That's a Promise! ~ Acts 1: 1-11
The "Acts of the Apostles" was very likely written by Luke (the Greek doctor who followed and assisted the Apostle Paul). This is the same Luke who wrote "The Gospel of Luke" – “Acts” is part two. Luke wrote this account, likely in the mid 60's A.D. – given that it ends before giving an account of Paul's death - which probably happened in 67 A.D. in Rome. Luke is, therefore a firsthand, eyewitness to most of the events in Acts.
'Theophilus' (a wealthy Greek believer) is likely Luke's sponsor or patron for ministry. Luke would have been commissioned to write these events to help give a defense for Apostolic authority, historicity, and professional testimony of the church to the Greco/Roman world. Luke's Greek writing is regarded as expert. It is apparent that he was an academic/historian in every respect – noting careful details and credentials.
As you will soon see, I think the better title for this book is "The Acts of the Holy Spirit." Yes, the Apostles are to be respected and regarded for their faith, obedience, and leadership – but none of it was possible without the baptism (anointing) of the Holy Spirit (that Jesus promised in Luke 11, Luke 24, and John 14). God is the central character – He is the leading role.
Beloved, we still live in the Acts (age) of the Holy Spirit (upon very ordinary men/women). God is still moving, anointing, saving, and healing. This book is a story about The Church – our church – the church universal. The book of Acts never ends – it has continued. We all must see our place in this story and commission. We must pick up the same task of the Apostles – where they left off.
Therefore, note the urgency, courage, obedience, and faith displayed by the early church. They are our model – we are to do likewise – we are under the same command, authority, and promise!
Jesus makes clear in these first verses that – they/us needed to 'wait' to ‘receive’ be anointed (baptized) before you/they can do what God was calling you/them to do. This baptism will be the next step (in the redemption plan) in restoring Israel's true kingdom – the people of God – in all the nations!
Anointing before serving God is an Old Testament theme. It was common for prophets and high priests. Usually done via a coronation ceremony by pouring oil on one's head (John used water (repentance) – Jesus uses the Spirit (power)).
'Messiah' literally means 'anointed one with oil.' There were many 'messiahs' in Old Testament – one person (or a small group) who had special anointing/power from God. (David called Saul ‘God’s anointed’). (Also Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, etc.)
Yet – all through the Old Testament, this (little-messiah image) is pointing us forward to a coming BIG Messiah who will pour out/baptize anointing on ALL God's people. This Messiah will establish (get the ball rolling) on the new people of God/Kingdom (a kingdom of priests to God) – that will reclaim the nations that had been disinherited in Deuteronomy 32. Starting first with the tribes of Israel (that had been scattered) – and then the Gentiles.
This is the 'promise' that Jesus speaks of. A coming 'pouring out’ of God's Spirit to inaugurate the new kingdom is noted all through the Old Testament. Jeremiah 31, Isaiah 44:3, 59:21, Zechariah 12:10, Ezekiel 11: 16-17, 36: 22-33, 37, 39:29, and famously (soon to be quoted by Peter in chapter 2) Joel 2:28, "And it shall come to pass in those days, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions."
This is why Jesus says not to leave Jerusalem (the Holy City of the temple). It is from here that the Spirit will flow out to the lost tribes. Not only that – but Jews from all over the Mediterranean were in the city of Jerusalem – it was the hub.
This 'anointing' will not be another - one and done – but a gift for all who follow Yahweh (call on the name of the Lord). This was the prayer of Moses all the way back in Numbers 11:29, "I wish that all the Lord's people were all prophets (anointed) and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!"
Not until Jesus accomplished His ministry could the Spirit be sent in this new, broad, and better way. We needed purification – and atonement. Jesus needed to sit down on His throne before He could send the Spirit! Well…what happens?
The texts says (v.9) that at that moment, the cloud (Shekinah glory) came around Jesus. He ascended into the presence of the Ancient of Days (coming in the clouds of glory) – to 'sit down at the right hand of God in power and authority (Daniel 7: 14, "He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed."
This scene is told in Psalms 110: 1 and Hebrews 1:3, "The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." Peter in Acts 2:33 understands this to be what happened here when he quotes, "Exalted to the right hand of God, Jesus has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear."
You see – the Spirit (the cloud of glory) was said to dwell in the temple over the Ark of the Covenant- but now, the curtain to this place has been torn open and better mediation has been made on our behave. Therefore, our very bodies have become the temple of God – where the Spirit can dwell – if we receive Jesus in faith – as the sacrifice for our sins.
Therefore, our main point today is: We are not able to accomplish God's will on our own. We need the power of God. We need the Holy Spirit! Believers are now promised the SAME anointing (same Spirit) as was on Moses, Sampson, Samuel, David, and Elijah! In a better way – through the purification and atonement of Jesus – the Spirit indwells us and never leaves us! This is why Jesus said, “it is better that I go away so that I can send the Spirit” in John 16:7. The Spirit of Jesus is no longer locked in the space time nature of the flesh, but is alive in Spirit – able to dwell in millions of hearts.
This Spirit gives us the ability to do the task we are assigned. The disciples were still looking for the kingdom to be restored (v.6). Jesus reminds them that there is a part to be played before the kingdom is fully realized – in a better way than they understand! And we get to serve in it! They/we need to "call the people in for the wedding feast" (Matthew 22:3). To witness to the work of Jesus.
The new kingdom has been inaugurated – but now the word must go out. God's people must be brought into the sheepfold. God’s enemies must be brought into submission. The Holy Spirit will be the advocate/helper/power in making that happen. We are not to worry about when this work will be completed. We are simply to work – "witness."
This does not mean 'have it all together, be great at apologetics, have the best outreach team and strategy' – no – this means simply 'go and tell' and let the Spirit do the saving.
Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to empower the church in this saving work. In this ministry of reclaiming the nations for Yahweh – putting everything (enemy) under His feet!
Beloved, I believe that God's kingdom is expanding, and it will not be denied. It may feel like the world is getting darker and the evil one is winning – but NO – God's kingdom continues and will accomplish what it was sent out to do! Through every trial, war, pandemic, and political cycle, the kingdom is expanding - through it! Because of it!
This is why the disciples were rebuked and interrupted by the two angels (v.11). "What are you guys doing? You are going to break your necks, staring up into heaven! Didn't He command you? Let's roll!"
What a word this is for the church. These two angels made up a proper witness. "Don't you worry – He will be back – but don't just stand here – don't worry about God’s business – simply do what He said to do.
I pray God does not find us staring at the clouds, arguing over the carpets, being protective, taking our time, throwing a pity party, watching the news, avoiding our anointing! Has He not given us everything we need? Has He not poured out His Spirit on you? Have you received this gift? Have we waited for His Spirit? His anointing? Or have we gone out in our own power and gifting?
You know, I think a lot of the mess the church has gotten itself into today (and throughout history) was when we confused 'gifting' with 'anointing.' Just because one is gifted in speaking, music, service, kindness, creativity, etc.… does not mean they are anointed by the Spirit of God!
Do you know the power and authority that resides in you? Is it the same power that was with the apostles?! Without His Spirit, you are a ship without a sail (no gifting will make up for it). "Trying to do the Lord's work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you" (Corrie Ten Boom).
Therefore, Pray with me, Holy Spirit, fall on me! Holy Spirit, empty me of self! Holy Spirit, fill me back up with you alone, burn away my sin, speak for me, give me boldness, courage, and power to be about your will for me.
Speak, witness, go boldly, and praise Him for adopting us into such a family. How? Where do you start? First – have you told your spouse what Jesus has done for you? Your kids? Your neighbor? What relationships do you have? Do they know the old, old story? Maybe you feel weak? You don't know what to say? Never fret. The Spirit helps us in our weakness – the Spirit intercedes for us in wordless groans! (Romans 8: 26-27).