One Apostolic Church

How do you get ready for a new school year? In the first part of Acts 1, Luke has introduced his second volume, recorded Christ’s great commission to his apostles, and described Jesus’ ascension into heaven. In our text, Acts 1:12–26, he pictures the church preparing, in a 10 day period, for the event of Pentecost. Even though you cannot repeat the event, what can you learn from that time of preparation?

Pray! Ask God for what he has promised. Absolutely essential is prayer. Luke is describing the beginning of the church in its New Testament form. He lists the apostles by name, the men that Jesus had chosen (Luke 6:12–16) to be his disciples during his earthly ministry and then to be the pillars, the foundation pieces, of the church after his resurrection. They were part of the whole body, numbering about 120. Luke describes the larger body, including the women, because the office of believer is very important. Jesus’ brothers have now come to believe. This is the last mention in Scripture of Mary, the mother of Jesus. While we are not told specifically the exact content of the the praying described in Acts 1:14, look back at Acts 1:4 and 8. Almost certainly Luke wants you to understand that the church was praying for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. When God has promised something, you know it’s going to happen. But God still wants you to ask him for it. Look at Daniel 9, as the prophet prays for what he knows God will do.

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The Spirit’s Power to the Ends of the Earth

Acts 1:6–11 sets the stage for the accounts given in the rest of the book by showing you the majesty of your ascended Lord.

The good news is that your Lord has ascended. Serve your great King. Acts 1 makes clear that the ascended Lord is still very much in charge of his church. This account also is the antidote to a practical ignoring of the kingship of Christ. Your daily life, lived between his ascension and his return, is lived in the presence of and subject to the King. The life of the church and the lives of members of the church, is the life of the kingdom. The disciples ask Jesus if he is going to restore the kingdom to Israel at this time. He responds to the when question with a what answer, helping them and us understand what the kingdom is about.

“The force of [Jesus’s] answer is this: As the apostles are concerned about the kingdom, their immediate concern is not to be its future but its present, specifically the present or, strictly speaking, impending task before them, the task of their worldwide witnessing. The apostles’ concern about the kingdom, Jesus is saying, should be the kingdom task of gospel preaching, and that means with the church as the result of this forthcoming manifestation of the kingdom. Further, to the end of realizing this, their kingdom task, the apostles will receive ‘power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you’—surely with what will take place at Pentecost in view.”

(Richard B. Gaffin Jr., In the Fullness of Time: An Introduction to the Biblical Theology of Acts and Paul, p. 91)

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Baptized with the Holy Spirit and with Fire

The risen Lord, addressing his disciples in Acts 1:5, points them back to the work of John the Baptist, recorded in Luke 3:15–18. John speaks of an ax biting into an unfruitful tree until it topples. It ends up on the burn pile. But John and Jesus both have in mind, not only the baptism in the fire of judgment, but also the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

Repent, because Christ baptizes with fire! Jesus is the One heralded by John. Listen to the herald. God’s word comes into a sin-cursed world. The historical setting of verses 1 and 2 show how the subject of Luke’s study fits into the contemporary historical scene. Luke uses historical markers. Tiberius rules the empire. Herod’s kingdom has been divided among petty rulers, and two men share the office of High Priest. The historical setting is also a commentary on the times. Sin has had its effect on the world. John prepares for Christ’s coming. The focus is on John–but as a herald, a fore-runner. His importance points to Christ’s greater glory. The desert location recalls the Exodus. The Lord is again bringing salvation to his people, and they travel into the wilderness to experience it. The Word of God came to John. He prophesied about the coming Messiah, his cousin Jesus, but that Jesus is far greater than John. “[T]he greater the significance attached to John’s mission, the greater the glory of the One whom he was sent to herald. And Luke… is occupied here with his task of publishing the gospel of Jesus Christ which came to public expression in history with John’s witness to, and baptism of, Jesus.” (Ned B. Stonehouse, The Witness of Luke to Christ, p. 61)

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