Dotsevesky said that the gospels record for us a most beautiful life. The life of Jesus.If that is what the gospels of Matt mark and Luke do for us to portray The Most beautiful life ever lived then Acts of the apostles tell us that his life did not stop but that Jesus kept on teaching and acting in power through His apostles and others who followed Him.The Lord Jesus never faded in power ,in influence.
Why is it that this Life has endured in brightness when others have faded in time to be just a shadow.?
Acts tells us the reason. It is that Jesus continued to teach and to change the lives of men and women even after He has ascended back to His home in heaven.
Acts written by the same author as Luke says “ I have the evidence after careful research from interviewing eye witnesses.vs 2 evidence that I have carefully screened and investigated vs 3.And then cataloged chronologically so that you Theophilus may trust in the reliability of what I have continued to write in this volume called Acts. Vs 4.
.This Acts is a sequel that we had to have.There are predictions and promises which have been made in the gospel “Luke” which have been fulfilled and here is the unfolding of them.
There are three particular fulfilments that the reader ought to be on the look out from the end of the gospel. Vs 46 – vs 49 of Luke 24.
(1) The first is that Christ suffered , died and rose from the dead.vs 46. That is the foundational fulfilment from the gospel of Luke.
(2) Flowing from this is the second prediction. That repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached to all nations.Its redemption to those who believe. Vs 47
(3) and then follows the third that the power for this activity will be provided by the Holy Spirit.
The connection between the end of Luke and the beginning of Acts is thus made clear .
These three facts are not only links but in themselves deserve our undivided attention.They are like three jade pieces on the one pendant when each one on its own is of the greatest worth.
The first jewel is that while suffering and dying is a common occurence of the human condition ,rising from the dead lies in the realm of pure fantasy Whenever we hear of something incredible,we say “who told you? . And then we say “ What proof what evidence do you have.?”
Here in Acts in anticipation of these two questions, there is a one sentence answer
Verse 3 .” Jesus presented himself alive after his sufferings by many proofs.” For the resurrection,(a) Jesus Himself and (b) what he did are the proofs.
Verse 3 b appearing to them during forty days Not just appearing as some kind of shadow or spirit .which fades away as you approach . VERSE 3 b and speaking about the Kingdom of God ,he stayed with them and directed them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for the promise of The Father. Here is the Son risen not the figment of hopeful imagination and saying.’My actual victory through the Father , is foundation for a bigger plan.’ . Lets carry on with the Father’s plan.
After the glorious victory another plan. ?
Even after the resurrection there is a further plan . !
So the first piece of precious Jade is that the suffering death and resurrection of Jesus is true.He has triumphed he has paid sufficiently so death could not hold him. He has paid in full .That makes up the best news There is hope for every believer. .There is a way to beat death . Finally once for all , this powerful enemy has been conquered.. This enemy death which is always hungry for more victims is never satisfied and has ruled supreme. With a 100 per cent success rate death will itself been put down . What good news . Jesus has conquered death.
The second piece of Jade is that as a result of The Death of Jesus and now risen.He has redeemed paid in full for the sins of His people .If he had not paid sufficiently, he would remain dead .The truth of the resurrection is that His people have been redeemed. Luke 1:68 in the gospel ,” For he has visited and redeemed His people .”
The word redemption comes in as a word to make his followers rejoice. What does that word mean ?.
When I was at university we heard a talk by a Christian who had recently gone to visit an african country.We may not realise that in the early nineteen seventies, there were still slave markets operating in parts of Africa and there were about 30,000 slaves sold in markets in Africa per year at that stage. He and others went to the slave market and one of them, shocked by this kind of trade actually bought an african slave only so that he could set him free.Said to the slave . “you are free to go.”
In the Bible that kind of act in setting a slave free is called “redemption”. It means to buy somebody and to set them free. INstead of a slave, to be a free person.
.So not only does God justify the guilty.because of the death of Christ, he gives us “redemption “which means that he sets us free from the ownership and power of sin ,which is like a slave master . We are all like slaves , slave to self and to the power of sin. That does not mean we are bad people in the eyes of the world. We may be respectable and others consider us to be “ good “ We are slaves to selfishness because we fall short of the perfect standard that God wants . God is willing to “ redeem us by the price Jesus paid on the cross .” He had no sin and paid for us . However in hearing this wonderful message we have to make a choice . Are we going to turn around knowing we are slaves to sin ?. That there is darkness and distance between us and the Living God and that Jesus has come and paid the ransom and then offer to set us free ?
(“ for even the son of man came ,not to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many “ Mark 10:45) . We have to be among the “many . When we turn by admitting our unworthiness as sinners ,“My chains fell off my heart was free, I rose went forth and followed thee”.That's freedom and in Romans 6 he will develop that further.The theme of being set free .
This news of Acts which results in spiritual and finally in the renewing of the body as well.Its a complete redemption for now and for ever , when Christ returns and our bodies will have eternity stamped on them. No wonder it says here in verse 8 of chapter 1 Jesus said to them .that the disciples will be his witnesses in Jerusalem,judea, samaria and to the end of the earth.They will carry this news of forgiveness of sins and the resurrected new life .
While Jesus was thinking of the world,his own disciples could not think past their own nation and people. They said to Jesus vs 6 “when will you restore the kingdom to Israel.? When will you make Israel the centre of God’s world. ? You can even beat death .People will flock here. Jerusalem will be the focus of the world.
Jesus replied “ don’t look for national honour but look to be filled with the Sprit to go out to the world..Possessing The Spirit of God does not belong to to a particular deserving nation . Look to be equipped for service ,to go out into the world before you think of honour of any kind.
For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Why this preoccupation with the world. The reason is that “ God so loved The world. Not just one nation. He chose to begin with a nation but the world was always on His heart.His love for the world will mean that he will equip his people to do His work and that is the work of the Spirit.
Therefore the climax of this section is verse 8 and it ends with the
Third piece of Jade. – The Holy Spirit will empower the apostles through The gift of the risen saviour
This enabling is also purposeful. It is the power for witness. To achieve this witness, the apostles will be going further and further out into the world. Today a week after we rejoice over the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord, we start our thinking on the Mission to The World.It is to be captured by our hearts because it is here in Acts that the love of God worked through the Apostles is directed to the world. It comes after God has made the message of witness possible through the resurrection Of Jesus Christ .. He has chosen his apostles to carry it and he has guaranteed its progress by The Work of the Holy Spirit.
Every time I visit Tamworth I am encouraged that outreach to those beyond her borders is evidenced here . With many from China and other nations as well .
Have we captured the essence of the heart of God so as to be obedient through The Holy Spirit to carry on this witness to the ends of the world as captured for us during this period of Easter . Our support for this work goes hand in hand with our own willingness to be personal witnesses to Jesus Christ.