TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH
By Joseph Magno
Key Verse 1:8
“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.”
The book of Acts is the sequel to the gospel of Luke, both written by Luke the historian and physician. In the book of Acts, the author Luke writes about how the Risen Christ carried his gospel to the ends of the earth, using his faithful followers. It is a book that describes faith in action; the Acts of the Risen Christ in and through his disciples. Today through the study of Acts chapter 1, we want to learn about the power source of the Christian life through the Holy Spirit poured out on all who believe.
I. Jesus Promises to Give the Holy Spirit (1-11)
This letter was addressed to Theophilus. It is not clear, however, whether the recipient of this book was one person or a group of people. But the name means, “lover of God.” Perhaps, it was the author’s intention to write this book to all those who love God. May God help us to grow in the love of God until we can put this love into practice in our daily lives.
Let’s read verses 1-3. The author reminds us of what he wrote about in the gospel concerning our Lord Jesus’ wonderful life of faith and holy mission as a Bible teacher and shepherd. As the Savior of the world, Jesus suffered for our sins, bearing our sins in his body on the cross. (1 Pe 2:24a) Through Jesus’ death and the pouring of his cleansing blood on the cross, God forgave our sins through faith in him. Also, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and destroyed the power of sin and death. The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ liberated all those who have faith in him from their slavery to sin and set them free to serve God’s mission in their lives. (Lk 1:74) However at this time, the disciples of Jesus were so much under the power of death that they trembled in fear, not knowing how to overcome their unbelief. So, Jesus patiently and persistently showed himself to them, convincing them of the reality of his resurrection in order to plant resurrection faith in their hearts, the faith that overcomes everything. Jesus also studied the Bible with them to prove that his resurrection had been prophesied in the Scriptures. (Lk 24:44-49) It took forty days for Jesus to plant the glorious resurrection faith in their hearts through patient Bible study and prayer.
What then was the content of Jesus’ message? Let’s read verse 3 together. It was the kingdom of God. Why did our Lord Jesus speak mainly about the kingdom of God? Because Jesus’ victory over sin and death, opened the gates to the kingdom of God to all who are forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Christ, shed on the cross for the sins of the world. Once, the awesome and eternal kingdom of God was closed in the face of everyone. People had to live and suffer in Satan’s kingdom, a kingdom of sin and misery — a kingdom filled with shame, guilt, fear and despair. All sinners were destined to live eternally in this world of misery — a foreshadow of Satan’s kingdom, hell. But Jesus opened the heavenly gates to the kingdom of God, the kingdom of love the kingdom of peace, the kingdom of joy, the kingdom of hope and eternal fellowship with the Living God. 1 Peter 1:3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” Therefore, the kingdom of God is a kingdom which can never perish, spoil or fade. (1 Pe 1:4) It will last forever and ever and ever. Jesus’ one consistent message during his forty day ministry following his resurrection was about this eternal kingdom. He wanted to plant the living hope of this kingdom in the hearts of his disciples still disillusioned by their worldly hopes. Jesus wanted to help them see life from God’s perspective, not from their own perspective or what the world teaches. The disciples needed the hope of the kingdom of God alive in their hearts so that they could endure life’s hardships as they served God’s mission.
Now let’s read verses 4 and 5. Most likely, the disciples wanted to leave Jerusalem, the city of sorrow and fear, the city where followers of Christ were persecuted and despised as Jesus freaks. Jerusalem was the place of their failure — the place where they had denied their beloved Lord and Friend Jesus. Surely they wanted to run away from the pain of these memories. But Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem. Why? Because as Jesus’ people, they must not run away from their problems, but remain until they can solve their spiritual problems and win the spiritual victory for God’s kingdom. So Jesus gave them direction to wait for the promised Holy Spirit. They needed the power of the Holy Spirit. For them to overcome their fears, doubts, sinful desires and future uncertainties, they needed the power of God through the Holy Spirit to purge their hearts from all that hinders them from being useful to God. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Risen Christ, the Spirit of God that enables the Christian to live for the glory of God. They needed the Holy Spirit and they needed to wait on the Holy Spirit in prayer.
However, the disciples did not understand the character of the kingdom of God nor the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. So they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (6) They were still political and worldly and they immediately thought about the restoration of Israel from the bondage to Rome. To them, this was the most real and urgent problem. But Jesus began to reveal God’s foremost plan for the world and for their personal lives. Let’s read verse 8: “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.” This command teaches us several things.
First, Jesus promised to empower his disciples through the Holy Spirit. (8a) The disciples were ordinary people. They were full of fears and worries as they struggled day and night with their sinful nature. What could these weak people do against the power of the world — the power of sin and death? Jesus knew their helplessness. Jesus also knows our weaknesses and helplessness. At the same time, he knew that they could not do the work of God by their own power and human strength. But Jesus promised that they would receive power through the Holy Spirit to overcome their sinful nature and carry out the mission of God in their lives — that is, to witness to the resurrected Jesus. Jesus had faith that these disciples would become powerful and courageous when the Holy Spirit came into their hearts and lives. It was in fact for this purpose that Jesus called them and raised them up as his disciples. We also should pray that the Holy Spirit may come to our hearts to burn up all our sinfulness and unbelief which make us spiritually weak and powerless. Nor should we ignore anyone who seems to be spritually weak and powerless, but pray that they too may be baptized through the Holy Spirit and be raised up as courageous warriors of the kingdom of God.
The superhero movie, The Avengers came out this weekend. Did anyone get to watch this movie this weekend? Well in our Triton ministry we have Spiritual Avengers. Missionary Rene and Missionary Remy Alonzo are Avengers for Christ. Heroes of faith. In this world they may not be well known, but to God and in the kingdom of heaven they are celebrities and well known for their faith and devotion to God. They have faithfully served the work of God for about 30 years now. They have generously supported the work of God through their prayers, love, their lives and money. When the Bible house was being renovated in the early nineties, they opened their home to have worship service there. They have sacrificed much of their time to teach the word of God to many people. They have visited many UBF ministries around the world to pray for them and encourage them. They have sacrificed so much for the cause of Christ and I can’t list them all, but God knows. They are Avengers for Christ and his kingdom.
Second, Jesus’ disciples would be his witnesses. The disciples were given the mission to preach the kingdom of God and the word of God. Jesus wanted them to preach the victorious kingdom of God. They were appointed as the ambassadors of God, to call people of the world out of their sinful lives to the freedom that comes through faith in Jesus. How great is this mission that God has given them and us. And certainly, God who called us for this glorious mission will surely empower those who call on him to serve their mission through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Third, the scope of Jesus’ mission is world-wide. Let’s read verse 8 together. The disciples were called to witness about Jesus in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. They were commissioned to invite the people of the world to eternal life in Jesus because the kingdom of God is for all who have faith in Christ — for God’s children from all peoples of all nations. Our Lord Jesus loves everyone regardless of their race, color, language or culture. Jesus wanted his disciples to tear down their cultural prejudices and have the love of God for all people. In other words, he wanted his disciples to be shepherds for all the peoples in the world. For this purpose, God chose the disciples. For this purpose, God has chosen us as well. (John 15:16)
After having told his disciples this, Jesus was taken up before them and a cloud hid him from their sight. All of sudden Jesus became “Air Jesus” as he flew to heaven. Let’s read verses 10 and 11. The angels planted faith in Jesus’ second coming in their hearts. Until Jesus comes again in glorious splendor as the judge of the living and the dead, we must live a life of faith and mission for the glory of God.
II. The Disciples Made a Prayer Vessel for the Holy Spirit (12-16)
The disciples returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Then they went to the place where they were staying. There the disciples began to pray according to Jesus’ promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit. They prayed constantly. And the women and Mary the mother of Jesus also joined in their prayer meetings. In prayer they were united. They prayed with one heart and mind. They gave their hearts to prayer. They made a spiritual vessel of prayer for the Holy Spirit to come upon them and to work among their midst.
Through this chapter we can learn the importance of the Holy Spirit in our Christian lives. The Holy Spirit is the power source of a Christian. May God help us to ask the Holy Spirit to empower us to live the Christian life, to glorify God, and be a source of blessing to this generation. Let’s read the key verse again, Acts 1:8.