The riveting truth that resonates within each of us, is the spectacular story of Jesus, Immanuel, God is with us. “For He chose us ‘in Him’ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will.” (Ephesians 1:4)
That Scripture says that the depth, width and height of God’s love for His people began before He spoke into existence all that is. We test Scripture to Scripture to be sure of what God is saying; “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)
This book was originally called “The Acts of the Apostles” and it records the beginning of the first church. The church of Jesus Christ was established by the apostles after our Savior, Jesus Christ ascended. The gospel of John assures us of the promise that He would not leave His followers as orphans, but that the Holy Spirit was indeed coming to finish His work on earth, through His followers. The book is now simply called “Acts” because it is not a journal of what the apostles did, but it is a record of what the Holy Spirit accomplished through the faithful. Jesus appeared to the apostles for 40 days and spoke to them about the kingdom of God. Jesus commanded; “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (1:4)
The apostles were very human in their desire to know exactly when God was going to restore the kingdom of Israel. Jesus assured them that it is not for us to know the dates or times, but Jesus encouraged them; “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (1:8) While the apostles were standing there completely stunned about the power that would ‘come upon them’, Jesus was taken up before their wide opened eyes!
In the first chapter of Acts, Jesus commanded the apostles to stick around in Jerusalem because the Holy Spirit was coming. The apostles had heard of the Spirit, and they witnessed the Spirit of God working through Jesus, but now they were to receive it, how can that be?
Jesus knew that thousands of Jews from every nation would be in town to celebrate the Festival of Weeks, so that is why He told the apostles to not leave Jerusalem. Well, just like Jesus said, the Holy Spirit came from heaven. As 120 believers gathered together a loud sound like the blowing of a violent wind filled the whole house where they were seated. The believers in the room saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that rested on each person. All at once, everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. The international crowd attending the Festival came together in bewilderment; because each one heard the believers speaking is his own language.
“Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?” (2:7) People from Libya, Asia, Arabia, Rome and surrounding nations heard the believers declaring the wonders of God in their own language! It was the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit working in them, but some of the hearers simply laughed and dismissed the miracle as they scoffed.
Peter stood up and raised his voice; “Listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk as you suppose. It is only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on ALL people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy” (2:17) Before the baptism of the Holy Spirit came upon them, these guys were timid and insecure. Now the Counselor, the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised testifies to their spirit about Him. The full power, authority, Wisdom and compassion of the Holy Spirit now flowed from inside them, out to others. With a simple prayer like “be healed in Jesus name”, people were healed. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
The priests of the Temple were greatly disturbed because the apostles were proclaiming the good news that Jesus is alive! They seized Peter and John and put them in jail. Many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand. Peter and John were brought before the rulers, elders and teachers of the law. The high priest was there and the apostles were asked. “By what power or what name did you do this?”
Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, and said: ‘If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and everyone else in Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you completely healed. He is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by whom we must be saved.” (4) When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you.” (John 14:26)
Throughout the awesome book of Acts one can read of miracle after miracle. Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Opposition arose and members of the Synagogue had Stephen stoned to death. “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ (7:59)
Then we have the story of Saul! He was a highly educated and well respected Pharisee. Saul was known for his murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. One day he was headed with a band of men to Damascus to capture any person, male or female that belonged to the Way of Jesus. As Saul neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul asked “Who are you Lord?” and Jesus replied “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand to Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.” (9) Totally blind, Saul was led to visit a man named Ananias. Because of Saul’s reputation for killing Jews, Ananias was reluctant to speak to Saul until the Lord commanded him to heal Saul. “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here, has sent me so that you me see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Immediately, something likes scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.” (9:17) Saul was renamed Paul and he immediately started preaching. Paul and Barnabas were the first foreign missionaries. They suffered all sorts of hardships for preaching. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved! The law does not save anyone.” (16:31) Paul founded a church in Thessalonica. He was imprisoned in Philippi, and he preached in Jerusalem, Athens, Corinth, Antioch, Rome and the luxurious town of Ephesus.
As Paul traveled he kept writing letters of encouragement. Paul’s ship was wrecked off the coast of Malta before he arrived in Rome. He was placed in prison in Rome and that is where he wrote most of his letters. Why does the book of Acts end so abruptly? According to tradition, our heroic apostle Paul was beheaded. This letter was penned by Luke who studied the eye witness accounts. Today the church celebrates Pentecost to commemorate the day the Holy Spirit rested on God’s people.
Copyright © 2019 by Barbara Alley Hoyle.
All rights reserved.
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“It is finished.” 5/21/19
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