Power to be witnesses for Jesus Acts 1:8

ACTS 1:1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

“All that Jesus BEGAN to do and to teach” – the gospels do not record the totality of all that Jesus said and did. They only record his earthly ministry up to his resurrection and ascension. Luke begins this second volume of his account of everything Jesus said and did by referring to his first volume, which we know as Luke’s Gospel. That Gospel told us about the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, all the way through to His ascension. But then Luke picks up the story again at that point and goes on to tell us of everything that Jesus CONTINUED to do and to teach AFTER had ascended. It is very clear that for Luke, what we call the Acts of the Apostles should really be called the Acts of the Risen Christ through the Holy Spirit.

The Ascension of Jesus Christ to glory was not the END of the STORY. It was really only the end of the beginning. Luke will now tell us what Jesus did next, through his disciples empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Longer Ending of Mark makes the same point.
Mark 16 19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

Acts is the story of how the Risen Christ continued to bring salvation through the first Christians preaching the gospel and by the miracles God worked through them.
Acts 1:4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.

Luke may have been referring here to an occasion he records at the end of his Gospel, or in Luke 24 he may have been talking about a different occasion. There we read,
46 (Jesus) told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
The gift my Father promised, the gift of the Holy Spirit, clothed with power from on High.

To explain this “gift my Father promised”, Jesus continued, 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
To understand this promise properly we need to look at Luke 3 which records the ministry of John the Baptist. John came baptising people in the river Jordan as a sign of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Luke 316 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
In John’s ministry baptism in water was a sign of repentance and forgiveness. It was an act of initiation purifying people to get them ready for the blessings Jesus would be bringing. And John the Baptist promised that Jesus would bring an even more powerful experience of initiation and cleansing. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
We will look at how this wonderful promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost in two weeks time. But even then the disciples did not really understand what Jesus was talking about. They thought that God’s promise was to do with the Christ’s Kingdom coming in power to set the nation of Israel free from the occupying Roman armies.
6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
In fact. the gift that God had promised was not the liberation of the nation of Israel, but something far more wonderful. It was a promise which would be far more dramatic and far-reaching than the apostles could possibly imagine.

Acts 1 8 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.”

God’s promise was nothing less than the Holy Spirit, God Himself coming to live in every Christian. The Holy Spirit bringing power, supremely power to be witnesses for Jesus. As Luke 24 says,
47 repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Power from on High through God the Holy Spirit: power to be witnesses for Jesus.

The important thing to notice about Acts 1:8 is that those words are not a command. Jesus does not say, “you must be my witnesses.” Acts 1:8 is a promise.
Acts 1 8 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.”

In fact in Acts 1:8 we have two promises which fit seamlessly together. “You will receive power” AND “you will be my witnesses.” Luke 24 talks about “the eleven and their companions” so it is clear that Jesus had other disciples who were also there in the Upper Room when Jesus appeared to them and promised that they would be “clothed with power from on high.”

“You will received power and you will be my witnesses.” These words have a particular significance because of their place in this book. In histories written in those days, the first speech the central character makes is always of particular significance. It gives us a summary of the whole theme of the book. So in Luke’s Gospel Jesus’s first sermon at Nazareth sets the programme for the whole book, In the same way here Acts 1:8 sets the programme for the whole book and the rest of Acts will tell the story of how these promises were fulfilled.

Acts 1 8 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.”
Two promises together making one promise which will be for all disciples of Jesus for all time. WE will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon US, and WE will be witnesses for Jesus, starting wherever we are and spreading throughout the whole earth.

In the Old Testament we find the word “power” more than a hundred times, and there it refers to the strength of individual men and women. In that sense our human power can come from training or experience or human wisdom or hard work. The New Testament again speaks around 100 times of power – but the word refers not to the strength of men and women, but to the almighty power of the almighty God. When Jesus promised to his disciples “power from on high”, power to be witnesses, THAT is the kind of power He was talking about. The Greek word in question is dunamis and from that root we get two significant English words. The first is dynamo – which generates electrical power. The second is dynamite – the explosive. Jesus promises to give his disciples the power of the Holy Spirit, dunamis, the dynamo and the dynamite of the Christian life!

And over the weeks to come we will see that power from on high expressed in at least three different ways in the life of the early church.

1 Power in miracles of healing and deliverance

In Luke’s gospel especially we see this aspect of the power of God at work in the ministry of Jesus in signs and wonders, miracles of healing and deliverance. Even during His earthly ministry Jesus then passed that power on to his disciples when he sent out first the 12 and then the 72. We will see in weeks how these miracles of healing and deliverance continued in the Early Church. Following the day of Pentecost we read,
Acts 2: 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles…. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

In Acts 3 Peter and John were enabled to heal the lame man sitting at the beautiful gate of the temple. Then in Acts 6 we read,
Acts 6:8 Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.

Power from on high meant power for miracles of healing and deliverance. But then secondly in the early church we will find
2 Power in proclaiming the gospel

Acts 4:33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.

This is the power Jesus promised to his disciples just before He ascended. Power to be witnesses for Jesus.

Michael Green memorably reminds us,
“Who is it who convicts people of sin? it is the Holy Spirit!
Who enables people to say Jesus is Lord? it is the Holy Spirit!
Who baptises people into Christ? it is the Holy Spirit!
Who brings new birth? it is the Holy Spirit!
Who assures us that we belong to Jesus? it is the Holy Spirit!
Who produces the fruit of changed characters? it is the Holy Spirit!
Who gives us gifts so that we can serve God more effectively? It is the Holy Spirit!”

All these things are the working of God the Holy Spirit bringing people to faith in Jesus Christ. Our part as believers is simply to make sure we are available to God and ready to obey Him when He wants to use us, and that we don’t get in God’s way by trying to do His work for Him! The Holy Spirit is already at work in the lives of “not yet Christians.” And the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives too. It’s the Holy Spirit who gives us the words to say when we share the gospel.

We may feel we could never tell other people about Jesus. But it’s not about skillful speaking and persuasive words. It’s about the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, and working in the people we are talking to! And that power isn’t just for ministers and evangelists, but for EVERY Christian. That is what Jesus promised – we will ALL be clothed in power from on high!

Power in proclaiming the gospel, and THIRDLY

3 Power to live the victorious Christian life

This aspect of the power of God comes more obviously from the only Old Testament appearance of the phrase “Power from on high” in ISAIAH 32:15-18

15 (when) the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest.
16 Justice will dwell in the desert and righteousness live in the fertile field.
17 The fruit of righteousness will be peace;the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence for ever.18 My people will live in peaceful dwelling-places,in secure homes,in undisturbed places of rest.

The work of the “Spirit from on high” in ISAIAH will be the renewal of God’s chosen people Israel. This renewal, rebuilding, and restoration will bring the blessings of salvation: peace and prosperity, justice and righteousness. At the same time power from on high will bring Israel to repentance – refining and purifying the people of God.

And that is the work of the Spirit in Christians, to give us the power to live the Christian life and to live changed lives! God’s power can do so much more than our human efforts even can. This is the power given to every Christian – the power which raised Christ from the dead – which can do immeasurably more than we can ask for or even imagine! Power to be witnesses for Jesus. Power in miracles of healing and deliverance. Power in proclaiming the gospel. Power to live the Christian life victoriously.

Samuel Chadwick (1832–1917)
“To the church, Pentecost brought light, power, joy. There came to each illumination of mind, assurance of heart, intensity of love, fullness of power, exuberance of joy. No one needed to ask if they had received the Holy Ghost. Fire is self-evident. So is power!”

TWO OBVIOUS THINGS TO SAY
If that is what being clothed with power from on high is about – we aren’t! AND
If that is what being clothed with power from on high is about – we need to be!

A Christian girl was visiting from Eastern Europe and her hosts asked her what impressions she had formed about the Churches she had visited in Britain. She said, “The church in England is like a great big factory – but the power is switched off!” The power is switched off – how different to the life of the Early Church.

We need more of this power from on high. More of the dynamo and the dynamite of the Spirit in our lives and in our church. But do we really want that? Power to be witnesses for Jesus. Power in miracles of healing and deliverance. Power in proclaiming the gospel. Power to live the Christian life victoriously. Just how much do we really want to be clothed with power from on high?

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