Study 2: The last and vital instructions – Acts 1
The Book of Acts begins: Dear friend who loves God:
Is this letter written to you? If you are a Christian, then yes, it is written to you. If you are not, then you need to know to whom this book is written – in other words, who or what is a Christian, and do you need to do anything about becoming one?
You also need to ask the question ‘When you talk about God, just Who are you talking about?’ The word ‘god’ is just another word and unless we investigate the word, we are more than likely to hold onto our pre-conceived ideas. Perhaps until now you have only ever heard the word used as a swear word – after all an entire generation has grown up thinking that either God does not exist or if He does, then he is responsible for all the bad things that happen in the world. So it is time that we set the record straight.
1. He does exist
2. He is responsible for all the love that exists in the world – He IS love
3. He has provided the ONLY way to restore the relationship, broken by wrong between Himself and Man, through Jesus Christ
Many religions talk about God in one form or another. It is so important that we know for sure that we are getting to know the God of the Bible. Elohim (the Hebrew word used in Genesis 1:1 translated ‘God’) is a plural word and conveys the pre-existence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit Who was ‘brooding over the dark vapours’, Genesis 1:2. It was God the Son Who was the Executive Creator of everything in the Universe – the One who spoke the whole universe into being. John wrote his Gospel to put this whole situation into context: ‘Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. ……. nothing exists that He didn’t make. 4 Eternal life is in Him, and this life gives light to all mankind. … But although He made the world, the world didn’t recognise Him when He came. Even in His own land and among His own people, the Jews, He was not accepted. ……. But to all who received Him, He gave the right to become children of God. All they needed to do was to trust Him to save them. ….. And Christ became a human being and lived here on earth among us and was full of loving forgiveness and truth. John 1:1-14 Living Bible
John’s first letter was written to dispel doubts and to build assurance by presenting a clear picture of Christ. Entering into human history through the incarnation, the Son of God became the very embodiment of God in the flesh – seen, heard, and touched by John the apostle. John walked and talked with Jesus, saw Him heal, heard Him teach, watched Him die, met Him risen from the dead, and saw Him ascend. John knew God – he had lived with Him and had seen Him work, 1 John 1:1-3
He is the same God Who created Man in His image and Who created Adam and Eve, but we can see from the ensuing evidence in the Bible that people strayed, Genesis 3:8-11. The real problem is that the further they departed from the Truth, the more the lie that they followed led them away from the One true and Living God, Romans 1:28-32
So the Christian God is unique, but not exclusive as He sent His Son to die for the sins of the whole world, no one is left out. Every religion on earth is about man becoming good enough to get to God. Christianity is about God coming to man, paying the price for the mess he has got into that deserves death, dying on the Cross to reconcile mankind to Himself, then giving every man and woman who has ever existed and will ever exist, the opportunity of accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and being made righteous (in right standing with God).
There are certain elements of your life that identify you as a person who loves God.
First, you will have asked Jesus to be Lord of your life. You will be born again, a new creature in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18
Second you will want to follow Jesus and be obedient to His commandments, John 14:15; John 15:10.
Thirdly, you will love others: ‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you’ …. ‘you are My friends if you do what I command’. John 15:12-14. The result will be this: ‘Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are My disciples.’ John 13:34-35
Luke’s Gospel is a record of Jesus’ life and teachings written after the event (probably around AD60) and Luke would have heard the events that he recorded in his Gospel from eye-witnesses – Jesus’ disciples, his relatives and his friends, Acts 1:1. Luke, being a methodical and precise man (a doctor) is a reliable witness to the truth. He carries these characteristics on into his writing of the Acts, Acts 1:3. Luke is clear that Jesus did actually appear often to His disciples between His rising from the dead and His ascension, and that they were in no doubt at all that it was Jesus they were seeing. The subject that was most on the agenda for discussion at these times was the Kingdom of God. The story of Acts is one of the world being turned right way up by a group of 11 men plus one subsequently appointed to replace Judas.
When we become a Christian, our spirit is born of the Holy Spirit. Our salvation and eternal life with God are secured, but our soul (mind, will and emotions) has to go through the process of being conformed into the image of Jesus. The difficulty is that up to that time, our soul has been used to being controlled by our bodily senses (ears; eyes; smell; touch and sound) but now we are making it conform to what our new-born spirit wants, and it hates it and rebels against it, Romans 12:1-2 AMP.
The next step
“John baptised you with water,” He reminded them, “but you shall be baptised with the Holy Spirit in just a few days.” Acts 1:4-5. Jesus reminded His disciples that John had baptised them in water – probably in the Jordan as that was where John normally baptised people – but that this would be entirely different. The baptism that they would now undergo was to be an entirely different experience.
His words echo down to us today. Become a Christian, be baptised in water, identifying with Jesus’ death as we go down into the water, and identify with His resurrection and our own re-birth as we come up out of the water, Romans 6:3-8. Then we actively seek and await the baptism in the Holy Spirit studying our new-found faith in the Word and learning all the while how to follow Jesus, asking Him to show us what area of His service He wants us to be involved in.
Within 50 days of the resurrection, these believers who were holed up in an upper room in Jerusalem for fear of the Jews, were baptised in the Holy Spirit, empowered and preaching the Gospel resulting in thousands becoming Christians. Those were remarkable days. Jesus wants the return of those remarkable days. He is looking around for people who will be prepared to follow Him wholeheartedly and to join the ranks of those who will do mighty exploits. 2 Chronicles 16:9; Daniel 11:32
What about you and me? Hebrews 12:1-4. If we are willing to put the old life behind us, then there is no limit to what God will do with us and for us. There is nothing as exciting as living in the promises and power of God where you see Satan’s kingdom driven back.
What is the will of God? 2 Peter 3:8-10. We know that His will is for everyone to be saved. You and I can be involved in that as deeply and powerfully as we will allow ourselves to be used. But it is absolutely no good to hang on to petty sins. God will see that, so give them up now! There was a problem however, the disciples had misunderstood. They still believed that the Kingdom that Jesus had referred to was an earthly Kingdom, and that Jesus intended to kick the Romans out of Israel and restore the rule to the Israelis, Acts 1:6.
Final instructions – Acts 1:7-8
Although Jesus did not deny that what they asked would happen. He did not commit Himself to dates. Instead, He lovingly steered them away from their imprisoning earthly thoughts and instead focused on the amazing and life-changing event that would empower them for the work ahead.
What about you and me? Do we get so bogged down in irrelevances that we miss the main point of what Jesus is trying to tell us? We need to understand that being equipped for our life’s work is vital. Jesus is building His Kingdom. He has invited us to help Him, but our ideas of the way forward are not necessarily His ideas; they are only such if we are sold out to Him. He is our leader, not men. Too many people in Jesus’ day had Caesar as their Lord. Too many people today put other things before Jesus – even in the Church.
But these were the last words that Jesus physically spoke to them. They were therefore the most important things that He had to tell them. He conveyed His love to them, His instructions to them and His authority to them, but above all He did not want them side-tracked away from His design for their future and that of the Church that would be birthed within a few days. Too much was at stake to allow them to be distracted onto timings and structure. He was to be the Head, the final authority and the way forward.
After these last few important words, He ascended into Heaven where He sits in the place of executive authority, and you and I sit with Him, Ephesians 2:6. He is the firstborn of many brothers, Romans 8:29; we are no longer servants but friends, John 15:15. We have a relationship second to none. No person has the right to intervene in that relationship. It is your very own personal relationship with the Loving Father!
As they stood there in awe, wondering how they could follow Him, two angels interrupted their personal and private thoughts and aspirations. ‘What are you doing staring up there? Come on, there is work to be done; a whole world to save before Jesus returns. Wait. Just as He said…….. Acts 1:9-11
So, how do we prepare for the work that needs to be done? We pray – quietly. Acts 1:12-14
First things first!
So, home they went to the Upper Room – maybe 120 or so nondescript characters – Jesus’ family, a few of their women friends, but these people recognised that the only things that made sense in their lives was (and is for us today) the things that they had been taught, and quite simply they prayed. How do we build a church? How do we build our life? We pray. No other way, there is no substitute, because prayer is communication with God. It includes meditation and speaking the Word of God in prayer. Joshua 1:8
This was no ordinary prayer meeting. It was a prayer meeting that lasted for days, and it involved many people. They were single-minded and they wanted the mind of Christ. They knew that to do things without His power and His authority was foolishness. These people had been with Jesus. They had watched how He operated, how He would do nothing unless He had talked with His Father first, and when He knew that He was in complete accord, He acted. So it is really no surprise that the disciples followed His example. They were following a well-planned and successful route in this matter. And that is what we need to do today. Follow the Master’s instructions. It will be successful. It is the only way in which it will be successful. Acts 1:15
Peter took the initiative, and he realised that his reference point for the future was the Word of God – only the Old Testament as none of the New Testament had yet been written. But Jesus had given them all example after example explaining how the Old Testament was being fulfilled and worked out in their lives and how the era of which the Old Testament spoke – the Church Age was being ushered in before their very eyes. So anything that they were to do had to have reference to what had been written down long ago. So Peter spoke to them all about how important it was for every scripture to be fulfilled, Acts 1:16-20.
Often God will use us in the outworking of the promises in His Word. It is an honour to do it, and as we are obedient in the small things, then God will entrust us with much larger things. Very often, we are so absorbed in a particular project, that we cannot see the bigger picture. God longs to share the bigger picture with us. His management style is totally open. No hiding what He is doing, no ‘select list’ of people in the know, just a magnificent openness and willingness to share. God spoke to Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Barak, Abraham, Samuel, David, Adam, the list goes on, but before He shares with you, you have to show that you want to know! Genesis 18:17-20. The strange thing is that He wants to speak to YOU and to me. He longs to share His plans, but will we listen?
In Acts 1:21-26 it is the first and last time that Matthias’ name is mentioned. Perhaps he took no further noteworthy part, perhaps he was a grafter, always working behind the scenes – we just don’t know, but we DO KNOW that he was chosen to be one of the twelve, and if God mentions that, then that should be sufficient for us. Matthias’ name is written in Heaven, and one day we can ask him about all that he did, and sit enthralled for hours as he shares his testimony of what the Lord Jesus did in his life. Then perhaps he will ask you to relate how it was in the last days on earth, the days of the culmination of the Church Age that he was part of ushering in, and he will sit enthralled as you tell of the mighty works that God did in your life. You see, we have a choice to make. We can be involved in the most incredibly daring advances of the Kingdom of Heaven ever to be recorded in Christian history. As for me, I want to receive the crowns (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10) and rewards that are available to me when I stand before Him and the books are opened and He and I review my life. The most amazing words I will ever hear are these: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord!’ Matthew 25:21; 2 Timothy 4:6-8
Study 2: The last and vital instructions – Challenge Questions
Read the Notes and the Bible Verses referred to in them.
1. Share the points that ‘speak’ to you and why.
2. Name three points that John states from his epistle (1 John 1:1-3) that prove to him that Jesus is God.
3. What is the difference between the God of the Christians and the god of every other religion? How many Gods do Christians have?
4. From the Notes, itemise the three things that will identify you as a Christian.
Read Acts 2:1-13
5. What happened to the Church on the day of Pentecost? How fast did the Church grow in the weeks following? Why do you think it grew so fast? Are we seeing this in our location today?
6. What was the result of the disciples being baptised in the Holy Spirit 1) on them and 2) on the people of Jerusalem?
7. Describe how you might have felt if you had been in the room when the events of Acts 2:1-4
8. When a significant move of the Holy Spirit occurs, what else can we expect to happen?
Read Acts 2:14-41
9. Peter took the opportunity to speak to the people. Summarise in a few words the points he made to them.
10. God had promised through the Prophet Joel, and Peter quoted it to his listeners, that ‘in the Last Days’ certain things would happen. What were they to be? When are ‘the Last Days’? Should you expect these things to happen to you?
11. Jesus is going to return for His Bride. Who is she?
12. In what circumstances is it right for others to define the boundaries of the life of a Christian?
13. What was the response of the crowd to what Peter had to say? Do you think that everyone responded in the same way? What proportion of the crowd responded in the way described in Acts 2:37?
14. When you or I preach the Gospel today, should we expect people to respond to the extent described in Acts 2:40-41
15. What changes will you make in your thinking as a result of studying this Chapter?