Lesson 01 - Chapter 1:1-2

Lesson 1 - Chapter 1:1-2

Lesson for May 1, 2016

The Book of Acts

Chapter 1:1-2

The style in the Greek language of Acts is exactly the same as the style of Luke. There is no question as to the fact that Luke wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. He wrote this somewhere between 61 and 63 A.D. He was writing Acts while Paul was writing the four prison epistles. Luke was with Paul and both of them were apparently writing at the same lime. Luke, like Paul, was one of the great educated men of his day and it is obvious from the Greek he used in the first three verses.

The book of Acts is the written history of the early church before the Canon of Scripture was completed. There are many things in the book of Acts which are doctrinal and which are just as true today as they were in the day in which it was written. And there are certain things in the book of Acts which never occurred again. Many things recorded by Luke cease to exist because they existed in place of the completed Canon of Scriptures. Once the Canon of Scriptures was completed there was no further need for certain spiritual gifts for example. Many times when we read about the believers in the book of Acts searching the Scriptures; they were actually studying the Old Testament Scriptures because as yet they did not have the New Testament.

Verses 1-2

“The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to Heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.”

Theophilus is referring to a person of wealth and influence in the Roman Empire. We know exactly the status of this person because of the phrase in Luke 1:3, “most excellent.” Luke referred to Theophilus in the same manner that both he and Paul referred to the Roman governors Felix and Festus. (Acts 23:26, 24:3, 26:25)

About all that Jesus began to do and teach is the completion of the story from the Gospel of Luke. Notice the order here. With us it is teach, learn and do: but with Jesus it was “do and teach.” Before Jesus could teach He had to first of all do. This refers to miracles, all of the acts of healing, to every supernatural act performed in the power of the Spirit by Jesus Christ, and He had to do these things in order to get a hearing. This is the principle which is given in Isaiah - the Messiah would come with signs to Israel. These signs were the various miracles and acts of healing. Because He performed these signs people would listen to Him. The important thing was the message, not the miracles. The miracles would alleviate suffering temporarily, but the teaching of Jesus would alleviate suffering for all eternity.

Until the day when He was taken up to Heaven is the transition between volume one (the book of Luke) and volume two (the book of Acts) of Luke’s writings. Until the day is a reference to the Ascension. This is the last day covered in the book of Luke; this is the first day covered in the book of Acts. The humanity of Christ was lifted up by the power of God the Father, the author of the divine plan.

After He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen refers to the many commandments that Jesus gave after His Resurrection. Remember that Jesus spent forty days on the earth after He had been resurrected and during that time He taught believers in the vicinity of Jerusalem. But there were two commandments that were more important than all of the others and these are the two that God the Holy Spirit led Luke to discuss in Acts. The first is found in verse 5 and has to do with the doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is vitally important that every believer understand the baptism of the Spirit because this is how the Church is formed, this is when the Church began, and this is the key to positional sanctification. It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit at the point of salvation to enter every believer into union with Christ. Therefore Jesus made a specific promise with regard to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is also necessary to understand this because in 70 AD the Jews were going into the fifth cycle of discipline, they would be scattered throughout the earth until the Second Coming of Christ. Therefore, there must be some organization to replace Israel as custodians of the truth and disseminators of the Gospel. So on the day of Pentecost the Church (the body of Christ) began and replaced Israel in these two roles.

By the Holy Spirit reminds us that during the course of His earthly ministry the humanity of Christ was sustained by the Holy Spirit. In other words, the humanity of Christ was indwelt by the Holy Spirit and during His entire ministry Jesus Christ was filled with the Spirit. All the time that Christ was on the earth He was sustained by the Holy Spirit. He did not depend upon His own divine attributes and He did not use them independently of the plan of the Father. The ministry of the Holy Spirit was prophesied in the Old Testament. (Isaiah 1:2.3. 42:1. 61:1-2) The Holy Spirit was given without measure to the humanity of Christ. (John 3:34) This is another way of describing the filling of the Spirit. Not only did the Holy Spirit indwell Jesus Christ but He filled Him perpetually. The Holy Spirit is related to the earthly ministry of Christ. By comparing Matthew 12: 18; 18:28 we know that every miracle He performed, every message He gave, everything that He did, He did in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The present ministry of the Holy Spirit in relation to Christ is different. Now, instead of indwelling the humanity of Christ, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to indwell the believer in order to glorify Christ. (John 7:39) The Holy Spirit was not given permanently until after the Cross, Christ was resurrected, ascended, was seated at the right hand of the Father. Ten days after Christ was seated the Holy Spirit came to the believers on the day of Pentecost and since then the Holy Spirit indwells every believer. (John 16:14) The ministry of the Holy Spirit at the present time is to glorify Christ and He does this through indwelling of every believer. (I Corinthians 6:19-20)

After He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen is a reference to Luke 24:33-49 where Jesus gives His final commands to His disciples before ascending. After the Resurrection, Jesus Christ led His disciples to a place near Bethany and there He ascended to Heaven. The truth of the Ascension can be seen in two ways. First, Jesus predicted that He would ascend into Heaven and return to God the Father. (John 3:13; 6:62; 14:2, 12; 16:5, 10, 17, 28) Second is the event itself, which is described historically in three places - Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-11. Once it is reaffirmed in the Epistles. (Ephesians 4:8-9) It is the Acts 1:9-11 passage in particular that gives the most detail.

Four key Greek words or terms are used by Luke and Mark to give the details of the Ascension. The first three are found in Acts 1:9-10 and the fourth is found in Mark 16:19. The first Greek word is “epeérthee,” which means to lift up, showing that the Ascension was upward. Furthermore, the term is in the passive state, showing that the Son was taken up into Heaven by God the Father.

The second Greek word is “hupélaben,” which has the concept of being under something else. Jesus was in the atmospheric heaven and was received by the clouds. The point is that the cloud was under Him; He was being supported in the Ascension by the cloud. Of course, the cloud also hid the Ascension from the view of the apostles.

The third Greek word is “poreuoménou,” which literally means, as He went. It also means, to pursue a journey. Jesus simply went on a trip. It was a departure in the sense of taking a journey, a departure from the earth and a journey toHeaven. The word conveys both concepts of departure and journey. The aspect of departure means that there was a departure from the earth; the aspect of journey means that it was a journey to Heaven.

The fourth Greek word is in Mark 16:19. It is the word, “aneleémfthee,” and means “to be received up.” It means that the Ascension ended when Jesus was received up into Heaven. Every journey has its destination. While the third term emphasizes the concept of journey, the fourth term emphasizes the destination of this journey, which was Heaven itself. Like many journeys, this journey was not a permanent one, but a temporary one. Someday He will return to this earth to set up His Kingdom.

There are six characteristics of the Ascension:First, the Ascension was of the whole Person. It was not just the humanity of Jesus, nor was it only the deity of Jesus that ascended. The whole God-Man ascended. Second, it was visible because the disciples could see Jesus going up into the atmospheric heaven until a cloud hid Him from their view. Third, it was bodily. The resurrection body that He received upon His resurrection is the body that ascended. Fourth, it was gradual. He was not instantaneously caught up with the speed of light, in a wink of an eye, and did not suddenly disappear. It was gradual and in four stages, as illustrated by the four Greek terms. Fifth, the Ascension was received by clouds. Jesus went up in the clouds of Heaven, the very clouds that hid the rest of the Ascension from the view of the apostles. Sixth, the Ascension meant a local transfer from one place to another place – from earth to Heaven.

The Ascension concluded with the arrival of Messiah into Heaven. That was the termination and the goal of the Ascension: the arrival of Jesus bodily into Heaven. This is so important that fifteen specific passages speak of His arrival into Heaven. (Acts 3:20-21; 9:3-6; 22:6-10; 26:13-18; Philippians 3:20; I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:16; I Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:14; 6:20; 7:26, 9:24; I John 2:1; Revelation 1:17; 5:5-12)

There are twelve significances of the Ascension: The first significance of the Ascension proved the truth of what Jesus said. He prophesied that He would go to the Father, and the Ascension fulfilled the claim that He made in John 14:28. The second significance of the Ascension means that Jesus is preparing a place. In John 14:2, He said that He is going to Heaven, to the Father, to prepare a place for us. The Ascension and the arrival of Jesus Christ into Heaven means that He is preparing a place for us. The third significance of the Ascension is that it marks the culmination of His Exaltation. (Ephesians 1:19-23) Exaltation means that God the Father has exalted His Son above every creature and given Him a name that is above every name. Upon His arrival into Heaven, it completed the Exaltation. (Philippians 2:9-11) The fourth significance of the Ascension is that it marks His headship over the Church. It means that He is head of the Church by virtue of His Ascension into Heaven. (Colossians 1:18) The fifth significance of the Ascension is that it means there is Jesus as a Man seated at the right hand of God the Father. (Acts 2:32-35)

The sixth significance of the Ascension is that it began the high priestly ministry of Christ. Upon His Ascension, He took on His function as a priest, ever making intercession for us. By means of His Ascension, He can function in His priestly office in Heaven. Because there is a Man seated at the right hand of God the Father Who is performing a high priestly ministry the writer of the Book of Hebrews encourages believers to make use of this High Priest. As our High Priest, He represents us. Since He is a Man Who was tempted in all points like we are but without sin, it means that He is a sympathetic high priest.

The seventh significance of the Ascension is that it marks the coming of the Holy Spirit. The new type of ministry, which the Holy Spirit began in Acts 2, could not have occurred prior to the ascension of Jesus. Only after His ascension could the Holy Spirit come, indwell believers forever, and begin His ministry to believers. This is brought out prophetically in John 7:39 and 16:7, and in fulfillment in Acts 2:33. The eighth significance of the Ascension is that it makes Jesus Christ the forerunner into Heaven. (Hebrews 6:20) By means of His ascension into Heaven, He became a forerunner into Heaven. A forerunner means “the first of more to come later.” The believers are the more to come later.

The ninth significance of the Ascension is that it marks the believers’ new position as being seated in the “heaven-lies.” (Ephesians 1:20-21) Because believers are in Christ, they are in a new position. Because the Messiah is seated in the “heaven-lies” at the right hand of God the Father, and because believers are in Christ, God views believers as being seated in the “heaven-lies,” not yet physically, but positionally. The tenth significance of the Ascension is that by means of the Ascension, the gifts of the Holy Spirit could be given. (Ephesians 4:7-11) This passage points out that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were available only after Christ ascended into Heaven. So the Son ascended into Heaven and then gave the spiritual gifts to believers.

The eleventh significance of the Ascension is that it provides the manner, not the place, of His return. (Acts 1:9-11) He ascended in the clouds of Heaven, and He will come in like manner someday, in the clouds of Heaven. The twelfth significance of the Ascension is that it means that the Old Testament saints are now also in Heaven. Before His ascension, the Old Testament saints’ souls were still kept in the center of the earth in Sheol or Hades. When Jesus ascended, He took the souls of the Old Testament saints with Him, and the Ascension means that the souls of the Old Testament saints are now in Heaven. (Ephesians 4:8)