Acts 1: 4-8
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. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’
Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’
He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.’
Jesus told the disciples not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for the promised Holy Spirit to arrive. There were some who probably wanted to return to their home towns and villages and others who probably were itching to get out into the streets and begin preaching that Christ had risen. However, they weren’t yet ready, they didn’t have the resources required to impact cities and transform communities. Jesus told them what to expect:
“….you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…” (v. 8)
You will receive power. We live in a world which is power-hungry. From business to politics, nations to churches, individuals pursue power, groups lobby for power, countries arm themselves to exert power. The Greek word Jesus uses here is ‘dynamis’ from which we get words such as dynamite and dynamic. In fact, this term “power” occurs ten times in Acts, sometimes referring to miracles and at other times to divine enablement to speak boldly for Christ.
The 120 in the upper room have very little going for them in terms of worldly power, gifting, influence or authority. Think back to just weeks before when Jesus was arrested. Most of them abandoned him, fleeing the scene and even denying friendship with him. If Jesus’ mission to reach the ends of the earth was ever going to have any chance of success, his followers would definitely need transforming power. Not earthly political power which was what they still envisaged, but heavenly power, a force far greater than any government or earthly institution could confer.
What would this power enable them to do? What was its purpose?
“…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (v. 8)
Interestingly the word used for ‘witnesses’ is ‘martyres’. The power of God is not given to dominate others or to exert worldly authority. It is not even given so the church can enjoy super-spiritual experiences. It is power to serve, to sacrifice, to lay down one’s life in surrender and submission. That’s what we see as Acts progresses from Pentecost forward. The Holy Spirit powerfully enabled these ordinary men and women to carry the good news of Jesus to every town and city, boldly declaring and demonstrating the Gospel to an unbelieving world.
The secret to bringing life to our communities is not getting Christians into positions of power and influence – not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that. It’s that every ordinary Jesus follower would be indwelt and fully empowered by the Holy Spirit to daily lay down our lives in service and sacrifice, and that we would be endued with all of heaven’s authority to speak and show that Jesus is alive. That’s what will turn the world upside-down.
Michael Green comments in his book, Evangelism in the Early Church:
“Neither the strategy nor the tactics of the first Christians were particularly remarkable. What was remarkable was their conviction, their passion, and their determination to act as Christ’s embassy to a rebel world whatever the consequences.”
On Sunday we launched ‘10,000 Hours’, a great way for each of us to demonstrate the message of the Kingdom in practical ways throughout the month of July. If you haven’t yet done so, register to be part of this exciting opportunity today: https://10000.causewaycoastvineyard.com