Read - Acts 1v1-5
Message - Scott Woodburn
As the book of Acts begins we very quickly realise that it is Luke part two. Luke speaks of his first book (v1) which is his Gospel account and he mentions his friend Theophilus once more (Luke 1v3). Luke has recorded "all that Jesus began to do and teach" until the day of His ascension (v2a). Acts will speak of the taking of the Gospel to the nations. But before Christ's Apostles begin their work, Jesus appeared to them alive and well (v3a). He gave them many proofs to show that His resurrection was no fraud (v3b) and for forty days He spoke to them about the kingdom of God (v3c).
Where is the kingdom of God today? Perhaps Jerusalem? Perhaps the Vatican? No. Our Westminster Confession puts it this way "The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation as before under the law) consists of all those, throughout the world, that profess the true religion, and of their children; and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation."
The kingdom of God on earth is His Bride the church. Soon the Apostles would leave Jerusalem and take the Gospel to every corner of the earth. The Gospel would advance and be opposed at every step of the way and yet it would still advance. The church of Christ would be built, no longer situated primarily in the middle-east but it would become a multi-national and multi-ethnic body.
But the time for the Apostles' work had not yet come. Jesus told them that they needed to stay in Jerusalem to wait for the promise of the Father (v4). Christ had already spoken to them that it would be to their advantage that He would go away. Another was coming, called the Helper. The Apostles were to receive the Holy Spirit. John had baptised with water but they would be baptised with the Holy Spirit (v5).
They would need the Spirit's help. These men would face unimaginable trouble for the rest of the their lives. They would be despised and rejected by men, their names would be slandered, they would have no safe place to call their own and most of them would be murdered for their refusal to deny Christ. Luke in his second book tells us their story, their acts. If the church exists outside the boundaries of Israel today, then it is because these men took it with them. Every mile they walked, every town they visited, every sermon they preached was used by Almighty God to call the nations to repentance and faith in Christ.
The year at the top of the calendar may have changed but our message is still the same, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. May the Lord continue to build His church in 2021.
Q58 What is required in the fourth commandment? The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his Word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to himself.