Acts – Introduction (Acts 1:1-8)

June 23, 2013

Book: Acts

Acts - Introduction (Acts 1:1-8)
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Scripture: Acts 1:1-8


Sermon Notes

1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach

2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.

5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts = for the Jewish Christians

Luke = a physician, historian. Many who’ve studied Luke’s writing have been amazed by his attention to detail. At one time, some people had questioned him, but over time, he was vindicated – everything he wrote has been found archaelogically true. (He once wrote of a harbor that some people thought didn’t exist – but they later found that that harbor DID in fact exist and that waters had covered it.)

  • Acts =
  • The Acts of the Apostles OR
  • The Acts of the Holy Spirit

This is Part 2. Luke (gospel) was Part 1.

  • Part 1 = the story of Jesus’ ministry, ends with Jesus’ death.
  • Part 2 = the story of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the early church (through Paul as main character), ends with Paul in Rome where he dies.

Luke 1 “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of what has happened – they are eyewitnesses…I have carefully investigated everything from the beginning. So, it seemed right that I write an orderly account for you Theophilus, so that you may have assurance in the faith in which you’ve believed.”

Actually, Theophilus = “friend of God” (his name’s meaning)

Luke was quite meticulous and accurate as a historian. We can see that history has born out his accuracy and truth.

Who was Theophilus? We don’t know for sure. He’s addressed as “Your Excellency,” or “Most Excellent.” Luke uses the same phrase to address the Roman governors – it’s very courteous.

Some people think this was a symbolic name, meant to represent a class of people, like the church. But most likely, he was a real dude. Who, what, where is he from?

F.F. Bruce writes, “He was likely a representative member of the educated middle-class, who Luke wanted to win over to a favorable Christianity (unlike that of what was current in Rome). Luke’s aim is likely to give him more accurate info than what he had previously.”

Luke gives a limited vision of the growth of the gospel, he focused on the growth of the church.

Josephus wrote “Defending Judaism” and dedicated it to a single person, but meant it to be read by many others. Luke wrote with the same thing in mind – write to one man, with the intention of many reading it.

In Luke (gospel), his purpose was to write about everything Jesus came to do.

In Acts, his purpose is to write about the CONTINUING work of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit and the church.

Luke wants to show that Jesus’ work continues with greater power and scale.

In the gospel, Jesus is only one man.

In Acts, the power of the Holy Spirit (the same that Jesus’ had) was in many others. So, Jesus was technically multiplied and able to move and work through the actions of many apostles.

At Pentecost, Peter preached of Jesus’ resurrection and 3,000 people (men at least) were added to the church in a single day.

Luke’s thesis: “Jesus remains active, though the manner of his work has changed. He continues to do and teach through his body, the church.” This is the story of Acts.

Luke was writing to confirm what Theophilus already knew, and was trying to organize things well to help fill him in on what he didn’t know.

Theo could have been a new believer, or a seeker. In any case, the history and background and growth of the church would’ve greatly interested him.

Luke paints broad strokes. He shows the spread of the gospel in certain areas of Rome. He shows how the ministry of Peter and Paul are related. He also shows how the Christian church’s work is related to Jesus’ work. He also shows how the church is connected to Jerusalem and Rome.

By the time he wrote this, Peter and Paul would have been martyred, accused of anti-governmental behavior (esp. by the Jews). So when Luke wrote this, Christians were spoken against, “perverts of Judaism.” Was this a dangerous sect (cult), or a legitimate religion? Luke was the first apologist (defender of the faith) who showed it was authentic.

The resurrection was the hope of Israel. Peter and Paul both emphasized this. And his exaltation at the right hand of the Father takes center stage in Acts.

Acts 1: “Jesus gave many convincing proofs he was alive – for 40 days – for 7 weeks between his crucifixion (Passover) and his ascension (another Jewish holiday actually).” This is similar to when Moses was on Mt. Sinai for 40 days and gave the people the covenant of the Law. This time, Jesus is on the Mt. of Olives and gives the covenant of Grace.

This is all accomplished through the Holy Spirit.

During Jesus’ appearances, they all saw this Jesus who was alive, but HAD BEEN dead. So, their faith was UNshakable. Many of them died for this surety.

Luke doesn’t stress Jesus’ divinity as Paul does in his epistles. He stresses the divine commission of Jesus and the divine power of the church through Jesus.

The kingdom of God = the main message of Jesus.

With his disciples, he clarified the messages.

The kingdom’s message now had a different thrust, different emphasis. Now, it all points to Jesus as the Messiah.

Acts 2:24 “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to hold him…”

The revitalized message of the kingdom of God =

In Samaria there was Simon the sorcerer – but when Philip came down with the power of the Holy Spirit, people paid attention. When people saw and heard these things, they were baptized and believed.

Paul and Barnabas go back to Antioch and Lystra (where Paul had been previously stoned). Paul says, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.

The KOG (Kingdom of God) has a (1) present reality and a (2) future reality.

Acts 19:8 at Ephesus, Paul went into the synagogue to reason with the Jews from the Scriptures, and he spoke for 3 months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. He used their own Scriptures to prove that Jesus was the Messiah.

But, the Jews couldn’t believe that a crucified “criminal” was their hero. Their eyes were clouded.

Paul’s last meeting with the church = “Now I know that none of you will ever see me again.”

Rome Acts 28:31, meets with the Jewish elders and reasons with them about the KOG. Most of them rejected it. Paul boldly and without hindrance preached the KOG and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is a great emphasis on the KOG.

Using the Scriptures, particularly for the Jews, was a great way to show that ALL the promises had already been fulfilled in the person of Jesus. The promises weren’t to save their physical bodies from the Romans, but to save their souls from sin.

God welcomes repentant and returning people.

The Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep, the Lost Son (Luke 15) = parables that show how God welcomes and rejoices over even one small, insignificant repentant sinner.

The father in the lost son story RUNS to his son and kisses him – this was totally undignified. His son says, “Father, I’ve sinned.” The father says, “Never mind that, you’re back!”

This is what Jesus taught in the gospel Luke wrote. The book of Acts is simply an extension of this story. Acts = conversion experiences, repentant sinners, empowered Christians who share the story with others.

The first task of the disciples = to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

They are not to do anything until receiving the HS, so that they can do the work well.

What is the effect of the HS? William Barclay “The HS = the source of all guidance. Philip meets the Ethiopian. Prepares Peter for the messengers from Cornelius. Orders the setting apart of Paul and Barnabas to take the gospel to the Gentiles. Guides the decisions of the Counsel of Jerusalem. Guides Paul beyond Asia and into Europe. Tells Paul what awaits him in Jerusalem.”

The message = the HS who came upon Jesus at his baptism has also come upon the church to continue to carry out his work on earth.

Luke 24:9 – shows the importance of the HS in their lives and mission.

Acts 1:4 – “wait for the gift you’ve heard me speak about, for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the HS.”

Many were convicted of their sins (during John the Baptist’s mission), repented and went to the Jordan to be baptized. But John said, “Another is coming who will baptize with fire.” Jesus says, “wait for the fire.”

Verse 6, they still don’t get it…

“Will you restore our nation as a super awesome country?”

Deut 7:6 = “the Jews were chosen out of all the people on earth to be God’s people, his treasured possession.”

So, they expected GLORY first, and THEN the Holy Spirit.

“I will put my laws into their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people.” God = promises restoration.

So, the Jews think, “Hey, we’ll be restored, and THEN get the HS, right?”

Two disciples on the road to Emmaus met Jesus, he asked, “Why you guys sad?” They said, “We certainly hoped he would restore our glory.” But then Jesus helped them to understand that the Scriptures meant JESUS and not NATION.

  • Jesus = the Resurrection and the Life
  • Jesus = the assurance of salvation
  • Jesus = eternal life in the KOG

The disciples had been disappointed. Now, they figure that Israel’s glory would be restored and THEN the HS would come. Actually, they’ve got it backwards. “It’s not for you to know the times or seasons the Father has set by his own authority.”

Earlier, Matt 24:34 “No one knows… not even the angels in heaven… nor the Son… but only the Father in heaven.” (referring to the Second Coming of Jesus).

You think you’re so smart to know when Jesus is coming back? Have you worked it all out?

No, but Jesus did work it all out.

Want to know the answer? Jesus figured out that he couldn’t figure it out. He didn’t know. You can’t know either.

When will he come? Instead, be ready. Know first WHERE you are going, not when he’s coming.

“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and all the ends of the earth.” Here is Jesus’ prophecy for the remainder of Acts (and us).

Q: Do we have the Holy Spirit?

We need to be continually filled with the HS. We need to be refilled when our eyes are off him. We need to be born of the Spirit.

Recognize that we are sinners, fall short, need forgiveness, repent.

Recognize that Jesus = THE way to heaven, repent, accept him as Savior.

Let’s pray.