This morning I’m excited to begin preaching through a new book of the Bible.
As most of you know, for the last four months we have been working through a sermon series following the life and ministry of Jesus Christ from birth to resurrection – from Christmas to Easter.
And of course, if you were with us two weeks ago on Easter Sunday, you’ll recall how we concluded that series by reading through the details of Christ’s resurrection, his appearance to his disciples, and finally, His ascension back into heaven.
However, while those events did conclude the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, they certainly did not conclude the work of Jesus Christ here on earth.
Jesus would continue to accomplish the Father’s will through the power of the Holy Spirit working through the disciples and the many others who would eventually come to faith over the next many years. Or to put it another way, Jesus would continue to bring about the kingdom of God working through his redeemed people – the Church.
And that’s what I want us to look at for the next little while. Specifically, I want us to read through the book of Acts.
Now most of you probably know this already, but the book of Acts is actually the sequel to the Gospel of Luke. Luke, who happened to be a doctor and a traveling companion of the Apostle Paul, wrote both of these two books as a carefully researched account of the events surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus.
We see that right in the opening lines of Luke chapter 1. Luke begins that book by saying:
Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.
So here we see that the author Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke as a careful, historic account of the life & ministry of Jesus Christ – written for sake of this fellow Theophilus – so that he could be certain of the truth he was taught!
Then after writing this first book, Luke went on to write a second book – again for this same fellow Theophilus as a continuation of that story. Take a look at the opening lines of the book of Acts. It begins like this:
In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven… Acts 1:1-2a
So just from those few opening words, we can see that the book of Acts is very clearly a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. It’s a continuation of the story. And actually, even though the traditional title of the book is “The Acts of the Apostles” – it’s probably more accurate to call it “The continued Acts of Jesus” because it really is a continuation of all that Jesus began to do!
While the stories in the book of Acts certainly feature several of the Apostles, Jesus is the one key figure throughout! It’s all about what Jesus continued to do and teach through the Apostles and through the early church!
So while the Gospels tell us what Jesus began to do and teach – the book of Acts tell us what Jesus continued to do and teach – primarily through the work of the Holy Spirit.
And even beyond the book of Acts, Jesus continues to “do and teach” through the Holy Spirit even today!
While Jesus may not be physically present among us as he was 2000 years ago, He is still very alive and is very much at work in and through our lives – and that’s really what the book of Acts is all about. It’s how Jesus continued to bring about the Kingdom of God – working through the Apostles and all those who would eventually trust in Christ – empowering them by His Holy Spirit – just like what He continues to do even today!
And I think that’s partly why I’m so excited to go through this book with you over the next few months! We might find it difficult to relate to the some of the Gospel stories because we don’t have a physical Jesus walking and talking with us – we can’t watch him walk on water or see him touch the eyes of a blind man. But yet, we can have the exact same experience as those early disciples in Acts!
We can be filled with the Holy Spirit – empowered by God to boldly share about Christ and his kingdom! What Jesus did through those early disciples back then is exactly what he wants to do through us today!
So I’m totally excited to see what we can learn from this book over the next little while – and I trust that God will use this time to shape us and direct us and to show us how we can join Him in what he is already doing in our little town of Penhold!
Acts chapter 1, starting at verse 1:
In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. 3 During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God. Acts 1:1-3
Let’s pause here for a minute. When you read through the resurrection story from the Gospel of Luke, you might conclude that Jesus rose from the grave, appeared to the disciples, and then ascended into heaven all on the same day. We read through Luke 24 on Easter Sunday, and that’s kinda how it all reads. But that account is really just concise summary of what happened over the course of several weeks.
We know that because here in Acts, Luke clarifies that there was 40 days between Christ’s resurrection and his ascension into heaven. And during that time, he appeared to the apostles several times and proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive! It wasn’t just appearing to those guys on the road to Emmaus or to the disciples in the upper room. Jesus appeared to many different people at many different times.
In fact, in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, Paul states that Christ appeared to over 500 people during that time. He writes:
Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.
1 Corinthians 15:3b-8
The point that both Paul and Luke are making here, is that there were many witness who personally saw the resurrected Jesus over a period of many days! It was not just one or two people who imagined seeing Jesus or had a dream that He was alive. But rather, many people saw and talked with him on many occasions – and as Luke says, Jesus proved to them in many ways that He was actually alive!