Bible America and World Mission
Acts 1:1-11, 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.”
Thank God for answering all our prayer topics in 2021based on 1 Peter 2:9 and Luke 9:23 through sending disciple candidates and blessing us with the house of prayer and worship. Through these, God helped me to realize how God has been pleased to establish a house of prayer and also to focus on the discipleship ministry. I thought to hold to these verses for another year since they have been pleasing to him. But one sleepless night in December, while I was praying, God opened my heart to know the deeper meaning of these verses summed up in Jesus’ great commission in Acts 1:8, for which our ministry will be focusing on in 2022.
The book of Acts is the sequel to the gospel of Luke, the author of both books. Today’s passage is the introduction of the whole book, in which Jesus’ messianic ministry is transferred to the Apostles through the Holy Spirit. May God grant us the word of God through the help of the Holy Spirit! There are 3 parts.
Receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit (1-5).
Look at verses 1-2, “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.” This is the second book that Luke wrote for Theophilus. “Theophilus” in Greek means “lover of God”, which can be interpreted as a person or people who love God. In the first letter, the Gospel of Luke, he expressed who Jesus is by what he did and taught, revealing that Jesus’ messiahship is not only for the Jews but also for the gentiles. Jesus’ salvation for the lost includes the gentiles based on the Old Testament (Luke 2:32). He also explained that the gospel of Jesus is the work of the Holy Spirit, which continues through the apostles. This is the theme of this book, the extension of Jesus’ work through the Apostles. Most interestingly, no author writes a book without an ending remark except this. It is because the acts of the Holy Spirit do not end with the Apostles but continue through all the believers who obey His world mission command through the help of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Look at verses 3, “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.” The Risen Jesus appeared to many of his disciples and women who were with him before his death. He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, the eleven Apostle, and other disciples. He walked and talked with them in person. It was like having a disciples’ conference for forty days. Why did he stay for a long time after his resurrection? It was to give them the convincing proof of his bodily resurrection. In order to prove that he was not a ghost, Jesus showed even his nail marks and ate food with them. He also explained what he taught them before so that they would be convinced that it was the same Jesus risen from the dead. Showing himself to five hundred brothers, it was too many to deny his resurrection.
During the forty days, what did the Risen Jesus teach? There are a few things Jesus taught. First, Jesus spoke about the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is the focal point of Jesus’ earthly messianic ministry from the beginning. Jesus’ first message was, “The kingdom of God is near! Repent and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:15) Even though Jesus healed the sick and drove out demons, he was inviting people to accept the gospel and be saved so that they may enter into the kingdom of God. Why did Jesus die on the cross, shedding his precious blood and being buried in the tomb for three days before his resurrection? It was because God so loved the sinful world and promised to send the Messiah as a ransom sacrifice for our sins. We were supposed to be punished for our sins but the Promised Messiah, Jesus, took the punishment in our place. Those who believe in God’s promise in Jesus are saved from eternal condemnation to eternal life in the kingdom of God. Even after his resurrection, it was still the same message about the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is where we will be. It is our true hope while on earth. It is the source of our power to overcome the power of death.
If our hope is on earth, we are pitied more than all people, because earthly people do everything to store on earth and enjoy earthly pleasure, while we are living for Christ and his kingdom. We forgive because we are forgiven, while people of the world not forgive but take revenge. We love because we are loved, while people of the world hate each other. The way we live seems to be a losing business to the eyes of earthly people. In the end of life on earth, it will be revealed what a glorious life we will live in the kingdom of God. In addition, we can taste the kingdom of God when we have God as our king. Where God is the King, there is the kingdom of God. Where there is the kingdom of God, there is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The kingdom of God is also in our heart when are ruled by the love of God in Christ. Therefore, we are rewarded abundantly not only in the kingdom of God after death but also on earth with joy, love and peace while living in this troubled world.
Secondly, do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit. 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. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Do not leave Jerusalem? Humanly speaking, Jesus’ command was not reasonable because Jerusalem was the place the religious leaders arrested Jesus, who was tried and tortured horribly, and finally killed him on the cross. It was also the place of their failure. They ran away from the suffering Jesus. Peter denied Jesus three times. Jerusalem was the worst place for them to stay and first place to run away from. Then, why did Jesus want them to stay in Jerusalem? So they could be tortured too? If Jesus was a good psychologist or psychiatrist, he would advise them to get a place they would be find peace and comfort. But Jesus was different. He wanted his disciples receive the power of the Holy Spirit. He wanted them experience the fulfillment of his promise, overcoming circumstances. He wanted them to face the fear of death by faith in Jesus’ promise. Jesus wanted them to overcome the sense of failure through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Each one of us also has a place like Jerusalem, where we have failed. It may be where we want to run away from. It can be where we easily fall into fear or sin or a problem we do not want to face. That is the place Jesus wants us to challenge and overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit! Nothing is impossible with God. Is anything too hard for the Lord? Are you still living in the sense of failure or fear or even sin? Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us! Moreover, he promised to give his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit. I pray that each one of us challenge our Jerusalem-like issue and overcome in 2022 through the power of the Holy Spirit and receive his gift. Amen!
Be My Witnesses in Jerusalem and to the Ends of the Earth (6-8)
But what was the reaction of the disciples? Look at verse 6, “Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’” The disciples could not understand what Jesus was talking about. When Jesus was teaching about the kingdom of God and asking them to stay in Jerusalem, they thought that Jesus would restore the kingdom to Israel, which is the glorious kingdom of David. The people of Israel believed that their Messiah would restore the kingdom of Israel on earth. This is what a lot of unbelieving Jews are still waiting for even today. The disciples asked Jesus a question with their human hope on earth.
Jesus answered them with an impossible command. Look at verses 7-8. “He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.” Jesus answered that it was not for them to know the times and dates of the end. But they have things to do. They have to be witnesses of Jesus when the Holy Spirit comes on them. A witness is the one who testifies exactly to what he saw and experienced, not adding or subtracting. Therefore, the disciples should testify how they had experienced Jesus; how he lived, died and rose again.
But Jesus’ command seems impossible based on the current condition of the disciples. At this moment, the disciples had no idea about God’s kingdom but only Israel’s kingdom. There were too many obstacles. In order to be a witness in Jerusalem, they really needed to overcome the fear of death and language problem. They have to overcome their human prejudice and nationalistic Judaism. It is a great work of God if they could stay in Jerusalem for a few days, not to mention being a witness in Judea. Jesus’ command seems too big for them to think about. They have no idea or heart for the world. It might be enough to deal with their strategy to survive in Jerusalem. Our list can go on how and why the disciples are not ready to hear Jesus’ world mission command right now.
Then, why did Jesus give this command? God’s command always comes with a promise. Jesus promised to give power through the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew that they had no power to fulfill his world mission command all by themselves, so he would give them the power from above. The power comes when they receive the Holy Spirit. Then, how can we receive the Holy Spirit? According to Acts 2:38, we receive forgiveness of our sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, when we repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. When we truly regret what we have done wrong and accept that Jesus died on the cross, taking the punishment for my wrong doings, something happens in our hearts. We understand that our sins are forgiven by God and God accepts us into his kingdom. Then, the Holy Spirit comes. This is born of water and the Spirit. The Spirit is like the wind, invisible but has power to change the person inside out in different speed and strength in each person. Therefore, the gospel of Jesus gives a person humility of himself and confidence in the power of God. Yet this process is not only at the time of being born again but also during the sanctification process. With growing in the humility of Jesus and confidence in God’s grace like Paul in 1 Co 15:10, we can be witnesses of Jesus Christ beginning from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
Even though the disciples were not ready, Jesus commissioned them with the world mission command. It was because Jesus wanted them to expand their hearts from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Most of all, it is God’s desire to save everyone through the Jews who have been called to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation for all nations. It is God’s heart for the whole world. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Therefore, he wants to send his disciples to witness God’s love through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Amen!
When we look at the people of the world, there are so many people who did not hear the gospel of Jesus and perish now, especially great number of people in Middle Eastern countries and Asia. According to the Joshua Project organization, about 42% of world population is unreached, most of which are located in Middle East and Asia. When I think about this, what I am doing here where the gospel message is overflowing? I should go out to them now. But Jesus commanded us to start in Jerusalem. So we need to start from our Jerusalem, DuPage, and then America. There are many who need to hear the gospel and be raised to be disciples who can go out from America. In fact, God has been sending people from unreached countries; Middle East and Asian countries to America, here in DuPage. We can preach the gospel to them at COD and even on the street. If we raise them to be disciples, God can certainly use them as his witnesses to reach out to their own with the gospel. May God bless each one of us to receive the power of the Holy Spirit and be a witness starting in DuPage area, our Jerusalem, America, and to the ends of the earth. Amen!
I Will Be Back (9-11).
After Jesus gave his disciples this great commission, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. Why did Jesus leave them alone when they needed him the most? It was for the good because the Holy Spirit cannot come unless he goes away. (John 16:7) Jesus is limited with his physical body, but the Holy Spirit can dwell in anyone in anytime and be a wonderful counselor who can teach us what to say and how to say the gospel of Jesus.
What was the response of the disciples? Look at verses 10-11. “They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “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.” They did not know what to do without Jesus. The disciples did not know what to do with Jesus’ great commission. Maybe they felt lost. But God sent two messengers to help them to remember that Jesus will come back just as they saw. When Jesus comes back, he will not come as a gentle and lowly shepherd but as the Judge of the living and the dead with great power and glory. They should also prepare for his second coming. Likewise, we should not be worrying about the end times, but be prepared ourselves for the Second coming of Jesus Christ, who is coming as the final Judge with great power and glory! Amen!
Through today’s passage, we learned that the risen Jesus gave his disciples many convincing proves of his resurrection and commanded them to stay in Jerusalem with the promise of the Holy Spirit. Though Jesus gave his great commission to his unprepared disciples, but when the Holy Spirit comes on them, they will be powerful witnesses of Jesus’ death and resurrection from Jerusalem, to all Judea, and to the ends of the earth. May God help us to stay in our Jerusalem until we receive the Holy Spirit and be powerful witnesses of Jesus’ death and resurrection beginning from DuPage to the ends of the earth! Amen!