus.
As we go through this book of Acts, you should consider it a historical book, an inspired book and much worthy of our attention. Being that we are the church, we should be familiar with this first writing of the establishment of the church that Jesus gave us as a precious gift.
In our text today Jesus also said that they will receive the Holy Spirit. That is the same Holy Spirit power that Jesus refers to as the Counselor. And Jesus said that they would be baptized by the Holy Spirit, and that it will never leave them.
Prior to this event, the Holy Spirit power existed but it was used more like a strategic weapon. God sent the Holy Spirit to many people in the Old Testament but it was for a specific cause. The Holy Spirit would come and go, come and go as was needed. But this time Jesus sent the Holy Spirit so that anyone that accepts Jesus as the personal savior, the Holy Spirit would come into them and unite with their heart and stay with them until the day they are with the Lord. Here what Jesus is talking about now to the Disciples is the first time the Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus to fill them up and equip them for His mission and work.
Jesus told these Disciples to go into the world and make disciples of all nations, but first wait.. wait for the Holy Spirit to guide you in this endeavor. We are now here to minister with the good news Gospel, but we can only do that with the Holy Spirit’s power. You might be a Christian here today and think, well I never recall getting that Holy Spirit power. Although some people might receive the Holy Spirit in a dramatic way, for the most of us it is a gradual change. The evidence for the Holy Spirit in your life, based upon scripture Galatians 5:22 is, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If you are a Christian, then you should see these fine attributes increasing in your life and character.
And with that same Holy Spirit power Jesus told the Disciples they can go to the ends of the world and be His witness. I am here to tell you Christians, that’s what we can do too. Not through our own power but the power of the God through the Holy Spirit. What God has allowed you to experience in life and in faith is what Jesus wants you to share with others in the meanwhile.. Now the question is are you willing to do this? Paul went to the ends of the earth, Luke went to the ends of the earth, and Jesus wants us to do the same. Jesus died for you, not so we can sit on your laurels and enjoy the splendor and riches, but to share the Gospel, and to grow His church family, so that others could share an eternity in heaven. Everyone needs Christ and the purpose of this church is to spread the Good News of Jesus to every tribe and language on the earth. Jesus wants every tribe and race to know that Jesus died for them. Jesus wants every person to know the Gospel and to be presented with the choice to accept Him as their personal Messiah and Savior. And He elects to use you for that process.
This is the meanwhile ladies and gentlemen.. And as the Disciples were gazing into the heavens, behold the angels said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
We are just like how these disciples, and God sent them angels to wake them up out of their stupor. We have work that we should be doing in this meanwhile. We are to be filled with the things of God so we can be sharing with the people God puts in our paths. Make the most of your meanwhile.
And while you are waiting for Jesus to return or for your days on this earth to be through. Answer this question for yourselves, in the meanwhile I am going to …. Fill in the blank. Before you leave here today, would you take this opportunity and make a commitment to do His work in the meanwhile.
Would you stand and pray with me now.