Today we are starting our blog journey through the book of Acts, looking in particular at issues of discipleship, mission, and spiritual formation.
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:1-11
The popular conclusion of any good fishing story is to exaggerate the size of the catch. We often end by saying, “It was this big!” The fisherman can get away with it, because there is very little proof of the fish’s size, because as all those stories go, the fish gets away in the end. If we had the proof, we wouldn’t need the story. Acts tells us at the very beginning that Jesus provided convincing proof of his resurrection. Interestingly, Luke (the author) doesn’t dive into these here, but rather serves it as a platform for the story. The proof that the early church, new converts, and any future followers will need lies within the power of God’s people and his Spirit presiding among them. Does the church have exclusive rights to God’s power or presence? No! But they should be seen as a living witness and testimony to the story that God is telling through salvation in Jesus. This also will not (as we will see in just a few chapters) mean that the church is above reproach, cannot get it wrong, exercise poor judgment, use power incorrectly or is suddenly without sin. What Luke is trying to do, as a foundation for what is to come, is to tie not only the original Jesus story (his Gospel account) to the life of the early apostles, but in essence to the rest of church history. Your story, our story, and our future, lie here in this movement of Jesus shaped people.
Luke’s book begins with intention: The message that started with Jesus will carry forward through his church and by his Spirit, of this we can be assured. The rest of what unfolds will be a story about God’s faithfulness to his mission and his people, join me in exploring the journey.