We are beginning a sermon series looking at the kingdom of God, and I started by consider the opening three verses of Acts 1 and what they say about the kingdom. There are a number of striking statements that Luke makes in this short passage.
First, his reference to Theophilus reminds us of the opening of his gospel (volume 1 of his two-volume work). There, he explains how he has done careful research based on the evidence of eyewitnesses and their early records, and he locates the activities around the kingdom and Jesus’ ministry in the context of world events and secular powers. One of the notable things about Luke-Acts is that he names local rulers, and is careful to get their different titles right. The kingdom of God isn’t merely about spiritual generalities, but comes to transform specific times and place in history.
And Luke emphasises that Jesus gave the disciples ‘many convincing proofs’ that he was alive. Jesus wanted the disciples to be confident about the kingdom, and Luke wants the same for his readers.
Secondly, it is very striking that Luke begins Acts by telling Theophilus ‘In my first book, I wrote about all that Jesus began to teach and to do…’ This second volume, then, is all that Jesus continued to teach and to do—through the Holy Spirit, who now makes his presence and power known through the apostles and the early Christian communities.
But Luke leaves the story hanging in chapter 28, with Paul ‘teaching about the kingdom of God without hindrance.’ Luke seems to imagine that there is a continuing Chapter 29—in which successive generations of Christians continue the teaching and wonderful signs done by Jesus. We are invited to be collaborators in the kingdom of God with him.
Thirdly, Jesus teaches them for ‘forty days’ about the kingdom, and ‘forty’ in the Bible signifies a period of preparation, whether it is forty years in the wilderness preparing Israel to enter the Promised Land, or Jesus’ forty days in the desert in preparation for his ministry. But it is remarkable that Jesus teaches them ‘through the Holy Spirit’.
If we are to be equipped for being partners and collaborators in kingdom ministry, and being confidence in that, we need to attend to the teaching of Jesus and the apostles (See Acts 2.42), which we have in Scripture, and we need to be filled afresh with the Spirit of God on a daily basis. Word and Spirit together will prepare us to be confident and continue the ministry of Jesus.
You can watch the whole sermon here (about 14 minutes):
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