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God's Word Faithfully Preached from the Pulpit

The Birth of the New Testament Church (Acts 1:1-5 and Isaiah 43:8-13)

We have a new sermon series. Coming out from the Book of Psalms going to the Book of Acts is a good pairing since both of them are best understood eschatologically. This also moves us from the theme of worship to mission and nurture.

As our church experience numerical growth it is important that we grow together in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). So learning about the book of Acts helps us recognize our common origin, purpose, and ministry. Given our diverse backgrounds, I believe studying this book will help us unite to a common bond which our union with God through faith Christ and by power of the Spirit. Pastorally speaking, this my prayer for everyone.

Today, we begin with Chapter 1 and we have three sermon points. I will focus and complete the first two and end the third point next Lord’s Day as an introduction to Chapter 2. Our sermon points are:  1.) The Promise of the Holy Spirit; 2 ) The Ascension; 3) Matthias Replacing Judas.

Before we begin, let us pray:

Eternal God,  in the reading of the Scripture, may your Word be heard;  in the meditations of our hearts, may your Word be known;  and in the faithfulness of our lives, may your Word be shown. Amen.

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 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. 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; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (verses 1-5)

There are two important introductory information from these first five verses from Acts. First, we learn that it is a second book of Luke addressed to Theophilus. Second, it teaches us the occasion of the book and its connection to the first book. Both of these guide us to the direction of the whole book.

Luke addresses Theophilus here without any formal title. Unlike the first book when he was given the title most excellent, this second book simply recognize him by his given name. Now the name Theophilus literally means “dear to God” which makes other scholars conclude that he is not really a person but imaginary one but it is most likely a common Gentile name  and possibly from an intellectual class of Rome.

The address to Theophilus is an important piece of information to point us to purpose of book. From the first book, Luke seems to be concerned about laying down for Theophilus a faithful and accurate account of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Theophilus appears to be a new convert but concerned about the origins of his newly found religion.

This gives us idea regarding the purpose of the book. It is apologetic. Luke aims to assure Theophilus and his readers about the authenticity and historicity of the events which lead to the founding of Christianity. The foundation is indeed the apostles with Christ as its cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).

Now, the method used by Luke to defend Christianity against false charges from the Jews and pagans is by writing a prophetic interpreted history. It is essentially a witness account. In the Old Testament, an account must come from two to three witnesses. We will later on learn that Peter, John, and Paul were the prime witnesses followed by Luke in his second book.

And yet the primary witness of the book is the Holy Spirit. Some scholars call this book as the Acts of the Holy Spirit because of Luke’s explicit reference him as the cause of occasion of his book. The primary actor of the book is the Triune God but special attention is given to the Holy Spirit as the prime mover sent by the Father and the Son. The outpouring of the Spirit is the last great eschatological event of redemptive history and Luke wants Theophilus and his readers to recognize him. That is the purpose of his second book.

The Ascension

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 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.” 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. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 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.”

The disciples asks this question to our resurrected Christ: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Luke recorded this event to make his readers realize the God given nature of the mission of the church. The disciples did not invent it because they even got it wrong still!

The answer given by Christ is actually not a direct “no” but a redirection. He gently puts them to the right perspective. First, their task as apostles is not to speculate anymore about future events of redemptive history but to live and to participate in its work. The church’s mission is not about restoration but consummation it is not preservation but expansion. Jesus reminds then that only the Father appoints the time and seasons these belongs to the secret will of God. Our place is not speculate. Instead, we are tasked to propagate. Second, the scope of the mission is no longer just Israel but to the nation. Yes, it begins in Jerusalem but it will go to the ends of the world. And this the last sign for this age. The evangelization of the whole world by the whole gospel of the whole Christ. This the missionary enterprise of New Testament church in the last days. Third, the ascension guarantees and followed by the parousia. Two angelic witnesses testified not only the resurrection in Emmaus but also the ascension and parousia of Christ. Jesus will return in power and glory ad this ends the present age to give way for the age to come.

As a believer in Christ, the book Acts reminds us of our place in the redemptive history. We are now living between the two ages. Eschatologically speaking, we live in the midst of the fulfilment of the redemptive promises of God. The coming of Christ and the sending of the Spirit are the two important events we are experiencing until now.

This means we live in the times when all the benefits of our union with God are being poured out to God’s people. Election, Calling,  Justification, Adoption, Sanctification, Perseverance are all the great spiritual blessings we experience and at the same time, we receive the blessings of the effects  of the Holy Spirit like love, faith, and hope.

And yet those who experience God’s grace also receives trials and tribulations. No one is exempted from it. We also experience difficulty and discipline. This brings the birth pains of growing and maturing.

As a church, we are undergoing increase in numerical growth. This brings great challenge in the way members, attenders, and guests interact with one another and how we can best serve each other’s needs. How will it happen considering we all came out from different background, personalities, and temperaments?

Well, accepting the risk of sounding too simplistic, I always believe the forming and growing of God’s people in all places at all times, only comes from God’s Word and Spirit. As God supplies our every need and ministers to all the aspects of worship, nurture, and mission, he alone accomplishes and applies the spiritual benefits our communion with him.

And as a congregation of our beloved church, let us put off our worries, our complains, and let persevere until the end.  May we continue to trust God’s providence and rely on his daily and weekly provisions. Amen.

Conclusion

ZCRC(Imus), the book of Acts tells us our common history. It is a witness to God’s work of redemption and the mission of church. May the Lord continue to bless us with the common bond of the gospel. Amen.

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