Prelude To Pentecost
Dear Visionary Leader:
The early New Testament church knew that their success in soulwinning depended on the coming and consuming power of the Spirit. In fact, their service, soulwinning, and sermons were done through the Spirit. When Pentecost came, that early church had something that swords could not silence, water could not drown, storms could not stop, fire could not burn, demons could not defeat, and jails could not hold! It was the convicting and convincing power of the Holy Spirit that overcame the imperial might of Rome, the sagacious sophistication of the Greeks, and the religious bigotry of the Jews. The Holy Spirit crossed all cultures, broke all barriers, and overcame all obstacles.
I believe real, Pentecostal revival can come today by Christians implementing several biblical characteristics into their lives.
We Need to Become Waiting Disciples (Acts 1:1-5)
The Connection of Christ (verses l-2a) is found with “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up … ” “The former treatise” is the Gospel of Luke. It is interesting to note that in reality, Luke-Acts is one book with two volumes.
Theophilus means ‘Friend of God’ or ‘loved by God.’ Luke calls him, 0 Theophilus or most excellent Theophilus. This suggests that a highly placed Roman official. Luke says that his gospel was written to show “all that Jesus began both to do and teach,” up to his ascension.
To do and to teach summarizes the nature of Luke’s gospel. Today, we like to say practice what you preach; but Jesus preached what he practiced. The human life of Christ on earth and His subsequent translation to heaven was just the beginning. Luke says that he wrote Luke-Acts to show all that Jesus began to do and teach. It was the beginning of One who had no beginning. We should pause and ponder this truth.
Jesus is the God-man. Mary knew when Jesus was born that He was older than His mother, but the same age as His Father. Before time began, Christ existed with His heavenly Father. Dr. Lockridge, says:
“It was there, before creation, that Christ appeared on the scene, standing on nothing because there was no place for him to stand. He reached out where there was no place to reach, caught something when there was nothing to catch, hung something on nothing and told it to stay there. He took the hammer of His own will and struck the anvil of His omnipotence and sparks flew. Then Christ flung them out into space to deck the heavens with stars. He called light out of darkness, cosmos out of chaos, and order out of confusion.”
His human life was the beginning of a new mode of living, one He will never relinquish through all the eternal ages yet to be. For now, He has something He never had before, a battle-scarred and glorified human body in which He is now seated on His Father’s throne on high. His incarnation was a new kind of living.
It was also the beginning of a new kind of doing. Other good people have lived, but none like Jesus. As He stepped out of eternity into time He said, “Lo, I come to do they will, O God” (Heb. 10:7). And do He did. Jesus came down the stairway of heaven. He was born in Bethlehem, hidden in Egypt, raised in Nazareth while attending a synagogue school and working at the carpenter’s bench. It was a new kind of doing.
He was baptized in Jordan, tempted in the wilderness, performed miracles on the roadside, healed multitudes without medicine, and charged nothing for His services. It was a new kind of doing.
Then we see Him before the Sanhedrin, before Pilate, before Herod, and on the cross before the world. He died on the cross of Calvary for the sins of the world. He was buried in Joseph’s new tomb and on schedule rose out of the grave with the power of His omnipotence. It was a new kind of doing.
Third, it was a new kind of teaching. Those who heard Him teach said, “Never a man spoke like this man” (Jn. 7:46). He taught “as on having authority and not as the scribes” (Mt. 8:29). They marveled “Whence hath this man wisdom” (Mt. 13:54). He Himself affirmed, “A greater than Solomon is here” (Mt. 12:42). It was a new kind of teaching.
Where in all the world is to be found anything to compare with the sermon on the mount? Whoever told stories like Jesus? … The Prodigal Son, The Good Samaritan, The Rich Fool, The Unmerciful Servant, The Unjust Steward, The Sower and The Seed? Whoever had a grasp of the future like Jesus? His teaching was marvelous, saturated with Scripture pungent, understandable, practical, loving, true, and convicting. It was delivered with compassion and courage and with a total grasp of all the factors of space, time, and eternity. And all was given in complete harmony with His Father and The Holy Spirit. Indeed, it was a new kind of teaching.
A beginning: The things “that Jesus began both to do and teach.” But not an ending: that living, doing, and teaching is still going on — which is what the book of Acts is all about! When we read the New Testament record of all that Jesus did and taught, we stand amazed in our minds and hearts. Yet, it was only the beginning. The best is yet to come!
After we understand the connection to Christ, we move to the Direction of Christ (vv.2b-5). The direction of Christ came in four phases. First, we are charged by the Lord (v.2b). We read, “After that he through the Holy Spirit had given commandments unto the Apostles…” These commandments were given at the end of the book of Luke. Specifically, those verses are Luke 24:44-49.
Jesus charged his disciples with prophecies of the Old Testament (vv. 44-45), passion of the suffering Christ (v. 46), preaching of repentance and remission of sins (vv.47-48) and the promise of the Holy Spirit (v. 49).
In addition to being charged by the Lord, we are chosen by the Lord (v. 2c), with these words, “the Apostles whom He had chosen…” Luke is showing through verse 2 that Jesus’ mandate to witness was given to the Apostles, who acted through the power of the Holy Spirit, whose coming was a direct result of our Lord’s ascension.
Next, we are convinced by the Lord (v.3). We read, “To whom also he showed 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.” Before the Apostles could understand the humanly impossible task of convincing a Christ-rejecting world of the truth of the gospel, they needed a 40-day period of post resurrection contact with the Lord.
These convincing proofs refer to such events in Luke 24:13ff. Such events as the one on the road to Emmaus, where the hearts of men burned because of the teaching of Jesus. They concluded that the Lord is risen indeed! Later, Jesus ate with them, showed his hands and feet, and preached about the kingdom of God.
The fourth phase of our direction is that we are constrained by the Lord (4-5). We read, “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. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.”
Waiting! This is often the hardest thing to do. The excitement of the post-resurrection visits must have filled the Lord’s disciples with excitement and fired them up with enthusiasm. They must have felt that, with marching orders from a Man who had conquered death, there was nothing they would not dare, no crowd they could not sway, no country they could not conquer, no confrontation where they could not succeed.
But this enthusiasm had no staying power or saving power. It was born of the flesh. They needed more than that. They needed the Holy Spirit. Their task was an impossible task. In the shelter of the upper room, they could have no idea of the impossibility of the task, of the stubborn unbelief of men, of the entrenched, vested interests of government, commerce and religion that would oppose them, or of the cruel persecution that awaited them. They needed “the promise of the Father.”
The Holy spirit will help to enlighten us as to our:
1) Memories – the N.T. had to be written. The Holy Spirit will remind us of God’s promises in time of need;
2) Message – what to say;
3) Movements – when to go! where to go! who should evangelize Europe, Asia, and Africa?
The Holy Spirit will help to energize us:
1) To preach with power. They could no more convert a soul than create a star;
2) To live the life. It is greater to have Jesus inside you than beside you.
The Holy Spirit will encourage us when we are personally alone, painfully scourged and pointedly threatened.
We Need to Become Witnessing Disciple (1:6- 8)
The disciples were struggling to find the bridge from the prophetic past to a powerful future. They were focused on the secular instead of the spiritual. They were talking about the restoration of Israel (6-7). We read, “When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the Kingdom of Israel?” (verse 6).
The question the disciples asked reflects the embers of a once biasing hope for a political theocracy in which they would be leaders (Mk. 9:33-4; 10:35-41; Luke 22:24). Now the embers are fanned by Jesus’ talk of the coming of the Holy Spirit. In Jewish expectations, the restoration of Israel’s fortunes would be marked by the revived activity of God’s Spirit, which had been withheld since the last of the prophets.
“And he said unto them, it is not for you to know the times and the seasons (dates), which the Father hath put in his own power.” (verse 7) The disciples had been thinking about a secular kingdom when Jesus was talking about a spiritual kingdom. They were right as to the truth of it, but wrong as to the time of it.
The Lord Jesus did not rebuke them for asking a valid question. He simply told them that the time was God’s secret. They. had to stop wishing for a material kingdom and start working for a mystical kingdom. The Spirit makes it possible for the church to exist in the world for an indefinite period of time–if necessary.
Jesus’ answer challenges the disciples to revise their thinking about the divine program, leaving to God the matters that are his concern and taking up the things entrusted to them. Basically, Jesus was saying to his disciples: “Get your eyes off the stars; and get them on souls.” Quit wondering about the happy by and-by-and work to change the nasty now and now.
Jesus was teaching about the reception of the Spirit (8) We read, “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 Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
This is the key verse in the book of Acts. The primary purpose of the baptism in the Spirit is the receiving of power to witness for Christ so that the lost will be won over to Him and taught to obey all that Christ commanded. Here the mandate to witness stands as the theme for the whole book of Acts. These are the last words of our Lord before his ascension. All that follows in Acts is shown to be the result of Jesus’ own intent and the fulfillment of his express word. This Great Commission concerns itself with major areas of advancement. Don’t miss this!
We are commissioned to advance the person of Jesus (“ye shall be witnesses unto me”), the power of the Spirit (“but ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost comes upon you…”).
“Power” (Dunamis) means more than strength or ability. It designates especially power in operation, in action. This power is not for your salvation, but for you to tell about regeneration.
Moreover, we are commissioned to advance the program of evangelism (“witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”) The very last words of Jesus were: “the uttermost part of the earth.” That was the Great Commission. They were to tell the story to the untold millions still untold. They were called to be witnesses. A witness simply tells what he has seen and heard. He tells what happened. Here is the strategy:
community – Jerusalem
continent – Judea and Samaria
countries – uttermost parts
Acts tells us about a wonderful success story. These disciples and apostles went out in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is estimated that within 6 months, 50,000 people were won to Christ. In two years, over one million were won to Christ. They turned their towns upside down, inside out, and right side up. They did it with no television cameras, no newspaper ads, no choirs, no Internet, no billboards, no buildings, and no budgets!
How did they do it? What was their secret? It was the power of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Savior went up, the Spirit came down, the saints went out, and the sinners came in!
As we stated in the previous chapter, in Acts 1-7, there is the founding emphasis by Simon (Jerusalem), in Acts 8-12, there is the forwarding emphasis by Stephen (Judea & Samaria), and, in Acts 13-28, there is the foreign emphasis of Saul (the ends of the earth.)
We Need to Become Watching Disciples (1:9-11)
When Babe Ruth was saying to goodbye to baseball and to his fans, he came out to home plate and pointed his bat to right field. He pointed; paused and walked off the field.
When Jesus, the King of Kings, was about to step off the stage of time, he pointed to heaven with his words and works. We need reflect on the ascension of Christ (verse 9). We read, “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.”
What an unforgettable moment! His resurrection was a monumental moment, but whereas He arose in secret, He ascended openly, visibly, before the astonished eyes of a host of disciples. Jesus went home with angel escorts and all, up through the clouds, up beyond the stars, back to the glory land where He came from. Can you imagine what went on in heaven when Jesus got back there. Jesus had cashed the check on Calvary!
What a reception He must have received! What great rejoicing there; must have been in heaven! How the angels must have crowded around Him! How warm must have been the embrace that He received from His heavenly Father! The best part of any trip is getting home – now Jesus is home at last.
No more cruelties – no more injustices, no more misunderstandings, no more beatings, no more sweat, blood, and tears. Gethsemane is over, Calvary is past, the tomb is empty, and Son is at home at last.
He has gone from the agony of earth to the adoration of heaven. He has gone from the bruises of earth to the blessedness of heaven. He has gone from the cross to the crown. He has gone from the ghastliness of earth to the glory of heaven. He has gone from the hell of earth to the haven in Father’s house. Thank God, because of His grace, someday, you and I, too, shall be free from the earth and all its sorrows and will forever be at home with Him.
The spiritual significance of that ascension must not be overlooked. It means that we now have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. We have a mediator in heaven, a great High Priest, touched with the feelings of our infirmities.
In verse nine we read, that Jesus was taken up and a cloud received him out of their sight. Every time clouds are mentioned in reference to the Lord’s coming, it means angels. In addition to reflecting on the ascension of Christ, we need to remember the return of Christ. (verses 10-11) Involved in the return of Christ is:
- A striking vision (10) “and while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,”
- A searching question (11 a) “which also said, ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven…” These 2 angels always had the right question. At the tomb they said: why do ye look for the living among the dead? The attention of the disciples was riveted on the sky. They did not miss a move or a motion of that astonishing ascent so long as their beloved Lord remained visible. It was an end to an era. That which had begun in a cradle now ended in a cloud. God in Christ had come to earth; now He had gone back to heaven. For 33 1/2 years, they had been visited from outer space.
- A startling prediction (v.11b) “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.” The prediction is both personal and visible.
The missionary activity of the early church rested not only on the great commission, but also on the Lord’s living presence in heaven and the sure promise of His return. The words of the angels rang out in triumph. The first coming was over; the second coming was now the goal.
The angels said, “this same Jesus.” It will not be a substitute; it will be the Savior. It is going to be different when Jesus comes back again. The first time He rode a donkey. The next time He will ride a white horse. The first time He stood before Pilate. This time Pilate will stand before Him. At Christ’s first advent, he wore a crown of thorns. At his second advent, He will wear the diadems of glory. At first, Jesus was rejected, but at last every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. This world is going to be changed from Hollywood and glitz to holiness and godliness.
The A.C.L.U. had better hurry and get in their punches now; that Planned Parenthood should rush to murder babies in their abortion clinics now; that the atheists should hasten to shake their devilish fingers at the church now; that the homosexual community should hustle to glory in their shame now; that the movie industry should scurry to produce more films like “The Last Temptation of Christ” now; that the media should rush to twist the truth now; that liberal preachers should rapidly sell Jesus to feather their nests now; that compromising Christians should enjoy their lukewarmness now.
When Jesus comes back, He will not be pushed around anymore! He is coming back as the master of the mighty, the captain of the conquerors, the leader of the legislators, the presider over all presidents, the prince of princes, the king of kings, and the Lord of Lords!
When the Japanese surrendered to the U.S., MacArthur chose Wainwright to be next to him. Wainwright had been taken captive by the Japanese. For many months he was a prisoner of war. He became very weak. The Japanese had put him through all kinds of torture at the P.O.W. camps. They would tell him that America was losing the war, that he was going to be killed; that he would never see his home again. He had no communication otherwise. Day by day, his captors would tell him the gloom and doom.
Then one night some of our men were able to secretly sneak into that P.O.W. camp. They got to General Wainwright’s room. They told him the war was over and, in a few hours, forces would come to deliver him. So, the next morning, when his captors came in to mock him and browbeat him once more, General Wainwright, skin and bones, sat up in his bed and began to give them orders. He issued them commands. Then, his captors rushed out of the room saying, “He has been told! He has been told!”
When the devil whispers in your ear that it is all over and death will be the end of you, you can throw back your shoulders and point your finger at the devil and tell him that you know Jesus is going to come again and the battle has been won!!