Acts~1:1-11

The first eleven verses of Acts work as a very brief summary of Luke, or “the first book” (v1), with the emphasis on what happened after Jesus’ resurrection. Once verses 1-2 sumarise what the whole of that book “dealt with”, verses 3 to 11 are a reprise of Luke 24:13-53. Verse 3 reminds Theophilus and us of the proofs that Jesus was alive as seen in Luke 24:13-43 and his teaching about “the kingdom of God” as in Luke 24:44-48; verses 4-8 are a reminder of the promise of the Holy Spirit from Luke 24:49 and verses 9-11 are a second account of Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the first being in Luke 24:50-53.

Verse 2 contains the claim that Luke is about what “Jesus began to do and teach”, as if this book is about what Jesus is continuing to do and teach. While we don’t see evidence of Jesus acting directly as he did during his life on earth it is clear that all of the acts of the apostles and of the Holy Spirit that are recorded are acts of Jesus through them. Indeed, Jesus had been working through the Holy Spirit even during his life – he gave “commands through the Holy Spirit”.

(Verse 2 also says that Jesus chose the apostles. It would be equally true to say that the Father chose them by his authority. The will and purpose of the Father and Son are always one.)

The phrase “baptised with [or in] the Holy Spirit” (v5) causes a lot of debate. Looking back at John’s baptism, to which Jesus compares this event, in Luke 3:3 it’s called “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. ‘Becoming a Christian’ is another way of saying ‘repentance for the forgiveness of sins’, so I believe that this baptism of the Spirit is part and parcel of becoming a Christian. It’s a symbol of our repentance (as John’s baptism was) and a mark of God’s huge generosity that he gives his Spirit in such abundance and with it we receive “power” (v8). But with great power comes great responsibility – the power that the apostles received from the Holy Spirit wasn’t for their own benefit, but it was so that they could be witnesses to Jesus.

After Jesus speaking about the kingdom of God, it seems reasonable that his apostles asked whether it was ow that the kingdom would be restored to Israel (v6). As was his style, Jesus didn’t answer that question but – having made it clear that not only he but only the Father has the authority to decide on “times or seasons” – tells them that the kingdom of God isn’t just going to be restored to Israel. It will be “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (v9). It would have been an odd concept to these Jews that God’s kingdom was for the Samaritans, let alone the Romans and the Greeks and the French, but that is what Jesus promised. In fact, that list becomes a road map for Acts as the Gospel spreads ever further from Jerusalem.

Finally in this introduction to Acts, the apostles saw Jesus taken up into heaven to reign over everything. Two angels are sent to encourage the apostles not just to stand around watching for him to come back but to get to work, and reminding them that Jesus will come back in the same way.

Heavenly Father, the beginning of your church is an amazing story. I thank you that you sent your Holy Spirit to the church, that he gives power and makes Christians witnesses to Jesus. Please help me to remember that you have fixed Jesus’ return and to use all of the power of the Spirit to tell people about that. As I read through Acts, will you stir me up by your Spirit to be inspired by the example of those who have gone before. Amen.

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