THE APOSTLES WERE COMMISSIONED TO WITNESS BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Why did Jesus leave us here on this earth? Why didn’t Jesus just save us and take us to be with Him in heaven? Why did He leave behind His chosen apostles? There is a Great Commission for each believer.
We are all familiar with the Great Commission recorded in Matt. 28; different version in each of the gospels
Ray Pritchard: Just before he returned to heaven, Jesus explained to his disciples what they were to do after his departure. What he said to them, he also says to us. He left us on the earth that we might be his witnesses. In heaven there will be no witnesses because in heaven seeing is believing. There the Lamb will be the light and he will need no lesser lights, but in this dark world we are the only light he has. On earth we are his witnesses. He does not send angels to proclaim his name and he does not write the gospel in lightning across the skies. He uses people like us to convince other people like us to believe in him. We are God’s witnesses—his evidence if you will—to convince an unbelieving world. If we do not do our part, God has no other plan.
Think about the role of a coach – maybe before a big match like a crucial World Cup game. You try to give just a few final instructions that will stick in the players’ minds and help focus their efforts. Even more important are the final instructions of someone who is departing and will no longer be around to provide insight and counsel.
Illustration: Instructions Mr. Nic gave on his deathbed in the hospital to many of the youth he had impacted spiritually.
3 FINAL INSTRUCTIONS IN THE COMMISSIONING PROCESS OF THE APOSTLES
I. (:4-5) COMMANDING THEM TO WAIT FOR THE EMPOWERMENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BEFORE BEGINNING THEIR MISSION
You can’t do anything successfully for God without being plugged into the proper power source; it must all be of God’s grace and power for Him to receive all of the glory
A. Holy Spirit Baptism Promised by God the Father and Testified to by Jesus Christ –
It’s Worth Waiting For
“but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me;”
1. Promised by God the Father in the OT
Significant OT passages: associated with kingdom blessing
– Is. 32:15 “until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high” – followed by descriptions of the kingdom of justice and righteousness that would be ushered in
– Is. 44:3 “For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants”
– Ezek 36:27 – start in vs. 22 – doing all of this to exalt the Lord in the eyes of all the nations
– Joel 2:28 “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind”
Characteristics of the Promises of a loving father – Good Father’s Day message:
– Extravagant, Gracious – Father delights to give good gifts to his children –
not a scrooge or stingy – gift of the Holy Spirit is something special
– Reliable – Father always keeps His word
– Exclusive – Not intended for everyone; therefore they are special
– Encouraging — Nurtures Hope; helps you get through difficult times
MacArthur: You say, “Now what is the promise of the Father?” Well, listen and I’ll read it to you. In Luke 11:13, here’s the promise of the Father…just listen: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give” what? “The Holy Spirit to them that asks.” What is the gift of the Father? What is it? It’s the Holy Spirit. Wait for the promise of the Father.
Stedman: Aaron’s rod that budded, which was kept in the Ark of the Covenant; the candlestick in the tabernacle; these were pictures of the Holy Spirit, illuminating the mind and heart. The cruse of oil from which the widow poured which never became empty, was a picture of the flowing of the oil of the Spirit in a life. The two olive trees of Zechariah which dripped oil from their branches into the bowls of the golden lampstand, this is a picture of the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel’s river that came pouring out from under the throne of God, growing deeper as it went, is a wonderful picture of the flow and power of the Spirit-filled life. These men of old, reading these and studying them, gradually understood what it meant to be filled with the Spirit and experienced it by faith.
2. Announced by John the Baptist: Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 11:16
3. Testified to by Jesus Christ in His Earthly Ministry – the Gospel Accounts
– John 14:16-17 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”
– John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”
– John 15:26-27 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
– John 16:7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”
Why would we want to act without our Helper? Why do we thing we can go things in the flesh?
The activity of evangelism with the opposition it arouses drives us back to dependence upon the Holy Spirit’s power.
B. Holy Spirit Baptism Preferred Over the Water Baptism of John –
It’s Worth Waiting For – Something far greater (not disparaging baptism of John)
“for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit”
1. Understand the Water Baptism of John the Baptist –
what were its characteristics and its limitations?
Dipped, immersed, identified with, united with
[Parallel to John 3 – born again (born from above) by water and the spirit]
– physical vs spiritual
– local, administered by John vs God
– external vs internal
– symbolic vs changing the substance
– anticipatory vs fulfillment
– view towards repentance of sins vs actual cleansing and power for ministry
2. Understand the Holy Spirit Baptism —
what were its characteristics and its advantages?
Kent: The preposition “with” is the Greek en, the same one translated “by” in 1 Cor. 12:13, and denotes instrument in both places.
Does this establish a pattern for this age that the baptism with the Holy Spirit should be an event subsequent to one’s conversion? Importance of understanding the transitional nature of the Book of Acts
1 Cor. 12:13 “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body”
Bock: The baptism of John the Baptist was an eschatological, preparatory washing. Participation in it meant that one was ready for God to come. The gift of the Spirit, however, was the sign that the Messiah had come and the new era had begun.
C. Holy Spirit Baptism Predetermined to Arrive Soon as a New Phenomenon —
It’s Worth Waiting For – Everything under God’s sovereign control
“not many days from now.” – comes according to God’s timetable
Specific timetable in mind; Father knows; we must be watching and ready
Dramatic upcoming event of Pentecost
II. (:6-8) CORRECTING THEIR UNDERSTANDING OF THE NATURE AND FOCUS OF THEIR MISSION
A. (:6) Confusion Regarding the Timing of the Coming Messianic Kingdom on Earth
“And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’”
– a topic for group clarification
– no confusion regarding the expectation of an earthly, Messianic kingdom centered in Israel – this would have been the time for Jesus to set them straight; to present the amill position with clarity and force
– desire to know the exact time of fulfillment – naturally curious; hungry for the kingdom; no desire to suffer and persevere and serve – Let’s go straight to glory
Kent: It is obvious from their question that the kingdom referred to was the one which the Jews looked for Messiah to establish (Isa. 9:6-7; 11:10-12). . . The reason why the disciples must not concern themselves with pinpointing the inaugurating of Israel’s restored kingdom was that they had a new task to perform. They were to be Christ’s witnesses after the empowering of the Holy Spirit had occurred. They were to testify to the person of Christ, his teachings, his sacrificial death and his resurrection.
Stott: It appears, then, that Jesus’ two main topics of conversation between his resurrection and his ascension were the kingdom of God and the Spirit of God. It seems probably that he also related them to each other, for certainly the prophets had often associated them. When God establishes the kingdom of the Messiah, they said, he will pour out his Spirit; this generous effusion and universal enjoyment of the Spirit will be one of the major signs and blessings of his rule; and indeed the Spirit of God will make the rule of God a living and present reality to his people.
B. (:7) Confusion Regarding Their Sphere of Knowledge and Extent of Control
“He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;”
Too many people spend way too much attention and focus on all of the controversial details regarding the timing of end time events. Some people go overboard to the point of predicting specific dates for the return of Christ.
C. (:8a) Connection Between the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and Power for Proclamation
“but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;”
Key: Do you see yourself as a person ministering with divine power? Need to change the way you view yourself
1. Recipients of this Power – but you
2. Gift of this Power – shall receive
3. Nature of this Power – dynamite
Applied to the Proclamation of the Gospel
Boice: The Greek word dynamis entered the English language when the Swedish chemist and engineer Alfred Bernhard Nobel (1833-96) made the discovery that became his fortune. He discovered a power stronger than anything the world had known up to that time. He asked a friend of his who was a Greek scholar what the word for “explosive power” was in Greek. His friend answered, “Dynamis.” Nobel said, “Well, I am going to call my discovery by that name.” So he called his explosive power “dynamite.”
Boice: Jesus taught that when we receive the power of the Holy Spirit, the result will not be miracles, signs, or healings, but witnessing.
Are you a Dynamite Christian?? 2 Cor. 4:1-7 is key
4. Mediator of this Power – Holy Spirit
5. Occasion of Receiving This Power —
Application of this power:
– Guidance / giving opportunities to witness; divine appointments
– Boldness in witnessing
– Helping us in what to say and how to answer questions
– Most importantly: Effectiveness in ministry vs frustration – power to change lives
D. (:8b) Clarity Regarding the Nature and Scope of the Great Commission
1. The Nature of the Great Commission
“and you shall be My witnesses”
Wiersbe: “Witness” is a key word in the book of Acts and is used twenty-nine times as either a verb or a noun. A witness is somebody who tells what he has seen and heard (Acts 4:19-20). When you are on the witness stand in court, the judge is not interested in your ideas or opinions; he only wants to hear what you know. Our English word martyr comes from the Greek word translated “witness,” and many of God’s people have sealed their witness by laying down their lives.
1 John 1:1-4 – nature of this ministry of testifying and being a witness – objective presentation of the facts
2. The Scope of the Great Commission
“both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
Touissant: “end” of the earth — looks to Rome, the proud center of world civilization in the Apostolic Age, a significant distance from Jerusalem (more than 1,400 miles, as the crow flies).
III. (:9-11) COMMUNICATING THE URGENCY AND ULTIMATE SUCCESS OF THEIR MISSION
A. (:9) A Sight Worth Seeing – the Amazing Ascension of Jesus Christ –
We have Good News to Proclaim to Others
“And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.”
The apostles certainly had a lot of eyewitness experiences to tell to others …
We certainly have a lot of personal experience with the transformation power of Jesus Christ to tell to others
Kent: This cloud was probably the Shekinah, the divine cloud of glory which rested above the tabernacle in the days of Moses, signifying the presence of the Lord (Exod. 40:34).
B. (:10-11a) A Challenge Worth Considering –
We Must Focus on Our Mission
“And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky?’”
God is challenging His children today with the urgency of the Great Commission – Much of our life is spent in futile pursuits – pictured here as star gazing …
Wiersbe: Angels play an important role in the ministry described in Acts, just as they do today, even though we cannot see them (see Acts 5:19-20; 8:26; 10:3-7; 12:7-10, 23; 27:23).
C. (:11b) A Reunion Worth Remembering –
We Look Forward to a Victorious Future
“This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
Many reunions come and go with little impact on our life
Victory is guaranteed; Jesus will return and usher in His kingdom –
Acts 3:19-21 “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.”
2 clear descriptions of the millennial kingdom which is still to follow
Lenski: His presence at God’s right hand means that He is more effectually present with His people on earth “all the days, even unto the consummation of the age” (Matt. 28:20). He “ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (Eph. 4:10).
– Commanded to wait for empowerment – Holy Spirit power is key
– Corrected regarding nature and focus of our mission – Worldwide evangelism
– Communicated urgency and ultimate success – Get busy; Jesus is coming back
Jeff Strite: Theologically many people accept the idea that God’s Holy Spirit can live within us, but they don’t think that Spirit does very much… and thus they miss out on the miracle of what that Holy Spirit can mean for us. It’s easy to see how this can happen. There are a lot of churches that teach things about the Holy Spirit that are bizarre and unbiblical… however, we shouldn’t allow those bad teachings or any other distraction to cause us to forget uniqueness that God’s Spirit can have in our lives. . . It’s my belief that part of our frustration in our witnessing can come from not understanding the pivotal role that the Holy Spirit can play in helping us share our faith. . .
A skeptic promised British preacher Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) that he would attend his church for four Sundays on which Maclaren would be presenting the main tenets of Christianity. The skeptic listened intently to Maclaren’s sermons. After the fourth message he presented himself for church membership, saying he had received Christ as his Savior.
Maclaren was delighted and could not resist the impulse to ask which of the four sermons brought him to this decision. The skeptic replied, “Your sermons, sir, were helpful, but they were not what finally persuaded me.” He said that after church one Sunday as he was helping an elderly lady on a slippery walk, she looked up into his face and said, “I wonder if you know my Savior, Jesus Christ. He is everything in the world to me. I would like you to know Him too.”
“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD Almighty. Zec 4:6
Bock: In sum, there is one central application for the unit: the church is called to engage in mission to the world, knowing that Jesus’s return is assured. In major part, it is for mission that the Spirit is sent.