Thursday, December 2, 2010

Acts: The Continuation of Jesus’ Ministry


I was listening to a lecture on Acts recently and something pretty basic about Luke’s intent clicked for me in a way it hadn’t before. Luke began his second work with these words:

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.” (Acts 1:1-8 ESV)

By saying he had previously written of the things Jesus “began” to do and teach, Luke implies that what he is about to write in the second book will be the things Jesus continued to do and teach. How could this be, however, seeing that Jesus had already ascended into heaven at the end of Luke’s gospel? Luke tells us. Jesus taught the apostles via the Holy Spirit while He was still on Earth (v. 2). He also worked miracles through the Spirit. Now, that same Holy Spirit would be given to the apostles so they could be empowered to spread the news, mission, and kingdom of Christ on the Earth (vs. 4-8). Luke’s point is that Jesus’ teachings and ministry continues through the church.

This ties into Luke’s comments about the kingdom of God. Some may have thought the messianic age was delayed since Jesus had ascended to heaven. After all, the Jews were expecting an earthly kingdom. Luke’s answer is that the messianic age did not end with the ascension of Christ. Jesus is king, and Jesus is reigning even though He is not here in the flesh. How so? Through His church. With the Spirit in us Jesus is present on the Earth, and reigns through us.

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