Skip to content
Jan 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 10, 2016 – Acts Chapter 1

At Peace With Waiting

The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up into heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.
Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
 Acts 1:1-8 (chapter 1)

Intro: We have in the New Testament four Gospels that tell the story of Jesus

But his story does not end with the gospels
– this point is made explicit in last verses of Matthew and Luke (Mark leaves us in suspense)
• John devotes several chapters to Jesus’ conversations with the disciples to get them ready
– the book of Acts is the continuation of the gospel story
• and when we get to final chapter of Acts, we’ll see there is room to add more chapters

If like the Gospels Acts is a story, what is the plot?
– as I see it, the tension that runs through the book is this:
• will this venture that grew out of the ministry of Jesus succeed or be derailed by humans?
• we’ll see that the movement is threatened by
◦ conflicts instigated by enemies on the outside
◦ poor decisions or wrong actions initiated by believers from within
– chapters 1 and 2 narrate the transition from Jesus’ ministry to the Spirit’s ministry

Let’s walk through the first chapter

Like the gospel of Luke, Acts is addressed to Theolphilus
– I don’t doubt Theophilus was a real person
• yet I also suspect that Luke played on the meaning of his name: friend (or lover) of God
◦ both volumes were written to inform and inspire people who are inwardly drawn to God
• Luke’s first work is summarized as “all that Jesus began to do and teach”
◦ and from there he immediately jumps to the end if volume 1
– God’s Spirit was actively involved in the final days of Jesus’ physical presence on earth
• it was “by the Spirit” that Jesus “gave orders to the apostles”

An important piece in the Lord’s parting conversation was his response to a question
– the disciples had devoted their lives to following Jesus because of an assumption
• namely, that Jesus was the Messiah who would bring God’s kingdom into the world
◦ Israel, having been oppressed by other nations for centuries, would rise to the top
◦ God’s direct rule of the world through Israel would bring an ultimate state of peace
• but when the disciples asked whether Jesus was finally fulfill his mission,
◦ his response was, “That’s none of your business” – God keeps his calendar private
◦ that information wasn’t given to them, but what would be given is God’s Spirit (vv. 7 & 8)
– we can read verse 8 as a loosely structured table of contents 

But seeing that the Spirit was already present, what’s this talk about mean?
– I’ll try to give a full explanation next week, but for now power and upon are key words
• the Spirit would create the road ahead and energize them to walk in it
◦ now this is much better than getting a “design for church”
◦ then having to hammer it out on our own
• Jesus told them to “wait” for this–they were not to get started just yet
◦ the same instructions are given in Luke 24:49, with different wording
◦ rather than wait in Jerusalem, he told them to stay in the city–literally, “sit”

Having concluded this last dialogue, Jesus was “lifted up”
– and they were left staring into the sky
• “two men” were suddenly there with the bystanders (cf. the two men at Jesus’ tomb; Lk. 24:4)

Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky?

– this is an odd bit of scripture–the men didn’t tell them what to do but just asked “why?”
• as if to say, “What do you expect to see? What do you expect to happen next?”

From there the apostles returned to upper room in Jerusalem to wait out the next few days
– this was not a period of inactivity
• with other disciples, they were “continually devoting themselves to prayer”
• I think they understood that this is what Jesus meant by “wait” (Lk. 12:35-38)
◦ it is the sort of prayerful waiting in which strength is renewed (Isa. 40:31)

What happens next feels like an interruption to the story
– the next natural development would be the arrival of the Spirit
– instead, Peter stands up and takes charge
• he announces that they need to appoint a replacement for Judas
◦ reminding them of what Judas had done, he says they need to take action
◦ he quotes a couple of biblical passages in reference to this situation
• it surprises me that Peter would create the criteria of apostleship (vv. 21-22)
◦ two candidates are put forward, so they drew lots to choose one–i.e., they took a vote
◦ Matthias won the vote and–we never hear him mention again

Were Peter’s actions what Jesus meant by “wait”?

Peter had waited, how long? three days? five days? then he stopped waiting
– perhaps he felt a void in their community
• like something was missing — perhaps the vacancy left by Judas
• he knew they were waiting for the Spirit
◦ but what would that look like? or feel like?
◦ “spirit” seems so ethereal, maybe it had already happened
– it’s possible that a restlessness began to stir within the group
• a leader can’t just sit around when a crisis is looming
• the time had come to make something happen

My opinion is that Peter felt driven to act
– to figure out what was missing and do something about it
• so he took the reins, he stood up and he began to organize the group
◦ it was a matter of crisis management
• Peter succeeded in giving everyone something to think about, something to do
– Jesus had not left any instructions regarding choosing a replacement
• it wasn’t what Jesus said would come next
• but at least they were no longer idle, their hands were busy
◦ they were making decisions – they “drew lots”

I’m not saying that the vote failed or was wrong – they prayed it would work
– but the process lacked spiritual energy
• Jesus did not draw lots when he chose his apostles
• this is a community not yet filled with the Spirit
– in ministry, it makes all the difference if we are led and energized by the Spirit
• or we rely on our best research and engineering

Could this have been a test?

Early on in Israel’s monarchy their first king was tested in a similar fashion
– the prophet Samuel gave Saul specific instructions about waiting for him (1 Sam. 19:8)
• but the time came for Saul to comply in the middle of an emergency
◦ the Philistines invaded Israel

30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen, and people like the sand which is on the seashore in abundance (1 Sam. 13:5)

◦ from that unhappy statement on, the situation worsens with every additional factor
• Saul waited for seven days, but gave out before the day ended
◦ no sooner had he violated his orders, Samuel appeared over the rise
◦ though Saul said he forced himself to act, but he failed the test and was rejected by God
– frequently the Scriptures report a test of someone’s obedience or trust
• obedience is difficulty only when we lack trust

Our culture is driven by people who cannot see the value of waiting
– we all have a breaking point:
• like when we’re under pressure to act quickly
• when our agitation or heated emotions boil over
◦ but in is in moments that it is most critical to wait
◦ otherwise, as soon as we act we realize it was wrong
– there are times when the most difficult thing God could ask of us is to wait

Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the LORD. (Ps. 27:14)

• this waiting is to sit in prayer and rest our minds in complete trust
• to wait in silence with our hearts in a state of Yes!

Conc: In verse 9, we read “a cloud received Him”

It sounds as though the cloud had a mind and will of its own
– it gets my imagination going — a cloud admits Jesus into folds of its billows
• creation gently accommodates its Creator
• and perhaps it will one day be possible to walk with Jesus in the clouds
– the verse goes on, “out of their sight”
• even though Jesus’ ascension is the finale to this piece of history,
◦ he never disappears from the Book of Acts — he is never forgotten with time
◦ or eclipsed by all the miracles that swirl around the apostles
• Jesus is in the middle of it all
◦ in every sermon, they “preached Jesus” (Acts 5:42; 8:35)
◦ their whole mission was about being his witnesses

And despite the long hard road, the crises and the tests, Jesus never disappears from our lives
– the Spirit of God brings him near to us and brings us near to him
• but as for us, we have to be okay with waiting
• have to learn to make the most of waiting – and whenever possible, to enjoy it

One Comment

Leave a comment
  1. Don Stewardson / Jan 25 2016

    Chuck, your respect for the writing we have been given is a very comforting encouragement. It is one thing for preachers to hold up a Bible as God’s TRUTH, but it is another to truly examine what that means! Your thoughts about Peter are the same ones the SPIRIT revealed to me some time ago, when a loudly adamant teacher insisted otherwise, but I have WAITED and now here you are with this. Thank you, Chuck, the quiet assurance I found in ministry you presented 20 years ago still inhabits this space and is able to lift me out of extremely deep “mire”. The following week’s look at how the Spirit worked over the long period of time covered, was something I had not realized, but familiar with each separate event, was delighted to see that connection process. Thanks again

Leave a comment