“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.”—Acts 1:8
Overview of Acts
The book of Acts is one of the most exciting parts of the whole Bible. Jesus has just ascended to heaven, the Spirit has come to the church, and we see God at work. Luke’s purpose in writing Acts is to show the triumphant progress of the gospel, starting from Jerusalem, through Judea, into Samaria, throughout Asia Minor, into Europe, and finally to Rome. However, this is not triumphalism, for the gospel messenger will be opposed, tortured, imprisoned, and martyred. There will be opposition from outside religious and commercial interests and even dissension within the church, yet the gospel will progress and people will come to Christ. Embark on a journey through the book of Acts, and see how the Holy Spirit empowers the church to witness in ever-widening circles until the gospel reaches the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Luke is the author of both the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles. Today’s verses provide the bridge between the two volumes.
In Luke 24:46–47, Jesus summarises the purpose of God. Notice that verse 46 is a good summary of Luke’s gospel—the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Christ. Verse 47 is a good summary of Acts—that same gospel being preached to the ends of the earth. Notice that verse 47 is as much the purpose of God as verse 46. It clearly states that the broadcast of the gospel, mission, and evangelism is at the very heart of God’s ongoing purpose until His Son returns.
Acts 1:8 is a similar verse to Luke 24:47–49. It sets the pattern for the unfolding narrative of Acts. The Holy Spirit will come on the church to empower the church for witness in ever-widening circles until the gospel reaches the ends of the earth.
God buries His messengers but not His message.
One of the characteristics of Luke’s writing is that he allows his emphasis to fall on his last words. In the original Greek, the last word of his long introduction in Luke 1:4 is “certainty”. He wants his patron Theophilus to be certain of the facts that Luke reports.
Similarly, in Greek the last words of Acts are “without hindrance” (Acts 28:31). The gospel has reached Rome, but it will continue on its unstoppable and unhindered way until all God’s purposes have been fulfilled. This truth will be amply demonstrated throughout the book.
The book of Acts provides the church of the twenty-first century with its mandate and your mandate for today. You have the Holy Spirit. He will empower you today for witness to Christ in a lost world.
As Christian preacher and author C. H. Spurgeon writes, “All hope in ministry lies in the Spirit of God operating on the spirit of men.”1
1 C. H. Spurgeon, quoted in Reformation and Revival 9, no. 1 (2000).
Think of the people you contact and of your witness to them. How can it be more effective?
Do you think we make Luke 24:47 of lesser importance than Luke 24:46? What effect does this have on the church?