In this first chapter of Acts we have the work of the early church. What they did in the beginning I think is significant for us as we look to rebuild the ministry in our own church. I want to take a look at the first things the apostles did.
As Wiersbe comments, "Except for the ascension of Jesus Christ, events recorded in Acts 1 are anything but dramatic. After all, what is exciting about a business meeting? The Book of Acts is...the account of the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the church. The Gospel of Luke records what Jesus began both to do and teach in His human body, and the Book of Acts tells us what Jesus continued to do and teach through His spiritual body, the church. Even today, congregations can learn much about church life and ministry from this book, and this even includes the business meetings!"
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God.
And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit." So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"
The first things the apostles did is they learned from Christs teachings. Even though Jesus isnt physically with us any longer, we can learn from the Bible and be taught by his Spirit. Time spent in Bible study and prayer is essential to rebuilding the ministries of our church. Also notice the disciples believed Gods promise for his church. They had never organized a church before or tried to reach people with the gospel message, but they believed the promise of Christ. Do we believe Gods promises for our church? Are we ready to do Gods will in our lives, in our church, and in our community?
He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth."
Jesus promised that the early believers would be witnesses. Are we ready to be witnesses for Christ? Are we prepared to tell others about how Jesus can save them and make them a new person? Notice that Jesus said they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, their local city, in Judea, their province, in Samaria, the surrounding country, and to the end of the earth. We are also called to be witnesses in our city, in our county, in our nation, and to the whole world.
Erdman writes, "The immediate task, then, of the disciples, and now of all who truly pray, Thy kingdom come, is that of witnessing for Christ. Ye shall be my witnesses, however, does not mean merely that Christ is the object or subject of the testimony, but that the witnesses, belong to him, and that through them the living Lord is prosecuting the work by the power of his divine Spirit."
And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
We get this picture of the disciples looking up to heaven. Maybe they had been gazing there for awhile. Finally, the angels interrupt their thoughts and tell them (to paraphrase a little) What are you doing here? Its time to get to work. Sometimes we can be very spiritual and just want to spend time alone thinking of God and his goodness. But we cant do that all the time. There comes a time when we need to get out and get to work. You see a lot of Christians these days running from church to church and event to event seeking an "experience" with God. God wants us to be blessed and spend time in his presence, but he also wants us to be doing the work for which he has called us. He did not just save us so we can be blessed. He saved us so we can share the good news with others and have an impact in our family, our job, our church, and our community.
As Erdman remarks, "The disciples were encouraged to undertake their task.... No time was to be lost in mourning and regret; it was true their Lord had vanished from their sight, but someday he would reappear; meanwhile there was a work for them to do and in its faithful accomplishment they were to be inspired ever by this blessed hope...."
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away; and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
Wiersbe comments, "The key phrase is with one accord, a phrase that is found six times in Acts (1:14; 2:1, 46; 4:24; 5:12; 15:25; and note also 2:44). There was among these believers a wonderful unity that bound them together in Christ (Ps. 133; Gal. 3:28), the kind of unity that Christians need today." Unity is what brought the early church together. They loved each other and cared for one another. If we are to successfully do Gods work here in Merced, we must exhibit that same kind of unity.
In Aesops Fables there is the story of The Bundle of Sticks, "An old man on the point of death summoned his sons around him to give them some parting advice. He ordered his servants to bring in sticks tied with a cord, and said to his eldest son: Break it. The son strained and strained, but with all his efforts was unable to break the Bundle. The other sons also tried, but none of them was successful. Untie the cord, said the father, and each of you take a stick. When they had done so, he called out to them: Now, break, and each stick was easily broken. You see my meaning, said their father. Union gives strength."
In those days Peter stood up among the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty), and said,
Erdman comments on this group of 120 believers, "Taking them all in all, the persons who composed this group were of humble station, of modest means, and of moderate ability, yet united and empowered by the Spirit of Christ, they formed the most important society and achieved the most notable work in the history of the world."
Notice that it says that Peter stood up among the brethren. Here we see someone assuming a position of responsibility. He saw a need and stepped forward. He was willing to take the lead. As our church continues to grow, we will need more people who are willing to step forward and assume responsibility be willing to head up the tasks that need to be done. Peter was willing to step forward. Are you willing to step forward too?
Verses 16-17, 23-25
"Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry." And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, "Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen. To take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place."
I think we can learn two things from these verses. First, the apostles were ready to start getting re-organized. They were willing to fill the empty spot vacated by the treachery of Judas. We also have empty spots that need to be filled. And just like the early church, we are starting to get re-organized.
The second thing we can learn from this verse is that before they made the change, they prayed. Wiersbe writes, "Prayer plays a significant role in the story of the church as recorded in the Book of Acts. The believers prayed for guidance in making decisions (Acts 1:15-26) and for courage to witness for Christ (Acts 4:23-31). In fact, prayer was a normal part of their daily ministry (Acts 2:42-47; 3:1; 6:4). In almost every chapter in Acts you find a reference to prayer, and the book makes it very clear that something happens when Gods people pray. This is certainly a good lesson for the church today. Prayer is both the thermometer and the thermostat of the local church; for the spiritual temperature either goes up or down, depending on how Gods people pray."
And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles.
Notice that both Matthias and Joseph were willing to serve. Matthias was the one chosen, but I am sure that Joseph also had an important ministry in the early church since he was held in such high regard by the apostles. Let us also be willing to fill the empty spots and re-start the work of the committees and the tasks that need to be done in our church. In what ministry does God want you to be involved? Will you be as willing as Matthias and Joseph were? Will you be willing to say, Yes? May God help us as we continue the process of rebuilding First Christian Church here in Merced.
This study on Acts 1:1-26 © 1998 by David Humpal.
Warren Wiersbe: Be Dynamic Be Daring, electronic version © 1989, Victor Books
Erdman: The Acts, An Exposition by Charles Erdman pg. 23 © 1966, Baker Book House
Erdman: The Acts, An Exposition by Charles Erdman pg. 25 © 1966, Baker Book House
Wiersbe: Be Dynamic Be Daring, electronic version © 1989, Victor Books
Erdman: The Acts, An Exposition by Charles Erdman pg. 28 © 1966, Baker Book House
Warren Wiersbe: Be Dynamic Be Daring, electronic version © 1989, Victor Books