Today: [Acts 01:] Go and Tarry: In Acts 1 Jesus gives final instructions for the disciples to go and wait for the Holy Ghost. Of the 500 present, only 120 took Him seriously. They go to the upper room and begin to pray but then decide to have a church business meeting. Is that what Jesus told them to do? Many times we get instruction from God and then come up with our own inventive ideas about what He really wanted from us. These gathered eventually and thankfully corrected themselves, but their choices in this chapter are a strong lesson for us who desire to see God’s Spirit poured likewise out upon us all.
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[Act 1:1-12 KJV] 1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4 And, being assembled together with [them], commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, [saith he], ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. 12 Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.
The book of Acts was written by Luke the physician who was the same author as the gospel by his name. Acts is addressed to the same person by the name of Theophilus, a certain influential nobleman that Luke was purposing to influence for the cause of Christ. In verse one Luke refers to his previous letter, the gospel of Luke, described as a narrative of “all that Jesus began both to do and teach” right up to the hour of HIs ascension. Luke picks up the story after Jesus has showed Himself alive by many clear proofs for forty days time, speaking to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
It is interesting in the New Testament that there are 72 references to the kingdom of God but only three outside the words of Jesus and only two by the apostles themselves. The question would then be if the apostles were tasked to spread the gospel of the kingdom why they make so little reference to it in their teachings that come down to us today?
In verse 4 Jesus commands them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father. They are not given a detailed explanation of just what the promise of the Father is, but we know by what happens next Jesus is referring to the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. Jesus shortly before commanded the disciples to go into all the world to preach the gospel, but not before they have received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This tells us that the preaching of the gospel without the accompanying influence and evidence of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost is not what Jesus wants. He would rather we NOT go and preach if we don’t have the experience of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost in our lives. I wonder if there is one seminary or ministry school that makes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit with signs following a prerequisite for releasing their students to pursue their ministry goals? What about ourselves? Jesus’ instructions here should cause us to place the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives as a top priority to seek out, to receive and to maintain. Paul believed as much indicated by the fact that he told the Corinthian church that he prayed in tongues more than anyone he knew.
Jesus promises in verse 5 that as John baptized in water, they will be baptized in the Holy Ghost not many days hence. Is this the baptism of fire? John said that Jesus when He would come, would not only baptize in the Holy Ghost but also baptize with fire. That is not what Jesus says here. He only promises AT THIS POINT the baptism of the Holy Ghost. There is another baptism that wasn’t poured out at that time and has not been definitively made available to men as of the day that we live in. Scholars would disagree and say that when we receive the baptism of the Spirit, we have in fact received the baptism of fire but if you accept the plain language of scripture, you cannot draw that conclusion. What are we to think then? We are to understand that WE DON’T HAVE IT ALL YET. In the days of the early church, there were believers who had only be baptized with the baptism of John. They were enlightened as to the baptism of the Holy Ghost which they then received. There is for us another baptism. Theologians say that the baptism of fire was actually the outpouring of persecution against the church. That cannot be the case. There is no language even implied or in veiled reference that would suggest this. We don’t like to believe there is something in God that we have not accessed yet, but if we don’t face the reality that there is something more, how shall we ever be in a position to make ourselves open to it when Jesus chooses by the directive of the Father in the fullness of time to make it available?
In v. 6 we see that the disciples aren’t satisfied with the last words of preparation from Jesus before He ascends. They are saying to Him in effect “ Lord that is all well and good but when will you restore Israel as a nation?” In other words, they wanted Him to do something politically, but He was more focused on doing something spiritually. The disciples were more interested in the geopolitics affecting their nation than they were the outpouring of God upon themselves corporately or individually. Is it any different today? The church is to be a spiritual entity more than it is a political animal if we are to respond to the mandates that Jesus sets as His priorities for us rather than pursuing our own idea of what is essential.
To the disciples’ political inquiry Jesus response it is not for them to know the timing of what God has in mind. What Jesus does promise however is that they shall receive power to be witnesses of His name throughout all the world. In other words, Jesus is redirecting their focus. Are you willing to have Jesus redirect your focus? Do you put the same energy and passion into the pursuit of your personal appropriation of the power of God as you did your political diatribes and initiatives in the last presidential election? Is there any vestigial need for adjustment in your thinking here?
What is the power that the disciples shall receive? The power of the Holy Ghost. What does that look like? They are not informed. Are you willing to seek out something you have no idea what if might look like? How do we seek something that we have no description given as to what the experience might be like? Jesus isn’t filling in all the details, but He expects them to obey. We know that 380 people decided to go their own way. Only 120 are willing to do what Jesus tells them to even though they don’t fully understand. Are you one of the 380 or are you one of the 120. Would you be willing at the initiative of God to uproot your lives and set yourself aside without program, platform speakers or explicit definition of what is ahead – just seeking God because He compelled you along with 119 others to seek the Father for something He had to make available to you? If we are ever going to receive the baptism of fire, we will have to be prepared to make the same decisions for the same reasons that the 120 stepped away from the rationale and pragmatism of the 380 and put Him first above all things.
Jesus then is taken from their sight. A cloud receives Him and angels stand by and declare that in like manner He will return. This is important to make a note of. Many, many leaders and teachers today suggest that there will be no bodily return of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is a lie. If we think there will be no physical return of the Lord Jesus to the earth at some point in time (along with all of the eschatology that goes along with that supposition) if we have some allegedly “deeper revelation”, then we are in opposition with what God’s word plainly tells us. We must guard against these false teachings that are very prevalent even among the most conservative teachers and leaders in the church today.
[Act 1:13-26 KJV]
13 And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James [the son] of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas [the brother] of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. 15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) 16 Men [and] brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. 17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. 18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. 20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take. 21 Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. 23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all [men], shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, 25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. 26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
The disciples along with the balance of the 120 who were willing to do so then go and gather in the upper room. What upper room? The same one where the Last Supper was taken. I have been there. It is located in the same spot where David’s tomb from antiquity is believed to be found. The Jews maintain a synagog there. The crusaders built a church there and the Muslims erected a mosque there. All three great religions of the earth venerate this spot.
The disciples gather with notable women including Mary and join together in prayer and supplication to God. What was the activity that brought the outpouring of the Holy Ghost? It wasn’t smoke machines and contemporary Christian music. It wasn’t an array of witty and insightful platform ministers teaching the latest revelation. They were there to be entertained or titillated. They were there to seek the face of God. Does prayer bore you? Do you get restless in prayer? Is prayer difficult? Those things that make prayer a marginal activity in your life are the very things that are militating against the claims of Christ in your life.
We need to pray as individuals, and we need to come together in one accord not for church as entertainment but for prayer. If the church has a concert how many come? If the latest household name comes to preach in your church is the parking lot full? If your church even announces a prayer meeting is it held in the sanctuary with a packed house or in a secondary room with only a few showing up? We need to examine these things and question why we would allow ourselves to be a part of such a tepid Christian cultural artifact as a prayerless church.
As the disciples are praying, Peter gets a better idea. Rather than praying, Peter wants to hold a church meeting and take a vote. Isn’t that spiritual? Peter thinks they need to vote in a replacement for Judas. They cast lots and choose a man by the name of Matthias. No doubt he was a good man but was this what the Holy Spirit wanted? Did He look at them taking their secret ballot and making sure a quorum was present and think “yes I think I will pour out the power and presence of God on that!!” This was not the case. Whoever Matthias was – there was nothing of note that arises concerning him in the scriptural record or in the traditions and histories of the early church. The voting in of this pseudo-apostle never manifested any fruit for there was no instruction from Jesus to do so. He didn’t say go to Jerusalem and take a vote or have a business meeting. He said go and wait for the promise of the Father, and this wasn’t the way to do it. The chapter ends with the minutes of this dubious business meeting taking place but thank God the original purpose is not derailed as the next chapter records so fully.
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