Key Verse: 1:8
“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.”
1. Read verses 1-2. What did the author Luke write about in his first
book? (Luke's Gospel)
2. Read verse 3. What did Jesus do during the 40 days between his
resurrection and his ascension? Why did he want to prove that he
was alive? What did he speak about? (Mk 1:15) What does it mean?
3. Read verses 4-6. What was his disciples' idea about the kingdom? What
was Jesus' command? (4) What did he promise? Why did they need the
4. Read verses 7-8. What did Jesus teach them about God's plans? What is
his world mission imperative? What can we learn here about the faith
of the Risen Jesus? About his concern for all the people of the world?
5. What does it mean to be a witness? What was involved in being a
witness in Jerusalem? In Judea and Samaria? To the ends of the
earth? How can we be Jesus' witnesses?
6. Read verses 9-11. What did Jesus do next? Why did he leave them
instead of staying to help them? (Jn 15:26,27; 16:7) Why was it
necessary for him to return to the Father? How did the disciples
react to his ascension? What hope was planted in their hearts?
7. Read verses 12-14. What did the disciples pray about? Read verses
15-26. What problem needed solving? Why? How did they solve it? What
can we learn about unity? Prayer? About God and his plans and his
way of working?
The Acts of the Apostles is the second book of St. Luke, the
evangelist and historian. In Luke's Gospel, he recorded mainly who Jesus
was and what Jesus did. Acts was written as a sequel to the gospel story,
to tell how Jesus' work was carried out, in and through his witnesses,
and how the Christian church was born and how it spread. It spread first
to Jerusalem (1:1-8:1a), next to all Judea and Samaria (8:1b-9:31),
and finally, to the ends of the earth (9:32-28:31). Though the book is
called "The Acts of the Apostles," it does not give us an exhaustive
account of the acts of all the apostles; apart from Paul, only three
apostles are mentioned. The book of Acts regards two or three persons
who remained as witnesses to Jesus' death and resurrection to the end
as main characters in the work and history of God.
Chapters 1 and 2 mainly speak of how the Christian church was born.
Today's passage, chapter 1, speaks of what the main purpose of the
Christian church is. In this chapter we learn the true concept of the
First, you will be my witnesses (1-8). Look at verses 1-2. "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." "My former book"
refers to Luke's Gospel. The recipient of both Luke's Gospel and the
Acts of the Apostles is Theophilus. In Luke 1:3, Luke calls him "most
excellent Theophilus." We are not sure who Theophilus was. However, we
can deduce that Acts was written to defend Christianity and to persuade a
government official not to persecute Christians. As we know well, to be a
Christian in those days was very dangerous. Luke may have been addressing
all Christians as "Theophilus," which in Greek meant, "lover of God."
During the forty days after his resurrection, Jesus gave his
disciples many convincing proofs that he had risen from the dead and was
alive. We see that not only is Jesus alive, but also his influence is
still alive in the world. In history, most people who studied the Bible
realized that Jesus was truly the Son of God, and they were converted
to Christianity; they stood amazed and fascinated. They entered a new
world and lived a glorious life in Jesus.
Look at verse 3b. "He appeared to them over a period of forty days
and spoke about the kingdom of God." During these forty days after his
resurrection, time-wise Jesus was greatly limited. He must have had many
things to say. But he spoke to his disciples mainly about the kingdom
of God. Jesus began his gospel ministry with the words, "The kingdom of
God is near" (Mk 1:15). After his resurrection, he mainly spoke about the
kingdom of God also. Here we learn that the Christian church is founded
on the kingdom of God. We must speak about the kingdom of God when we
share the gospel of Jesus, even though people seem to be interested only
in the world.
Look at verses 4-5. "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.'" The Risen Christ urged his people to wait for the baptism of
the Holy Spirit. The people of Jesus' time did not know what to do with
their sin problem. John's baptism with water did not change them. They
needed the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Then and now, most people live by
their willpower or smart minds. But soon they experience that they cannot
control their emotional feelings and sinful nature with their willpower
or smart minds. Whether they admit it or not, they are not ruled by
their willpower but by the spirit in them. Those who are controlled by
evil spirits cannot do what they really want to do; they do only what
they really don't want to do. Evil spirits make man say all the time,
"I didn't mean to do it!" On the other hand, those who are ruled by the
Holy Spirit are freed from the grip of sinful desires and can long for the
holiness of God and experience the unutterable joy of heaven. The fruit
of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, and so on (Gal 5:22). Living
in this troubled world, we really want peace and joy. Therefore, the
first thing we must seek is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In the book
of Acts, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God; at the same time he is
the Spirit of the Risen Christ. When we have faith in the Risen Christ,
we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
How did the disciples respond to Jesus' teaching? Look at verse 6.
"So when they met together, they asked him, 'Lord, are you at this
time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?'" Their question revealed
their hidden problem. The disciples were still Judaistic. In history,
the Jews had had their day of independence, but subsequently they had
become subject to many nations. So they began to look forward to an
earthly messianic kingdom they thought God would establish by breaking
directly into human history through his promised Messiah. This was the
Judaistic concept of the kingdom of God in general. The disciples were
still bound by this Judaistic utopian dream and they did not have the
slightest idea about the kingdom of God.
Jesus knew that their concept of "the kingdom of Israel" was earthly.
But he did not erase this concept. Rather, Jesus turned their concept
into "the kingdom of God." At the same time, he commanded them to be
his witnesses. Look at verse 8. "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." This is the
world mission command of the Risen Christ. Here we learn several things.
Firstly, the world mission command restores man's mission. After
God made the world and man, he blessed man and said to them, "Be fruitful
and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish
of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that
moves on the ground" (Ge 1:28). God made man to be fruitful and to be
the ruler of the world. This means that man cannot be happy by satisfying
his petty desires, because man is made in the image of God, to be a kind
of ruler. Man must have God's vision. Man must have God's mission.
Secondly, the world mission command inspires us with the secret of
success. To the disciples, the world mission command may have sounded
unrealistic. At that time, the disciples had to establish their future
security. If they were to obey his world mission command, they would
have to sacrifice their future security. In fact, without sacrifice and
venture, nothing happens. For instance, after World War II, Japan was
literally desolate. In the midst of misfortune, many Japanese women,
mostly from noble families, gave up their education and engaged in world
diplomacy. Many of them sacrificed their marriage and youth for the sake
of their country. As a result, they could gain the favor of diplomats
at the U.N. Assembly. Following this, they seized the opportunity and
extended Japan Airlines routes to every corner of the world to pioneer
international markets. In the course of time, they restored their nation
and it became rich. On the other hand, the United Kingdom adopted a
welfare policy for her nation. For the time being, the English enjoyed
their wealth in a welfare society. But after 20 years, their nation was
reduced to a third class nation economically. The secret of success is
sacrifice and venture with a worldwide vision.
Thirdly, the faith of the Risen Christ. At that time, the
disciples were weary and tired. They were fearful of everything after
the crucifixion of Jesus. In spite of themselves, the Risen Jesus
gave them the world mission command to evangelize the whole world. To
them, it was an impossible task. But the Risen Christ had faith in
them, that they would be witnesses of his death and resurrection to
the whole world. They were only a handful of very ordinary Galilean
fishermen. At that time, they were nobodies in the world. But the Risen
Jesus believed that they would be his witnesses--beginning in Jerusalem,
and in all Judea and Samaria, and finally, to the ends of the earth.
The Risen Jesus saw them as commanding officers who would conquer the
whole world. The Risen Jesus has faith in us, too.
Fourthly, the world mission command reveals God's broken shepherd
heart for the perishing world. God had decided to accomplish world
salvation work. At that time, the world was in the darkest darkness. Men
treated women like slaves. When the Savior of the world came and healed
the sick and preached the good news of the kingdom of God, evil men
arrested him and nailed him to a cross. But the Risen Jesus wanted to
spread the good news of the kingdom of God to the whole world through
his witnesses, in order to save all men from their sins and bring them
back to his kingdom. The world mission command is the best expression
of God's broken shepherd heart.
When the Risen Christ gave his disciples the world mission command,
he wanted them to be his witnesses. A witness is a person who sees a
certain thing and says nothing but the truth about it. When the Risen
Christ told his disciples, "You will be my witnesses," he hoped that
they would be witnesses to his death and resurrection to the people of
the world. At that time it was not easy for anyone to be a witness of
Jesus, for to do so was an act of martyrdom. This is the reason the
word "witness" has in it the meaning of "martyrdom." At that time,
it seemed that the world mission command would not work. The disciples
were too weak and fearful to be his witnesses. The Apostle John looked
too delicate and sensitive to be his witness. But he became a witness of
Jesus who was slain for the sin of the world. He says in Revelation 1:9,
"I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and
patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos
because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus."
How could they be his witnesses? It was possible for them when they
received the Holy Spirit. In John 14:16 Jesus calls the Holy Spirit
"another Counselor." The King James Version puts this as "another
Comforter." The Holy Spirit is the one who fills men with courage and
strength; evil spirits make men utterly powerless. When the disciples
received the Holy Spirit, they could be his witnesses to the ends of
the earth. Here we learn that the Christian church is a fellowship of
ordinary people who become witnesses to Jesus' death and resurrection
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Second, the glorious ascension of the Risen Christ (9-11). The Risen
Christ gave his disciples the world mission command. Then what did he
do? He ascended into heaven. Look at verse 9. "After he said this, he was
taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight."
How did the disciples react to his ascension? They were looking
intently up into the sky as he was going (10). They became absent-minded.
Then, two angels of God came and rebuked them, saying in verse 11, "Men
of Galilee, 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."
Why was it necessary for the Risen Christ to ascend into heaven? It
was necessary so that his disciples might be independent workers led by
the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:12; 15:26,27; 16:7). It was necessary to prove that
Jesus had returned to his glorious kingdom. Jesus is the only person in
history who knew where he came from and where he was going. Jesus came
from the Father in heaven, and he was going back to the Father in heaven
(Jn 16:28). Jesus came from the Father in heaven in order to show us
the way to the Father in heaven (Jn 14:6). After showing us the way to
the Father in heaven, he returned to the Father in heaven.
The ascension of the Risen Christ was also necessary because
it gives us the hope of the second coming of Jesus. These days, many
historians say that history is going nowhere. They think that history is
a haphazard conglomeration of chance events which are going nowhere. But
this is not true. According to the Bible, the whole creation is moving
toward the consummation of history--the second coming of Jesus Christ. As
he promised, Jesus will indeed come in his Father's glory with his holy
angels as the Judge, King of kings and Lord of lords. When we have faith
in the second coming of Jesus, we can be his witnesses. When we have faith
in the second coming of Jesus, we can truly be holy pilgrims on earth.
Third, they joined together in prayer (12-26). After the ascension, they
returned to Jerusalem and stayed in an upstairs room. "Those present were
Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew;
James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James"
(13b). They were the future commanding officers of the world salvation
work. There were several women there who were supporters in the spiritual
warfare. What did they do at the beginning? They all joined together
constantly in prayer. To them, prayer was the most potent weapon. In
the past, the disciples were too selfish to get together. Peter and
Matthew were there all the time around Jesus. But they could never be
friends. However, after the ascension of Jesus, they got together under
the command of Jesus. Thus they made a spiritual vessel which God could
use in his spiritual warfare for world salvation work. In this way, the
church of Christ was formed, and the church of Christ was characterized
to be a fellowship of prayer under his world mission command.
But there was a serious problem for them. It was the problem of Judas
Iscariot, who had betrayed Jesus. Because of his betrayal and suicide,
they were deeply wounded. They needed healing from Judas' betrayal. So
Peter stood up among the believers and explained that Judas' betrayal
was to fulfill the Scripture (16,17). Verse 18 speaks of the fate of the
betrayer: "He fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines
spilled out." In verses 20-22 Peter urged them to choose one to replace
Judas in his place of apostleship, to be one of the witnesses of Jesus'
death and resurrection. Matthias was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot,
the betrayer. In this way, they restored their spiritual vessel.
In today's passage we learn that the world mission command of Jesus
is the best expression of God's broken shepherd heart. God wants to save
all people of the world from their sins, with no one missing. We also
learn that the Christian church is a fellowship of witnesses to Jesus'
death and resurrection. May God help us to be his witnesses to the ends
of the earth.