Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

01/10/16 Sermon - You Will Be My Witnesses

“You Will Be My Witnesses”

Acts 1:1-11

 

I have chosen the Book of Acts for us to study as we begin the New Year. We spent time last year, in the New Testament, looking at the Gospel of Mark and reading details about Jesus’s three year ministry, crucifixion and resurrection. I thought it would make sense to continue with his ascension and then what the disciples did next.

The Book of Acts’ complete title is “The Acts of the Apostles” which better describes the purpose of the book. The author Luke, wrote one letter, with two parts. The first part of his letter is known as the Gospel of Luke. Luke begins his letter explaining why he was writing to his patron, Theophilus, a Roman official. Luke was grateful that Theophilus had provided the money needed to see that his writings were copied and distributed. He also wanted to make sure Theophilus knew the truth about Jesus, because there were many false reports of Jesus being distributed. Let me read Luke’s explanation for writing to Theophilus from

Luke 1:1-4 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us,  just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.  With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,  so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

The book of Acts is the second volume of Luke’s account. Remember, Luke was writing on a scroll, and just like there is a limit to how much information can be placed on a DVD, only so much could be placed on one scroll. Interestingly enough, Luke’s writings, the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, make up 1/4 of the entire New Testament.

Luke displays his superb ability to put down in words the transformation of the disciples, from men who didn’t understand much of what Jesus said while He was with them, to leaders, then martyrs, for the first Christian church.

By studying the book of Acts, we will be able to understand the process the early church went through from the first disciples of Jesus, to the apostles who wrote letters to the early churches known as the Epistles.

Part of this transition, is how the gospel went from that group of Jewish men and their context, to an acceptance by everyone, which not only embraced the Gentiles, but was eventually taken over by the Gentiles.

You will notice the Book of Acts begins in Jerusalem with a small group of Jewish followers and ends in Rome with the development of a number of Gentile churches and a predominantly Gentile Christian community.

In the Book of Acts we will discover three types of transitions that took place.

First, geographically, from Jerusalem to Rome, second, theologically, from Israel to the church and third, racially from Jew to Gentiles.

It is in the Book of Acts we see the beginning of the demonstration of the power of God at work through the Holy Spirit, at Pentecost and how it is continuing until Jesus returns. And as we read through the Book of Acts we will see the fulfillments of Jesus’ promises to the disciples concerning the Holy Spirit, and how the Spirit will be the one who will assist the disciples, and us, to do the things God has commanded us to do.

As we study the Book of Acts we will begin to understand how it has also become the battleground for evangelical Christians today. For those Christians who call themselves “charismatic” the Book of Acts is their textbook, while those Christians who would call themselves anti-charismatic minimize the Book of Acts as merely a transitional text.

I will leave that topic up to you to decide.

Upon the overview of what we will be studying, we begin today with the first 11 verses of Acts chapter 1.

Luke begins with a synopsis of what he had already written.

After Jesus had risen from the dead, He showed himself to his disciples, and spent the next forty days, hanging out with them. And during that time Jesus spoke to them about the kingdom of God. A topic we learned from the book of Mark that the disciples did not fully understand. Jesus had already told them the Kingdom of God was at hand. And by spending time describing what the Kingdom of God was really like, Jesus would help them be able to live it out once He was gone.

Luke points out one specific occasion Jesus shared with his disciples. They were to wait in Jerusalem for the gift the Father had promised them, the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The disciples were still in the dark, because they continued to ask if this would be the time Jesus would restore the kingdom to Israel.

There are some things that are so deeply ingrained in us, that are difficult for us to let go and let God.

For the disciples it was the idea that the Messiah was going to restore the kingdom of Israel, and for the Jews that meant they would be in power, not Rome.

But for God, restoration meant anyone who acknowledged their disobedience to God was given the power to overcome evil and become a child of the King.

We need to recognize the significance of that statement for a Jewish person in the first century. As Christians in the 21st Century, the idea of everyone being able to be a child of God is common place. For a Jewish person in the 1st Century the idea was blasphemous! Only the Jewish people were God’s chosen people, the Gentiles were heathens and outside the realm of salvation.

Jesus began his explanation to the disciples, in verses 7 & 8, that it was not for anyone but the Father to know when He would be returning. In the meantime, individually they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came to them, and they would be His witness.

Then notice where Jesus says they will be witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Verse 8b.

After saying this sentence, he was taken up, into the clouds. Everyone there looked intently “up” until two men dressed in white stood beside them and asked them why they were looking up into the sky, and proclaimed that the same Jesus would come back, in the same way He left, in glory.

Okay, believers. Where does that leave us today?

I don’t think we are that different from the disciples. Rather than take Jesus at His word, we speculate and anticipate. When Jesus clearly states, It is not for us to know when the Father has chosen for Jesus to return. It is for us, however, to receive power from the Holy Spirit and with that power we will be God’s witnesses, in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and in fact, to the ends of the earth.

Did you catch all of the steps Jesus stated? So often I think Christians think they are supposed to be God’s witnesses on their own power, rather than relying on the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told His disciples to wait, until they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and once they had this gift, they would be witnesses.

So what do you think? If you are like me, you may have some questions. Does anyone have a question or two?

I’ve been thinking about this passage for over a week and I have come up with a few questions, I’d like to share.

1)      Today, do we have to wait? I know the Holy Spirit is here, but do I need to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, like I was baptized with water, for the Holy Spirit to be in me?

2)      Let’s say I figure out the answer to question number one, I have the Holy Spirit, and I have become a witness, does that mean I’m required to witness. Becoming a witness, is a noun, being a witness, is a verb, that means I have to do something. Exactly what am I supposed to do?

3)      Whether I am a witness or I am called to witness, exactly where is, “the end of the earth”?

Today I am going to leave you with more questions than answers. I have no doubt that as we continue in our study of the Book of Acts, my questions will be answered, and I may just come up with more questions. I encourage you to do the same.

There is one thing in today’s Scripture that is not questioned.

For those of us who believe and call ourselves a disciple of Christ, we will be His witnesses. It is up to us to decide, what type of witness we will be.  

 

Let’s pray.