Until Jesus Returns

Acts 1:1-26

1. PROCLAIM THE CONVINCING PROOFS OF OUR LORD’S PASSION (vv. 1-4).

Luke, our writer and historian of the Christ who was born in Bethlehem’s manger, gives us thorough details of the birth, the life, the death, and the resurrection of our Lord.  You can read these details in the gospel of Luke.  The book of Acts is a continued bit of history of Christ, His Holy Spirit at work in the Apostles in the early church.

The Gospel written by Luke is the “former treatise” which he had written to Theophilus.  Luke, beginning the gospel, writes,

“Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,  Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.”  Luke 1:1-4 (KJV)

He writes to an individual who must be of royal or noble family.  The term, “Most excellent Theophilus” seems to be an indication of this.  Luke sees it very important to record the documentation of the eyewitness accounts, and the preachers of the word.  He also records it for the benefit of Theophilus, that he “…might know the certainty of those things…”.

The title “Most excellent” is dropped in the writing of Acts.  It could be that Theophilus has become a believer in Jesus.  Luke writes of the resurrection as those “to whom also He showed Himself alive” (v. 3).  That is speaking of the apostles, and there were many more.

There are many atheist, doubters and sceptics who try and tell us that there is little to no evidence for the virgin conception, and virgin birth of Jesus Christ, and some who even deny He ever lived.  What evidence can there be of the virgin birth?  We have the testimony of Mary, Joseph, and best of all we have the testimony of Scriptures.  The life of Jesus Himself shows us that He was not just another man, born by the seed of man, but by the seed of God.

Luke writes of the “passion” of Christ.  Do you know that Jesus had a desire to go to Jerusalem that final time.  Jesus had His mind set for Jerusalem.  He had His mind set on obtaining the redemption of mankind.  He had His mind set on paying the sin debt owed by all men and women.  If we only had the passion for Christ He has for us; what could be done in this world for His glory.

2. WALK IN THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT AND GO INTO ALL THE WORLD (vv. 5-8).

The disciples had seen Jesus tried, convicted, and nailed to the cruel old wooden cross.  At that time they had been fearful, and fled for their lives.  Jesus speaks to us of leaving with us a “Comforter” in John, chapters fourteen and sixteen.  We also have Jesus’s words that He is going away for a time, and then will return, and Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit [the Comforter] is an “Earnest” payment for the security and guarantee of His return.

Were these words, “but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence…” meant only for the disciples present at that time, or do they have application for His followers today?  Yes and No!  For the disciples then, they did need to do as Jesus had said, and wait for the promise of the baptism of the Spirit.  He had not descended.  For the follower of Jesus Christ today, you and I were baptized in the Spirit of Jesus Christ the day we prayed to receive His free gift of salvation and He saved us.  There are times, however, where the follower of Jesus Christ today, needs to wait and make sure all things are right with and God, and that there are no hindrances to the work of God in our hearts and lives.

Every Christian has been given the power of Christ.  The power to live a life that will glorify Jesus.  The power to be a witness for Him in all our lives and life’s activities.  The power of faith that will move mountains and cast sycamine trees into the sea.  I have not seen any Christian who has that kind of faith today, however.  Oh, that we would just believe God and His Word and trust the work  and power of His Spirit in our lives.

We have been given the “Great Commission” of Christ Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20, and He gives it again before He ascends into the heavens.  He tells the disciples then, “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit is come on you…”  It was yet a future event for them.  It is an instantaneous event for the man, woman, boy or girl who calls on the name of Jesus for salvation today.  You and I hear things about “Change” today.  There is only one power that can change this world into a better world, and better men, women, boys, and girls; and that is the power of the Spirit of God in His people.

The hope of the world cannot be found in the political arena.  It cannot be found in any political figure, or political promise.  When we put our faith in the promises of men or women, we are bound to failure, and disappointment.  The only hope for individuals, kings, commoners; rich or poor; is the Lord Jesus Christ, and as Christian disciples/followers we have not only been commissioned by our Lord to go and make disciples; He has given us the power to go and do it.

If you want true change in the United States or the world it will come only through the crucified, buried, risen and coming again Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God.

“It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 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.” Acts 1:7-8 (KJV)

3. BE BUSY IN GROWING AND PRACTICE OF FAITH AND IN PRAYER (vv. 9-14).

Those of us who believe that the second coming of Jesus are often accused of having our head in the stars or the sand, and not dealing with the things which really affect mankind.  I would agree that there are factions who claim to believe in the second coming of Jesus, but I have a question, “What Jesus do they believe in?”  Do they believe in the Jesus who said, “I will come again”, but later He said, “No man knows the day or the hour”? or do they believe in the one who professes to have a secret knowledge of God and Jesus, and they know when He is coming?  They might even say, “I am the one who is coming”.

We are told in Scripture, the words of Jesus to “Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13).  Though the preceding was spoken from a parable, it still has the intensity of the call Jesus has for us.  He is telling His followers to keep at the tasks you have to do, maintain your lives, live and be faithful to the teachings of God’s word and all that He has taught us.  He has not told us to give away all our possessions, sell our homes and go to a mountain top and wait for His return.

I would imagine that as Jesus was speaking to the disciples, and they seeing Him ascend into the coulds would have been standing there in awe of what they had just seen.  For a while they would have put the words Jesus had just spoken to them out of their minds.  WOW! Was probably what they were thinking.  This was men who had seem Him walk on water, calm the storms, cast out demons, heal the sick, make the lame walk, heal the lepers, and raise the dead.  And now, they see Him in a living body of flesh ascend out of their sight, and into the Father’s glory.

“Two men” probably angels confronted their awestruck eyes and minds, with the words we all need to hear, “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.”  Acts 1:11 (KJV)  The disciples followed the instructions of the men/angels, went back to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, to the upper room and there they prayed, probably unlike any other time they had prayed.  You will notice all the disciples were present with the exception of Judas who killed himself by hanging, and plunging to the bottom of a cliff.

“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.”  Acts 1:14 (KJV)

They had not yet received the Holy Spirit for power, witness and living.  They were to wait for the promise, and the promise came.

Continuing prayer is prayer that abides, prayer that is unceasing, prayer that is diligent, faithful, and trusting and believing, that God will accomplish what He pleases, in His time and in His way.  Those praying in the upper room numbered one hundred and twenty.  Of those who were there, other than the disciples/apostles, were Mary the mother of Jesus, and the brothers of Jesus – James and Jude (not the apostles by the same name) – and the women who had faithfully trusted in, and ministered to Jesus.

4. KNOW AND UNDERSTAND THAT NO ONE IS INDISPENSIBLE (vv. 15-25).

In a lot of areas of life, work, and society and culture there are some who feel they are indispensible.  They are badly mistaken, and sadly deceived.  That may have been the heart of Judas, the betrayer, as he went to betray our Lord.  He was in fact fulfilling a role in prophecy.  Nevertheless guilty of sin, of unbelief, of betrayal.

It was Peter who stood up to make the leadership decision of replacing Judas.  The question could be asked and I am asking it; “Why did they need to replace Judas?”.  Maybe “Replace” is not the right term to use, because no one is really replaced.  Someone that would have been a witness of the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus was required.

Peter saw that Judas and his acts, and the end of his life were a fulfillment of Scripture.  David had written about this in the Psalms.  See Psalms 69:25 and 109:8.  There have been many people  who have written of Judas’s; of which I have only heard and not read.  I know there are some who with great assumption consider Judas to have been a genuine saved, follower of Jesus Christ, and that he lost his salvation; however, the losing of one’s salvation just does not fit with all of Scripture.  Judas was just a man who never did see Jesus for who he really was, but was only his meal ticket and possible means of obtaining a high position in an earthly rule.  In verse 25, it reads, “that he might go to his own place”; which seems to be meaning that  he had his own eternal abode.

Now it is time to have someone fill his position with the twelve.  It seems that there has been some debate over whether this was really necessary or not.  There are probably a lot of reasons that could be given to support their installing a twelfth apostle, and I would think that to be to keep the order of twelve.  There are twelve tribes of Israel.  Twelve may be a symbol of a completed rule of government, and when Jesus returns to set up His earthly kingdom, these twelve and those who have believed because of their preaching and teaching will rule and reign with Him.

Each individual is unique within the kingdom of heaven, and the future kingdom of Jesus Christ on earth.  There is, however, no one who is indispensable.  Pride is the only thing that would cause anyone to usurp the authority of their own life over the rule of Jesus Christ, and the Father.  That was so with Judas.

The eleven disciples take a vote [cast lots], and the lot fell to Matthais.

5. LET GOD LEAD AND PROVIDE OUR LEADERS (v. 26).

Both of the men which they must choose from were witnesses of the Lord Jesus, and His resurrection.  That was a qualification of an apostle.  Their life was one of following Jesus, and faithfulness.  These were both well qualified men, but only one would be able to serve as apostles.

It would seem that all 120 people in the upper room had part in making this decision.  Some may argue and say, “Well they should have waited because Paul should have been the twelfth apostle”, but that could not be.  There must be one who was sent to the gentiles, and that was Paul who made a thirteenth apostle.

In the direction of choosing kings, presidents, premiers, and apostles and pastors we must let God lead and direct in that choosing.  He has His way in the ballots, and the lots which are cast.

God places leaders of churches, communities, States and Nations as it pleases Him; and all for His glory.  Trust Him.  He knows what He is doing.  He sees the total picture, and you and I only have a very small view, called today.  Today is the day of salvation.  Tomorrow may not come for you or me.

-Tim A. Blankenship

These are study notes for a sermon I preached September 14, 2008.