Acts 1:1-11 (web)
The Great Commission
1:1 The first book I wrote, Theophilus, concerned all that Jesus began
both to do and to teach,
1:2 until the day in which he was received up,
after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles
whom he had chosen.
1:3 To these he also showed himself alive after he suffered, by
appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking about God's
1:4 Being assembled together with them, he charged them,
"Don't depart from Jerusalem, but wait for
the promise of the Father, which you heard from me.
1:5 For John indeed baptized in water,
but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit
not many days from now."
1:6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked him,
"Lord, are you now restoring the kingdom to Israel?"
1:7 He said to them, "It isn't for you to
know times or seasons
which the Father has set within His own authority.
1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy
Spirit has come upon you.
You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem,
in all Judea and Samaria,
and to the uttermost parts of the earth."
The Great Commission
As I mentioned in the introduction,
this is Luke's second volume of his writings to Theophilus concerning Christianity.
Contact with Theophilus, and indeed with Luke himself, was a result of
the Great Commission, the origin of which Luke reveals to him here and
at the end of the gospel of Luke. He repeats it here because this is the
theme behind the Christian movement. Throughout history people have tried
to convert others to their way of thinking by worldly means. The Great
Commission is not a political movement, nor is it one brought about by
force of arms or violence. It does not lie nor coerece, nor is it even
dependent upon "programs" or institutions. Rather Christians empowered
by the Holy Spirit simply give witness to the truth. Such witness is not
simply of what Jesus said, but also of miracles which affirmed his claims.
And Luke himself gives witness to these facts both in the introduction
to the gospel of Luke and also here in the beginning of Acts. For the content
of the gospel contains not only propositional truth but also miracles done
in an historical context which would have been difficult to contrive had
they not actually occurred. Of course today we may never have witnessed
a miracle of the type described in Jesus' ministry. But what we do have
is the testimony of those who did. And such testimony is incorporated
in the gospels themselves.
Waiting on the Lord
Notice that while the Lord commissioned them to GO, He also commanded
them to WAIT. Being a servant of God involves not just doing his
will, but also waiting on him - waiting for guidance or other such provisions
as giftedness to accomplish a certain task. In this case they were to wait
for the Holy Spirit, essential to the Christian life. Interesting that
today servants of food are referred to as waiters. We are to be God's waiters
as well as God's doers. While at times God may say, "Just don't stand there,
do something!", He may at other times say, "Just don't do something, stand
there!" A major part of the Christian life is in prayer and meditation.
If nothing else such times remind us of our dependency upon God. For even
Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself,
but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does
in like manner." And so also even Jesus spent time in prayer and meditation.
Ps 27:14 "Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He
shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!"
Baptism with the Holy Spirit
The gift Jesus spoke of was the Holy Spirit. "Up to that time the Spirit
had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." John
7:39 Thus Pentecost would be the start of a new dispensation in which
the righteous would be born of God, being baptized into Christ by the Holy
Spirit, receiving him internally. Baptism with the Holy Spirit doesn't
involve water. Here Jesus contrasts it with John's baptism of water. The
baptism of water is a baptism of repentance and as such requires the person
to take action. But baptism with the Spirit is passive. It happens to the
believer. Even the Disciples were commanded to wait for the Spirit - a
passive act. The Holy Spirit has a powerful effect on the believer's attitude,
behavior, and effectiveness in ministry. The Spirit is given for the purpose
of empowerment in ministry and not for one's own selfish purposes. For
died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves
but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2Cor 5:15
More on these things in chapter 2.
1:9 When he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken
and a cloud received him out of their sight.
1:10 While they were looking steadfastly into the sky as he went, behold,
two men stood by them in white clothing,
1:11 who also said, "You men of Galilee, why do you stand looking
into the sky?
This Jesus, who was received up from you into the sky
will come back in the same way as you saw him going into the sky."
While Jesus focussed on the Great Commission, the disciples were seemingly
obsessed with issues of Eschatology. They wanted to know when the kingdom
would come - date setters. And here they look intently into the sky perhaps
a bit too much as the angel implies. "Whoever watches the wind will
not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap." Ec 11:4
And so throughout the history of the church many have been too obsessed
over non-application oriented issues while ignoring their responsibilities
of serving Christ, for example in the fulfilling of the Great Commission.
In other words, why do you stand there looking into the sky? Get to work!
But what this section does teach us about Jesus' return is that it will
be a visible return as John writes, "Look, he is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples
of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen." Rev
1:7 As indeed Paul speaks of it saying, "For the Lord himself will
come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel
and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together
with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be
with the Lord forever." 1Thess 4:16,17 In conjunction
with this section of Acts we can say that such statements cannot be speaking
metaphorically but literally.
What about date setting? Jesus says, "It is not for you to know the
times or dates." But on the other hand he does at times speak of recognizing
the general season. However it appears that such references mean that when
the season comes one should recognize it, rather then trying to predict
when the season will come.