The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:1-5 NASV)
Comments and Insights:
In the Gospel of Luke (same author as the Book of Acts) we see what “Jesus began” and here in Acts we see what “Jesus continues” to do. Luke tells us that Jesus did His ministry by Word and deed. Paul also comments that he ‘fully preached the Gospel by word and by deed, by miracles, signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit’ (Romans 15:18-19). This, I am sure, should spreak volumes to the Church today in North America where we have many words but few miracles, signs and wonders and just as little power.
Luke then moves forward and tells us the basic agenda of happenings that took place from the resurrection of Jesus onwards. Luke tells us that for 40 days Jesus appeared to followers numerous times and in a variety of situations. Again, Paul confirms this when writing about the resurrection of the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8.
“and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.”
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the KEY MESSAGE of the early Church. Interestingly, other than Easter Sunday we seldom here sermons on the resurrection from the dead in our churches today.
Luke states that Jesus gave many “convincing proofs” … These include:
– The resurrection appearance to over 500 disciples – 1 Corinthians 15:5-8
– Jesus entered a locked room to talk with his apostles – John 20:19
– He showed his apostles his crucifixion wounds – Luke 24:39
– He ate and drank with them on numerous occasions – Luke 24:41-43
While all this was going on over a period of 40 days (Resurrection to Ascension is 40 days / Ascension to Pentecost and the Holy Spirit coming down to empower the Church is 10 days) … Luke tells us the following happened:
1> Jesus gave orders to the Apostles by the Holy Spirit
Already Jesus is partnering with the Holy Spirit who was about to come and take over guiding and directing the early Church. Just as the Holy Spirit was the source and the power of Jesus’ earthly ministry (Luke 4:18-19) so He would be the source and power of the apostles and disciples’ ministry in and through the Church. (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8; and Acts 2:1-5)
2> Spoke of things concerning the Kingdom
Just as this had been the major theme of Jesus’ ministry – it seems He was expecting that it would also be one of two major themes of the early Church – the other being the resurrection.
3> Gave a final command to ‘stay in Jerusalem’ and ‘wait for the Father’s promise’.
4> After this – there was a major discussion on the Kingdom (verses 6-8) which we will look at another day
5> Jesus was then taken up to Heaven (the Ascension) which signified the end of His direct, physical ministry on Earth.
“Jesus gave orders to the Apostles by the Holy Spirit” – let’s look at three “orders” that we do know and make sure that we are obeying these commands today.
1> The Greatest Commandment as found in Matthew 22:37-38
And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment.
2> The Great Commandment as found in Matthew 22:39
“The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
If we do these two commandments then we will have fulfilled all of the Ten Commandments (the whole Law) and also fulfilled everything that the prophets spoke to God’s people to accomplish.
3> The Great Commission as found in Matthew 28:18-20
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
These are the 3 GC’s … to focus on and love God with your total being and being engulfed in His love and His presence at all times and not just when in a Sunday worship service. Secondly, to then allow His love to move so deeply in you that you reach the place where you respect and love yourself so that you are then able to love others as you love yourself. When this love becomes so great in you that it begins to overflow on all the people around you then you will be fulfilling the Great Commission of going into your world (and eventually all the world) and telling others of Jesus’ offer of salvation and eternal life.
Here’s the issue.
In the Church there is often a fourth GC – The Great Cop-out. For some reason we believe that, as Christians, we can ignore any or all of the three basic commandments of Jesus to the Church and thus to us and still be in good standing with Him.
How are you doing in this area? Is your love growing cold or is it growing in intensity day after day as you reach out and give it away to others?