Monday, June 11, 2012

A motley crew waits in unity for their Coming King - Acts 1

(Click here to read Acts 1)

Acts 1:1-5 (ESV)
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3  He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

With a quick introduction, Luke thrusts us back into the middle of the story of Jesus that he began in his first book, the gospel which bears his name. From the last verse of Luke to the first of Acts, this Greek doctor does not spare a moment to continue exactly where he left off.

Luke's gospel was a careful and researched account of the life, ministry, execution, and resurrection of Jesus. His aim is to convince an educated and powerful audience from Rome that this man and his followers live and preach the truth of the coming Kingdom of God. Jesus' preached of a Great Reversal, when rulers will be brought down and the humble exalted. He called his message Good News for the poor. He said that in God's Kingdom the last would be first and the first, last. Luke writes in the New Testament's highest and most intentional Greek prose of this under-educated working class man from rural Galilee, traveling with a small group of disciples to Jerusalem. On the way, the doctor reports stories of the sick miraculously healed and the hungry miraculously fed as Jesus and the disciples announce the Kingdom.

Luke writes to “most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:1), giving him a title reserved for high ranking Romans in military or government. To Theophilus he recounts the story of Jesus' execution as an insurrectionist at the hands of the empire, and his resurrection from the dead soon after. There would be no doubt in the mind of a Roman ruler that crucifixion was permanent. Rome knew very well how to kill, and make sure those they killed were dead. If what Luke said was true, than Jesus held a power even greater than Rome, and the story of his life and the ministry of those following him was worth researching.

Acts 1:6-11 (ESV)
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed 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 and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Jesus commissions his disciples as witnesses of his death and resurrection. The book of Acts is the story of their continued ministry as they spread the Good News that the Kingdom has now come. The Great Reversal has begun. Jesus has defeated death, the final enemy, and now sits as King over all other authority. He is the final judge, and will return to consummate the Kingdom on earth, turning all things to right as he had preached and lived among the poor and lost and oppressed of Palestine.

Acts 1:8 - But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

They were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, demonstrated in signs, wonders, and healings, just as Jesus was and did. These demonstrations of real Kingdom life confirmed the truth of their witness.

The first twelve were called Apostles, and had been chosen by Jesus during his ministry, as told in Luke 6. Acts shares how the Apostles were effective in carrying out the ministry God gave them. “Apostles” is Greek for “sent ones”, and they were indeed sent from Jerusalem all over their world, their message carrying them to distant courts before the highest levels of government where they would have opportunity to proclaim the warning that the world was now under new management.

They were filled with faith and boldness, fully convinced of what God had called them to do, and then doing it, no matter what the circumstances or consequences may be.

They were very well educated in the scripture and in their doctrinal arguments. They were always very willing and very prepared to reason with people about the things they believed, and had many scriptures and arguments to back up their statements. They were good enough at arguing and expounding scripture to see some convinced of their message.

They placed the call of God and the gospel at higher priority and higher authority than all else.

These first followers would go to their death in resistance to the oppressive and violent religious and political powers of their day. They believes wholly in what the said of Jesus' return from the grave, and the hope of his return to earth to judge every power and authority within or without who had ever deigned to place its name above his.

Acts 1:12-14 (ESV)
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

In this upper room were the one hundred twenty disciples of Jesus, a mixed multitude of family and neighbours, strangers and long-time believers, apostles and converts, women and men, all waiting as they had been instructed. They were in unity, believing and acting together toward one purpose. They were in prayer, considering and submitting to the will of the King and his direction before they moved.

In the upper room, they remember Judas, one of the closest to Jesus who betrayed him to Rome. Judas had died by his own hand. The remaining apostles choose from the disciples someone to replace him. This they do by lot, something like drawing straws or flipping a coin. We needn't take this as an example of how to discern the will of God. This small company had not yet received the Holy Spirit, through whom they discern and follow God's will throughout the rest of the book. But what we do see is a total submission to God. This community acted not according to the decisions or authority of one among them, or even a council among them. They all desired freely to follow God's will, and submitted wholly to their King.

And they wouldn't be waiting much longer.


v3 – Jesus was seen alive by people who could give testimony.
v5 – The Holy Spirit
v6 – The Kingdom of Heaven
v8 – We minister in the power of the Holy Spirit.
v11 – The Bible clearly teaches a second coming of Christ, literal and bodily.
v26 – A strange way for Christians to determine God’s leading. They had not received the Holy Spirit.

(Click here to read Acts 1)


  1. Hi Shawn,

    Tara here. I love your blog. I wanted you to know I read it. I was challenged by your words and was encouraged to remember to place my callings and authority at higher priority and authority than all else. I understand putting my calling at high priority, but often forget about the authority of Jesus to do miraculous things.

    1. Thanks Tara. I'm encouraged to know that this is an encouragement to you! Also, every time someone checks in like this, I remember that the hard work of considering and writing on these passages is worth it. So thanks for the gas in my tank to keep it up.