Monday, November 21, 2011

Acts Chapter One: The Most Grieving Distinction Between 1st Century and 21st Century Disciples of Jesus Christ

Our church has small groups that meet during the week for fellowship, worship, and accountability.  We are currently reading the book of Acts as part of our fellowship and worship focus.  This is giving us a great opportunity to meet with the Lord in His Word on our own and then come together and hear how the Holy Spirit spoke with each of us during the week.  We are currently doing one chapter per week.  I'm willing to share some of my thoughts on Acts chapter one.

I often wonder what Jesus was teaching the 1st century disciples about the Kingdom of God in Acts 1:3?  I wonder because later in Acts 1:4-8, it shows how the witnesses were ready to believe the gospel but were not able to apprehend the full scope of the mission.  They still expected that Jesus would now establish the kingdom that was promised to the Jews in the Old Covenant.  (Which, by the way, will still happen according to Acts 1:7)  So, even after 40 days in the presence of the resurrected Christ, they could not understand the mission?  I am persuaded to think that this ignorance on behalf of these disciples shows how they still walked in the darkness of their own understanding because the Holy Spirit had not yet descended upon them.

I've always read Acts 1:7-8 with Jesus having a tender and patient tone.  In verse 7, Jesus reveals to the disciples that God knows the beginning to the end and that He is the keeper of secret things.  (Proverbs 25:2)  I think that God's reason for gradual revelation is His way to give opportunity to grow weak faith in His children.  (Colossians 1:25-27)

Jesus knows that he must ascend to heaven so that the Holy Spirit can come for their own benefit.  (John 16:7)  He understands their present ignorance but he also knows that the problem will soon be resolved because once Jesus goes up, the Holy Spirit comes down.  

The disciples do the best that they can without the Holy Spirit.  They know that they need to replace Judas and they use scripture as a guide.  (Acts 1:16, Acts 1:20)  They end up narrowing the field of candidates based upon important criteria such as being a follower of Jesus Christ from the time of John's baptism as well as being a witness to the resurrection of the risen Lord.  However, after all of that, the disciples draw lots to leave it all in God's hands.  Since apostles are "chosen" ones, leaving it in God's hands was the way to go.  Incidentally, this is the last time we read of the disciples using lots to determine God's will because once the Holy Spirit descended, knowing His will is sought through prayer because He dwells within us.

My biggest take away from this chapter of Acts concerning the disciples is that, despite being actual witnesses to the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ and despite being taught by Him about kingdom things for at least forty days before ascending into heaven, their presupposition of what the coming of Messiah meant (which was to establish God's kingdom here on earth) kept getting in the way with the glorious new message of the Gospel and Messiah's mission in His first advent which is to save those that are lost (Luke 19:10.)  Those disciples understood and believed that Messiah had come in the flesh but, without the Holy Spirit, they could not grasp the idea that God's mercy and redemption through Messiah was only at its beginning stages.  However, by and through the Holy Spirit, the disciples were able to grasp the fullness of the gospel and began to work for Him bringing the news of God's mercy to the entire world.  

The most grieving distinction between 1st century disciples and 21st century disciples is that the 1st century disciples were quick to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ but slow to comprehend the fullness of it while 21st century disciples are quick to comprehend the gospel of Jesus Christ but slow to believe it.

Faith is an action word and belief is something you not only say but do as well.  There are always evidences of belief to be seen by yourself and others.  (James 2:18)  I encourage you to examine yourself just as it says to do in 2 Corinthians 13:5.  Here are a few soul searching items to consider in your self examination:
  1. Are you in tune with the things of the Spirit or are you burdened by the things of the world?  (Colossians 3:2)
  2. Does your daily character resonate with the fullness of the fruit of the Spirit?  (Galatians 5:22-23)
  3. Do you live your life in such a way that it shows that you long for Christ to return?  (Revelation 22:20)
The One who calls you is true and He says, "Behold I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be."  (Revelation 22:12)

"Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus."  (Revelation 22:20)

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