Scripture – Acts 1:1-11 (ESV)
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Engaging the Word
The book of Acts is written by Luke, the physician, who also wrote the book of Luke preceding this book. These two books overlap one another so it is easy to see how similar events could be reported in both books. It is similar to the way in which TV series often recap a previous event because it relates specifically to what is about to be addressed in the series.
In Luke 24:45 it says
“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Then once again there is a recap in Acts 1:8 where our Lord says, “You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you (i.e. the Holy Spirit), but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Acts 1:8 says that they shall receive power from the Holy Spirit and shall be witnesses. Luke 24:48-49 says that they shall be witnesses and must wait for to be clothed with power from on high. Notice that in Acts 1:8 receiving power is what precedes and leads to being witnesses for Christ. And in Luke 24:48-49 they are to be witnesses but power from on high is so crucial they must wait for it in the city before they begin to launch out to the nations from Jerusalem.
So here is the main point that I think Jesus and Luke are teaching us: Special power is essential for an expanding witness to Christ. Here in this passage we see that our Lord promises his disciples that if they wait in Jerusalem that they will be baptized not with water as John had baptized them but rather with the Holy Spirit. You see our Lord knew what the disciples faced in the days to come and he knew that not only could they not face it alone but that if they were to see the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their midst that they would need a special power from on high that only He could give. You see too often in our own zeal to want to do amazing things for God and more importantly amazing things for our own purpose , we often lead the way in our spiritual walk expecting God to do amazing miracles in our own timing and our own purpose. Here in this passage is a key passage that too often we forget and fail to understand in an zeal to get things done. We see the power of God revealed in a might way and we figure that if He did it through them then surely if we force his hand He will do it through us. Yet, if we pay attention here in this passage we see in verse 4 that the disciples were called to wait for the promise of the Father. In Isaiah 40:29 we are told “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Within this scripture we see that our Lord gives strength to the weary and that it is in waiting upon our Lord that we will renew our strength. It is not in setting a new course, it is not in developing new programs, it is not in going back to the old ways in which we did things, rather it is waiting upon our Lord that we will renew our strength and more importantly soar on wings like eagles. I love this scripture out of Isaiah because not only does it teach us to wait upon the Lord but importantly it teaches us the perspective that waiting will provide. Too often in our spiritual lives and in our churches we set a course based upon that which we have been taught from the past. The way we read the Bible, the way we sing our songs, they way we run our church boards. This is not to say that these ways are wrong however if we wait upon our Lord in all things, we will see new perspectives that are beyond our own understandings. Soaring like an eagle on the thermals of this earth provide perspective that none of us can ever obtain by trusting in the thermals of Holy Spirit upon our lives. We as baby eagles could sit in our nests all our lives expecting God to feed us like little chicklets in the nest and unfortunately too often this is the perspective that too many Christians take. It is only by trusting and waiting upon our Lord in all his ways that we will ever experience the thermals of the Holy Spirit upon our lives.
Power Is Essential
So why is it necessary to experience the thermals of the Holy Spirit upon our lives. The reason is, the power of the Holy Spirit is essential for witness is because our Lord in both of these contexts knew that his disciples could not undertake what they were about to face. In both cases within these text our Lord was telling his disciples that He was about to send beyond that of what they knew. That they were to go as it says in Luke 24:47, to all the nations beyond Jerusalem. Here in Acts 1:8, our Lord calls them to be witness in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the end of the earth. Jesus is not talking here of an occasional word of witness in our same circle of culture. He’s talking about ever-expanding efforts to penetrate more and more of Satan’s strongholds of unbelief. That’s why it is critical that special power is essential for an expanding witness to Christ.
The reason I say special power is essential is that it takes power just to become a Christian. But it takes another dimension of power to carry out an expanding witness to Christ. The disciples were not only about to face the rest of the world, but they were about to face the trials that came with the world around them. Many of the followers of our Lord were to persecuted and killed in the days to come. Many of them would go beyond what they were in life to become something completely new in Christ. Whether we are talking about Peter from fisherman to head of the church, to Saul/Paul from persecutor to greatest evangelist of all time, to John caretaker of Mary to prophesier of end times. These individuals and the church were about to become something that was beyond their own abilities only by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In Prayer and Worship
These disciples were already Christians before they received this power that Jesus was promising here. In fact, they were remarkably lively Christians before this special power fell upon them at Pentecost and then fell upon them repeatedly through the book of Acts. In Luke 24:50-53. “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them he parted from them. And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.” So what were the disciples doing while they waited to receive the special power of the Holy Spirit? Two things: Luke 24 tells us they were continually in the temple worshipping God with great joy; and Acts 1:13-14 tells us they met in an upper room and devoted themselves to prayer.
Now all of that (prayer and great joy and blessing God) is evidence of God’s power. Although the disciples were stumped at times staring into the sky, they were in prayer and worshiping God. These are things that do not happen without the work of God’s power. Therefore, it is easy to conclude that to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, that prayer and worship are critical to live, without these the hand of God cannot be experienced.
So once again it is critical to note in this passage this morning that special power is essential for an expanding with Christ into areas beyond our own control or capabilities.
What the Power of the Holy Spirit Reveal
So let’s take the remaining time today to talk about, why do we need this power? What would our witness look like if it came? What we would experience if we experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit upon our lives? This morning, whether you think you need it or not, our Lord says in his Word that you need it. Why do you need it? Well in order for us to experience the full promise and purpose of our Lord, his promise and purpose can only be realized in the receiving of this gift. Imagine what Christianity would be like today if the disciples decided after our Lord went into heaven, well its time to head back to our families. Peter could have returned back to his family. John could have gone home to take care of his inherited Godly mother. However each of these disciples and followers of our Lord stayed to receive the Holy Spirit because they had been changed by the hand of God. So what will we experience if we are baptized by the Holy Spirit.
One of the first things that you and I will experience when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit is a “full conviction”.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:5 Paul says, “Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”
When we are baptized in the Holy Spirit and receive that special power from on high the effect is a full certainty of confidence and conviction about Christ and the reality of his life and work. This power will not only carry each of us through moments of trial like that of what the disciples had to face, but also carry you before emperors, men of importance so that the light of Jesus may shine. It will carry us to do and say things that we could not on our own.
God can use your witness to win people to him even when you lack this special power however when you and I experience the power of the Holy Spirit upon our lives, we carried by more than our own strength.
Rhinehod Bonke Illustration
First of all, then, we need power because we need deep and confident conviction when we speak for Christ. This comes when the power of the Holy Spirit falls on us and clothes us with reassuring strength.