READ – Acts 1:1-14 | THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH
The book of Acts covers 3o years of history that changed the world. It begins with a group of 120 people who believed Jesus rose from the dead and that this was the most significant event in history that changed everything. Acts shows us how this small group of people become a worldwide movement. It tells us the story of how the message of Jesus went viral across the ancient world. Churches began sprouting up everywhere. People from every background became followers of Jesus. How did this happen? Luke says it all happened as Jesus continued to act and to teach through the Spirit-empowered church (Acts 1:1). Acts is the story of how Jesus built the church; it’s the “original blueprint” of his design. Acts 1:1-14 shows the plans for the foundation of the church.
The first foundation of the Christian faith and of the church is proof. The Christian faith is built on historical events that really happened. In Luke’s introduction to the book (1:1-4) he says, “After [Jesus] had suffered, he also presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs”. The term here is term used often in Greek historiography when authors wanted to say “this really happened”. It’s the strongest term Luke could have used to communicate that, as hard as it is to believe, Jesus really and truly rose again from the dead.
The Christian faith (and therefore the church) is not about checking our brains at the door and abandoning reasoning, logic and the search for what is true and real. It is founded upon convincing proof, history, truth and things that really happened and are happening. The reason why Christianity should be believed and lived is not first because of its practical value, or its moral value or its emotional value but because it is true. Acts shows us this is the foundation of the foundation of the church.
If Jesus is truly risen, alive and active, then building our lives and building a church is not all up to us. He is at work in our present. He is acting and active in my life, in the church, in the world. This is first and most important truth which is the bedrock and basis for everything else in our faith, our lives and our church.
In addition to providing convincing proof to his disciples, Jesus also gave them instructions. “While he was with them, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for the father’s promise.” They were coming to grips with the truth that Jesus was really alive. They were wondering, “Now what? what do we do? What will You do?” And Jesus tells them to wait for the promise. Wait!?! Is there anything harder than being told to wait?
Jesus is teaching them a crucial two-fold lesson here at the foundation of the church: 1) God is a promise keeping God. 2) A promise always involves a waiting period. Jesus inserted 10 days of waiting here (between his Ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit) to teach them (and us) that in times of waiting we will need to return to a firm and solid foundation – the promise of God.
One of the main themes of Acts is that God is a promise making and promise fulfilling God. He has fulfilled his promises in and through Jesus, He is and will continue to fulfill them in the church and He will one day bring them all to completion. When the disciples ask Jesus, “Is it time…?” They are asking whether the time of waiting is over.
Jesus gives them a “yes and no” answer. The promised restoration has begun in Jesus and but has not yet fully come. We are promised the presence of Jesus and power for witness but much of life will still be characterized by waiting. But waiting is not wasted time. Times of waiting are not times when nothing is happening. Waiting is when God does some of his most important work. Waiting is one of main ways of He teaches us to build our lives (and our churches) on the reliable foundation of His promise.
When Jesus ascended (v9), the disciples were stuck standing and looking up into heaven and wondering, “Now what?” They decided to do the only thing they could do– they prayed. Before their “acts” could begin, they needed God to act first. As Eugene Peterson wrote, “Waiting in prayer is a disciplined refusal to act before God acts.” They went back to Jerusalem and were “continually untied in prayer” (v14). This was not a 15-minute prayer session or something tacked on to the end of the real business of their meetings. This was the main business –10 days of waiting in prayer.
What were they praying? We aren’t told exactly but considering Jesus’ promise to them and his earlier teaching on prayer (see Luke 11:13), we can be certain that they were praying for the Holy Spirit. Acts shows us why the Holy Spirit is the best thing we can ask for and receive in prayer. Here’s how we can understand the work of the Holy Spirit:
#1 – The Holy Spirit takes the gospel (the reality/truth about Jesus) deeper into us – The Holy Spirt makes the objective truth about Jesus become subjectively real to us. The Spirit gives us tastes of the resurrection life to come. He assures us in the deepest parts of our soul that God is with us and for us because of Jesus.
#2 –The Holy Spirit takes the gospel (the reality/ truth about Jesus) out through us – The Holy Spirit empowers people who are afraid, reluctant and indifferent to the spiritual needs around them to be witnesses to the truth and power of the gospel.
Every significant gospel breakthrough in the book of Acts is preceded by prayer. Why might this be? When we feel powerless, helpless and unable to act, we are at the best place to for the gospel to go deeper in us and through us. The gospel is that the saving power, the gracious help and the boundless ability of Jesus overflow and abound to those who bring their helplessness, powerlessness and inability to Him. Prayer is the simply our verbalized and expressed belief in our powerlessness, helplessness and inability. This is why prayer is the foundation on which Jesus builds a life and a church.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. Why might it be important for us to read Acts not first as the “Acts of the Apostles” but as “The Acts of Jesus” (i.e., what he continued to do and to teach, 1:1)?
3. Do you agree that “proof” or “truth” is the foundation of the foundation of everything else we should build our lives on? How do you handle your questions and doubts when it comes to the truth of Christianity? How does the resurrection help during these times?
4. Waiting is probably harder than ever in our instant technological age. Here’s what George Macdonald wrote about how God uses waiting in our lives: “He may delay because it would not be safe to give us at once what we ask: we are not ready for it. To give ere we could truly receive, would be to destroy the very heart and hope of prayer, to cease to be our Father. The delay itself may work to bring us nearer to our help, to increase the desire, perfect the prayer, and ripen the receptive condition.”
Where do you feel like you are currently in a “waiting period”? How might God be at work in your waiting?
5. “Prayerlessness is a sign that we’ve forgotten the gospel. Prayerlessness is the practical expression of the belief that we have the power and ability to live life on our own and don’t need help.” Where do you most struggle with prayer? How might remembering the gospel convince us of our need for and the power of prayer?
6. Where do you most need the gospel to go deeper in your life? Where do you sense God moving you outward? Share your responses with your group and pray that God would fill you, your group and our church with the Holy Spirit in a fresh and powerful way during our study of Acts 1-12.