Acts 1: 1-3
The Book of Acts speaks with authority and urgency to the church today.
There never was an age when the church, which Christ purchased with His precious blood,
needed more desperately to understand and to heed this message as does our age.
The Book of Acts holds for us, the secret of heavenly power:
- It speaks to a church which seems to have to have frustrated the progress of the Gospel.
- It shows an over-institutionalized church the real function of organization.
- It reveals to a church which is smug and complacent the compelling urgency of her mission.
- It makes clear to a church which is neglecting its mission of its responsibility to witness.
- It emphasizes to a church that is a bee-hive of activity that it must never forget the place of prayer.
- It reminds a church which may be discouraged that there are heavenly resources of encouragement.
The Book of Acts reminds us as a church to remember her glory:
- To rejoice in the wonder of her task
- To rely on the power of the Holy Spirit
- To relay the message of redemption through the Lord Jesus,
and to reproduce in her life the unconquerable faith of the saints.
So, let's listen closely to the words of the Spirit in this challenging book.
Let's ponder its contents.
Let's pray about it.
Then, let's put its lessons into practice.
The lifelessness of today's church may well have stimulated the famous remark by Nietzsche,
the pagan philosopher: "If you want me to believe in your Redeemer;
you'll have to look a lot more redeemed."
The Book of Acts unveils one of the most exciting dramas of the Bible.
Though the full name of the Book is The Acts of the Apostles,
Christians through the centuries have shortened the title to simply The Acts.
This is an appropriate name, for Acts is truly a book of action.
It shows God at work through the living body of Christ, the church.
When the church operates the way it was intended, it is the most important body of people of any age.
It is the most important institution on the face of the earth.
Acts is a record of power in the midst of persecution.
It is a record of life and health pouring from a living Christ into a sick society
through the channel of obscure men and women very much like you and me.
The writer is Luke. He wrote two books of the New Testament.
He wrote the Book of Luke and the Book of Acts.
Acts is written to a young man named Theophilus who was a young Greek.
He was a new convert to Christianity.
Luke had met him somewhere in his journeys and is telling him about Christianity.
The name Theophilus actually means "loved of God".
His name indicated that he was a Christian.
We, as Christians, have been inspired by this letter to him from Luke.
Jesus came to earth to begin something.
We are told that Jesus begin "to do" and "to teach."
This is the record of that beginning in the Gospels.
But Luke clearly implies that this second book is the continuation of what Jesus began to do.
In a very real sense Acts is not the Acts of Christians, but the continuing acts of Jesus.
In the Gospels Jesus acted in His own physical body, but in the Book of Acts He is doing His work
through the bodies of men and women who are indwelt by His very life.
Someone suggested verse one like this:
Luke reminds the readers that in his first book, he had presented Jesus in terms of what He did and said.
(What He did and said are inseparable.
What He did is to be interpreted by what He said, and what He said is to be interpreted by what He did.)
The Book of Acts is the record of the incarnation of men and women possessed and indwelt by the Lord Jesus.
We see them manifesting His life every day.
The life of the indwelling Christ is the true power of the church, and we shall see that throughout the Books of Acts.
For this reason the Book of Acts is an unfinished book.
It is still being written today.
So let us remember in one sense it is the whole lesson of the Book of Acts that the life of Jesus
is going on in His church today.
Dr. John Foster tells how an inquirer from Hinduism came to an Indian Bishop.
All by himself he has read the New Testament and it had gripped his soul and Christ had come to live in his heart.
Then he said to the Bishop that he had felt that he had entered into a new world.
- He had read in the Gospels of Jesus, His works, and His suffering.
- He had read in the Acts what the disciples had done and what they had taught.
- He had read also what Christ had done through them.
- He had read how the church continued where Jesus had left off in His life on earth. "
Therefore," he said, " I must belong to the church that carries on the life of Christ."
The Book of Acts tells of the church that carries on the life of Christ!
Exciting! You bet!
" To them ( the apostles ) he presented Himself alive after His passion ( death) by many proofs,
appearing to them during forty days and speaking of the kingdom of God. " ( 1:3 )
Here in verse three Luke stresses the great and central fact of Christian faith: Jesus is alive!
There is nothing else like it.
Jesus is alive!
Jesus is risen from the dead.
" He presented Himself alive after His passion by many (convincing) proofs."
The Greek word for "proof" is a word that includes the idea of being convincing,
or as the King James has it, "infallible."
Luke gives us three categories of proofs that Jesus Christ is alive:
First, He appeared to them for a period of forty days.
From this word for "appear" we get our word, ophthalma, which means literally " the eyeball."
In our modern way of saying things, these disciples "eyeballed" Jesus for forty days!
They saw Him again and again.
And each time they saw Him He was exactly the same.
Christ spoke to them: " speaking of the kingdom of God."
" We even remember what He talked about, " Luke says.
"He talked about the kingdom of God. We saw Him and heard Him.
These two experiences of our senses confirmed to us that this was no fantasy - no hallucination."
He is alive!
Finally, Luke states that the ultimate proof was that " He ate with us."
Those who were with Jesus saw Him eat.
It must be terribly difficult to get a hallucination to eat.
So, Luke says, " This is the proof, we saw Him and heard Him, and He ate with us, and we know He is alive."
Without the resurrection there would have been no Acts.
The apostles preached, taught, and worked miracles only in the power of the risen Christ.
One of the greatest miracles of all time is the continued existence of the Christian church.
That a handful of peasants, most of them lacking any formal education, could launch a movement
that would upset the world (Acts 17: 6 ) is, humanly speaking, impossible.
But it happened!
It is not an exaggeration to assert that our educational system, our hospitals, our concern for the poor,
our scientific progress, and any respect we have for government, justice,
and human rights all derive, directly or indirectly, from the teachings and practice of Christianity.
Civilization, as we know it, has followed the cross.The early church had no billion-dollar budget. It had no skilled public relations people. It had no mass media through which to promote its cause. Its organization was truly simple. Yet... So the study of The Acts teaches us that above all, we must depend upon the power
that motivated, directed, and enabled the early church.
We must depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit of God!
Jesus is still alive and still active and still powerful.
He is not One who was.
He is the One who is and His life and work goes on through His church!
"Shall I tell you why my life is now so easy?
'Tis because this wretched self has ceased to be
Once it caused me all my troubles, but it's buried,
And it is no longer I, but Christ in me.
Shall I tell you why I love to work for Jesus?
'Tis because His blessed Spirit works in me;
I have but to let Him use me, His the power, mine."
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at firstname.lastname@example.org