Message – The Book of Acts: Ministry WITH the Holy Spirit
Podcast: Download (Duration: 1:12:05 — 121.3MB)
Subscribe: Google Podcasts | Spotify | RSS
The Book of Acts: Ministry WITH the Holy Spirit
As we ended a year of teaching on ‘Maintaining the Hope of His Return’ [See –Evaluating personal Roadblocks to Spiritual Growth & A Passion that leads to Purity] and thereby our complete conformity to His likeness. Then over the past few weeks we’ve transitioned to focus on the Holy Spirit, Who has been given to us, to help us remain focused upon that very hope.
After working through John 12-15, where Jesus was preparing His disciples for His upcoming crucifixion, and the coming of the Holy Spirit of truth – we have now turned our attention towards the book of Acts. I do not know if we will do a comprehensive study of this book or just hop around to some highlights, but what we are looking for is the development and working of this relationship we have with the Spirit of God.
He is called our Helper. This is for all practical purposes a very similar word for the description of the purpose God assigned to woman for man. To come alongside and lend aid. Of course the job of the Holy Spirit is more comprehensive and includes doing in and through all of God’s children what they cannot do for themselves.
The goal of this study is to see the way the apostles and early church learned to cooperate with the Spirit Who had been given them. To do ministry with and by the Spirit, rather than FOR God.
The “Book” of Acts is actually an “account of”, which means Acts is to be understood as a literal and formal, systematic treatment of a subject…but what subject?
The book itself is written by the same Gentile doctor who wrote the Gospel of Luke. In fact, it is believed that this letter was actually volume II of a two volume work and had no separate name or title. It was, after all, a letter not a book. That having been said, early copies of this letter are found with the inscription, “Praxeis” which is a Greek word meaning Acts. It was a word often used in Greek literature, common to Luke’s day, to summarize the accomplishments of great men. While this book often mentions “the apostles” as a group, in truth the first 12 chapters largely highlight the early ministry of Peter while the remainder of the book highlights Paul’s.
Both volumes of Luke’s writings are written to a man named Theophilus. In volume I of Luke’s letters (the Gospel of Luke) he told Theophilus “all that Jesus BEGAN to do and teach” while in His earthly ministry. This says a lot!
Just as Jesus said in His “High Priestly prayer” recorded in John 17, which we read last week, “I’ve sent them, even as You sent Me”. We read in 2 Cor. 5:17-21, that we are ambassadors for Christ, carrying on His ministry of reconciliation. THis is why the first words of Luke here in the book of Acts says that his Gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus was just the beginning of all Jesus was to do and teach, because He continues His ministry through us, BY MEANS OF the Holy Spirit of God.
As 2 Cor. 5:19b-20, “He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. (20) Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.”
As such, the book of Acts is NOT the acts of the apostles or the early church, nor the acts of the Holy Spirit, but the acts of the Spirit through the saints. We work together, arm-in-arm, in the work of the Kingdom of God.
“(1) I wrote the former account, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach (2) UNTIL the day He was taken up to heaven, after He had given orders by the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen.
(3) To the same apostles also, after His suffering, He presented Himself ALIVE with many convincing proofs.
He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God.”
Most of this you were already familiar with, especially because we JUST mentioned this last week. However, I want to draw your attention to the fact that WHAT Jesus spoke to them about throughout those 40 days was NOT Grace, NOT Faith, NOT Baptism or even certain, singled out and specially highlighted doctrines – but about the Kingdom of God!
Have I not told you time and again, that IF a formal name had been given to the Gospel or “Good News” it would have been the Gospel of the Kingdom!
It is the SAME Gospel Jesus taught all the way through His ministry, because the Law was in force until John, but SINCE THEN, the Gospel of the Kingdom was preached!
“The law and the prophets were in force until John; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed, and everyone is urged to enter it.” ~ Luke 16:16
It would have been a largely unproductive thing indeed for Jesus to spend 3 years teaching and training His disciples in a Gospel that would be null and void upon His death and resurrection. How silly would that have been? What a colossal waste of precious time!
No, if you remember, Jesus told His disciples several times in the weeks and days leading up to His crucifixion that He had MANY THINGS He wanted to deposit in them, but that they were unable to grasp them yet. He also told them however, that this would change when the Holy Spirit was given. This did not mean when the Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, because otherwise, all the teaching He did during those 40 days following His resurrection would have been of no more advantage than if He had told them BEFORE His crucifixion.
If you remember, following His resurrection and upon entering the room where the disciples were gathered, He breathed on them and said, “receive the Holy Spirit of God” [John 20:22]. It was AT THIS POINT, the great teacher – the Spirit of God, stopped just being with them and came to be WITHIN them – just as Jesus had promised as is recorded in John 14:17. He told them “the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be IN you.” ~ John 14:17
“(4) While He was with them, He declared, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait there for what my Father promised, which you heard about 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 gathered together, they began to ask Him, “Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”
Who can tell me what the disciples were asking by this question?
I’ve told you many times what the common Jewish belief was regarding the work of Messiah when He came.
They believed that He would immediately establish an earthly kingdom.
Jesus began to set the record straight and center their attention on the fact that the Kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. Also, He explained that the time the Father has in His plans for the millenial kingdom, where Jesus will rule and reign for 1,000 years on the throne of David, is both a future event and one which the Father retains as His Own private counsel.
“(7) He told them, “You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set 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 farthest parts of the earth.”
By saying this Jesus was in part, telling them – are you seeking political power? Well now that you are children of God, Dad has certain plans which are for Him alone to know at this point, but you will receive spiritual power IN God’s Kingdom – but it will be in the person of the Holy Spirit. Your focus needs to not be on when the fullness of the Kingdom will come, but on cooperation with the Holy Spirit in the here and now.
The words “you will be My witnesses” is in the indicative NOT the imperative case…meaning, this was not a command nor a suggestion, but a result.
If you want to be a witness to Christ and His Kingdom, you MUST receive the Spirit upon, not just within. Those who have the Spirit both within and upon BECOME witnesses. They don’t DO witnessing, but become witnesses!
I like what Guzik points out regarding this, he says,
“Isaiah 43:10 has the Lord proclaiming to His people You are My witnesses. A cultic group today claims that this is their mandate for being “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Unfortunately, they fail to see Isa. 43:10 in the context of Acts 1:8; we are truly Yahweh’s Witnesses when we are Jesus’ Witnesses.”
…and I continue to build on Guzik’s thoughts here by saying that as branches in your Vine, you can of yourselves produce nothing – not even witnessing.
*** Witnessing is not a work of the flesh but a fruit of the Spirit. ***
You do not DO witnessing, you BECOME witnesses!
“(9) After He had said this, while they were watching, He was lifted up and a cloud hid Him from their sight.”
“(10) As they were still staring into the sky while He was going, suddenly two men in white clothing stood near them (11) and said,
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus Who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw Him go into heaven.”
Notice, to the church Jesus returns in the clouds. When He later comes for judgment He will come to the earth!
“(12) Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mountain called the Mount of Olives (which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away). (13) When they had entered Jerusalem, they went to the upstairs room where they were staying.”
“Peter and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James were there.” Those were the 11 disciples who remained after Judas defected through apostasy.
“(14) All these continued together in prayer with one mind, together with the women, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
“(15) In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty people) and said,
(16) “Brothers, the scripture had to be fulfilled that the Holy Spirit foretold through David concerning Judas – who became the guide for those who arrested Jesus – (17) for he was counted as one of us and received a share in this ministry.”
Not to harp on this point, but in passing recognize that Peter is NOT saying that Judas never truly was one of us – that is why he left us – but rather, Judas was counted as ONE OF US and RECEIVED a SHARE IN THIS MINISTRY! – What Ministry? The SAME ministry you and I have – the Ministry of Reconciliation as is mentioned in 2 Cor.5:19.
“(18) (Now this man Judas acquired a field with the reward of his unjust deed, and falling headfirst he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. (19) This became known to all who lived in Jerusalem, so that in their own language they called that field Hakeldama, that is, “Field of Blood.”)
(20) “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his house become deserted, and let there be no one to live in it,’ and ‘Let another take his position of responsibility.’
(21) Thus one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time the Lord Jesus associated with us, (22) beginning from his baptism by John until the day he was taken up from us – one of these must become a witness of His resurrection together with us.”
This is a very important statement, especially in light of the egalitarian movement in the church today. The word “MEN” here is the Greek term ἀνήρ (anēr), which only in exceptional situation is used in a generic sense of both males and females. In THIS context, where a successor to Judas is being chosen, it literally means MEN as in one of the males who had been with Jesus from the beginning. So as we will see, only men were under consideration in the original historical context.
“(23) So they proposed two candidates: Joseph called Barsabbas (also called Justus) and Matthias.”
(24) Then they prayed, “Lord, You know the hearts of all.
- Show us
- which one of these two
- You have chosen
(25) to assume the task of this service and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”
“(26) Then they cast lots for them, and the one chosen was Matthias; so he was counted with the eleven apostles.”
This contains a WEALTH of information and is the FIRST example of working together WITH the Spirit – it is NOT an example of performing flesh borne “works” FOR the Father.
They recalled that Jesus had already told them that the witnesses had to be those who had been with Him from the beginning. This wasn’t made up, it was known and remembered from His teaching! Of of the places in scripture which records this requirement is found in John 15:26-27,
“(26) “When the Counselor comes, the One I will send to you from the Father–the Spirit of truth Who proceeds from the Father–He will testify about Me. (27) You also will testify, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
Also, though faithful, loyal and devoted women had been with Jesus throughout nearly all of His ministry and the undeniable fact that they were valuable in Kingdom work, they were NOT included in those Jesus chose for positions of spiritual authority in His Kingdom.
According to a careful examination of Scripture, Christian women can be teachers of children and other women, prophets and even evangelists of a sort, but Apostles and Pastors are positions of authority from which they are clearly excluded.
Notice they set forth three requests of their Lord in prayer based upon one insight He alone possessed.
- Show us – a request in prayer to God to give revelation
- which one of these two – a recognition that only two were even possible candidates
- You have chosen – Which of these only to viable options have you chosen?
- You know the hearts of all men – evidently, the heart of the man was to determine which one it was – an INSIGHT only their Lord could provide.
So, these apostles used their memory of what Jesus had taught them to eliminate 118 of the possible 120 candidates.
They placed these before the Lord and made a request for His discernment of their hearts, in choosing one to take Judas’ place.
They seemed to know that there had to be 12 apostles and this assumption appears to be supported throughout the New Testament but is also a type of ‘Jewishism‘ if you will.
The number Twelve had almost universally been known among them as the number of government and authority. This is supported by the fact that in God’s eternal kingdom, there are 24 thrones around the throne of God (12×2) one set of twelve for each tribe of Israel and one for each apostle of the Lamb. Two is often set forth as the number for both division AND unity. So it makes both spiritual and natural historical sense that the kingdom of God is the result of God’s work in and through Israel and the church – both unified in Christ.
That having been said, I will freely admit to the subjective nature of interpreting the use and significance of various numbers to God as He used them with the Jewish people, but the fact that there are distinct and repeated patterns in use HAS to imply something.
It has been suggested that the number twelve, being the product of three times four, typifies the union of God with His people. This is because on the showbread table in the tabernacle of meeting held twelve loaves of show-bread, and the ephod (the breastplate of the priest) contained twelve precious stones as emblems of the twelve tribes of Israel, which camped round about the Sanctuary in 4 assemblies of three tribes each.
The “city” described as the New Jerusalem (which is a metaphor for the church – Rev. 21:9-14) has 12 gates upon which were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel and is built upon the foundation of the apostles represented by twelve foundation stones of precious origin…and the examples go on and on.
So twelve seems, on one level or another, to represent government and authority. However, it could equally be argued that twelve is the product of 3 + 9 or 6 + 6.
Three typically is understood as representing harmony leading to completeness (morning-noon-evening, beginning – middle – end, past – present – future…etc.) and Nine is said to represent the results of works and deeds – which if taken together could indeed represent government.
Six is supposed to represent the number of the earth since all God made on that day came directly from the soil and Two, as I mentioned earlier, represents both unity and division which again, if placed together, also serves as a decent representation of government.
All this being said, however (and I cannot stress this enough), is largely assumptive and subjective – it is NOT doctrine nor even completely empirical.
Observing how and where these numbers are used AS DIRECTED BY GOD, however, can be instructive and so I believe, while we cannot be dogmatic about their meaning, ignoring any symmetry in their use would be a mistake.
Now regarding the fact that it had to be a man we already addressed in verse 21, but here in these last verses it is also implied as well.
There is much debate surrounding the passage found in Romans 16:7 which some people take as including a woman named Junia as an apostle.
In attempting to avoid this many have mistakenly or deliberately sought to alter her name to Junias, a male’s name, but it is most clearly a female name in the Greek. The passage says that, “Andronicus and Junia were of note among the apostles“.
This translation is a little cryptic and more than likely this was done purposely. In traditional English this phrase could mean one of two things:
1) That Andronicus and Junia were “of note among the apostles,” that is, that they were themselves distinguished apostles.
2) That Andronicus and Junia were “well known among the apostles” meaning “well known to the apostles“.
Most of the disagreement surrounding this verse has focused more on the gender of Junia than on whether either of the two listed were actually apostles. The problem with this is:
- It focuses all theological questions on the wrong issue.
- It creates an atmosphere where being unbiased is nearly impossible. Most people, whether they are aware of it or not, have an opinion of some sort concerning the position and authority women can have in the church.
Historically it has been virtually impossible to tell which of the two views were correct. The second view has however, in recent years, been defended from a scholarly perspective by Daniel Wallace and Michael Burer.
Following a careful examination of this Greek phrase “of note among”-[KJV] an indication of Paul’s intended meaning becomes clear.
This phrase was examined in biblical Greek, patristic Greek, papyri, inscriptions as well as Hellenistic and classical Greek texts.
The conclusion convincingly revealed that the meaning ‘to the Apostles’ rather than ‘among the Apostles’ was what Paul intended in that in all the above stated material it was the normal understanding of those words.
This alone does not mean that “among the apostles” is an impossible translation altogether. However, the question is not – can we translate it this way. The question is how would the original, intended audience who spoke classical Greek have normally and naturally understood the words AS THEY WERE WRITTEN. The only correct response to this question is “to the apostles” – plain and simple and that stands in perfect agreement with everything else the entire Bible teaches regarding this topic.
Now, in the future of the Kingdom of God, this restriction will no doubt be lifted. For one, it is strongly suggested that male and female will no longer exist – that such distinctions are physical only and once we receive our spiritual bodies we will be without gender – though that is not specifically taught.
Another is because all the results of the fall will end with our release from the flesh.
You see, the reasons for this current restriction is for two purposes which scripture clearly and unambiguously tells us in plain language. This was by original design AND by the nature of the fall.
- Eve was made for Adam – to be HIS helper, not he hers.
- Eve was completely and entirely deceived, whereas Adam was not.
Now I can and have made arguments against this along with the best of them for years. The greatest one in my opinion is it seems hardly likely that God would honor blatant rebellion above being deceived. Out of the two of them Adam’s sin was with his eyes wide open and hers were clouded by deception. But Paul, inspired by the Spirit of God said that one of the reasons was Eve’s complete deception. One can read into this a great number of things and some are largely correct, but regardless if this is 100% a true tendency in all of Eve’s daughters or not, her daughters they are and like all the men receive the punishment of Adam so all women receive the punishment of Eve.
HALF of this is the result of original design and the other HALF the result of the fall and herein is a very important distinction. There is a world of difference between the curse of the Fall and the curse of the Law. We have been redeemed from the curse of the Law NOT the curse of the Fall. All men are still to work by the sweat of their brow and the earth will resist their efforts and all women will have pain in childbirth and must have man rule over them.
Lastly, they used what they knew. Up to this point, discerning the will of God was done by casting lots. While this practice is no longer in use at large in today’s world, it was common then, was scriptural and God honored it.
So the lessons of this last passage illustrate the point of the lesson. We do not DO the work of the Kingdom FOR God, but rather arm-in-arm WITH the Holy Spirit.
We do not set aside common sense or our teaching and understanding of sound doctrine, but rather use it in our pursuit of what is NOT known. Finally in the end, it boils down to the choice and decision of God! After all it is HIS kingdom!