Vs. 1, “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach.” The first chapter of Acts connects the life of Jesus’ ministry to the beginning of the church at Pentecost. Theophilus (friend of God) was most likely an actual person that Luke was writing to (vs. 1). Luke gives us a synopsis of Jesus’ ministry after His resurrection (vs. 2-8). During the forty days, Jesus encouraged and guided the disciples before His ascension (vs. 9-11). Many witnesses were able to testify of our risen Lord! Upon receiving the Holy Spirit, the disciples were to take the Good News to the ends of the earth (vs. 8). In the latter half of our chapter (vs. 12-26), the disciples return to Jerusalem and ready themselves for Passover. I love how we see them praying and putting their dependence completely upon the Lord (vs. 12-15). The choosing of Matthias (vs. 16-26) perplexes some, for they believe Paul was the fulfillment of the twelfth apostle. However, we are not told that what the disciples did was wrong. Though Matthias is not mentioned again in Acts, seven other apostles are not mentioned either.
Regarding application…Are You Praying? Vs. 14, “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” Question: How is your prayer life? It is believed that minister and well-known commentator of the Bible, Matthew Henry, once stated, “when God wants to do something special in the world, he first gets his people to start praying.” Both individual prayers and corporate prayers are essential parts of our faith! When you investigate prayer, it really just comes down to communicating with God. If I were to go home each night and neglect speaking to my wife, I should think our relationship would suffer greatly. Likewise, our prayer life or lack thereof, can affect our relationship with God. Prayer can move mountains (Matthew 17:20). The disciples prayed and God answered! The power of prayer is a mystery, but one that has an amazing track record! Pray to the Lord and don’t neglect praying with each other in your church.
Vs. 5, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus and the disciples now come back to Capernaum. Capernaum served as the home base for the ministry in Galilee. It is likely they used Peter’s home (vs. 1) as their location. Our first scene opens up with Jesus healing the paralytic who was lowered from the roof (vs. 1-12). Upon excavation findings in Capernaum, the roofs were nothing more than thatched (reed, branches, dried mud) and could easily be replaced. What amazes Jesus is the undaunting faith of the friends who go to extreme measures to help their paralyzed comrade. What was shocking to the crowds and the teachers of the law was the fact that Jesus stated to the paralytic that his sins were forgiven (vs. 5). Question: Who was Jesus that he could forgive sins? What stands out to me is that Jesus knew their thoughts (vs. 8)! We then see the calling of Levi (Matthew) who was a tax collector (vs. 13-17). This just continues the shocking selection of those whom Jesus would call to be Apostles. It’s important to note that while Jesus was accused of dining with “sinners”, he was not partying it up. He was with the safety of other believers and these “sinners” were not there to party but to know more about Jesus. We can’t really use the excuse to go party with sinners because that is what Jesus did. The questioning of fasting (vs. 18-22) remind us that there is a time and place for everything. The kingdom of heaven was upon them and there was no reason to be somber while Jesus was physically with them. However, we are told that fasting is appropriate after (vs. 20). Jesus is also questioned about breaking one of the Sabbath laws (vs. 23-27). Jesus is quick to let them know that He is the Lord of the Sabbath (vs. 27). The Sabbath was created for us as a gift of rest, but the Pharisees made it a legalistic regulation.
Regarding application…What’s the Point? Vs. 17, “On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” In the process of holiness and living for God, there is a danger of forgetting what the main point is. We can get so wrapped up in our religiosity, that we forget God’s ultimate purpose: to save the lost and sinner. We the church can look much more like Pharisees than we would like to admit. Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). Church programs are great ways to grow with God. But they are just conduits to remembering the point of church. Yes we are to grow spiritually, but don’t forget the Great Commission: to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). And that really comes down to creating avenues of relationship. God wants us to in a daily relationship with Him. And if we are walking daily with Him, we will naturally love His mission to seek and save the lost. That my friends is the point why we are here.
Vs. 1, “Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you.” I would have loved to be there listening to this stirring message of reflection and exhortation (vs. 1-14). Sometimes we forget to remember the goodness of God in our lives. Question: What makes a joyful life? Obedience to God with a right heart. Israel was to never forget God’s law that wasn’t only written on stone tablets (vs.13), but also on their hearts. Moses also sternly warns them against idolatry (vs. 15-31). This was literally a grave concern for the consequences would be steep. Yet, a repentant heart would bring back the goodness of God (vs. 29). Sadly, Moses speech was a prophecy that indeed they would be scattered by their disobedience (vs. 27). There is no one like the LORD (vs. 32-40) and they needed to remember how privileged they were. We are also reminded of the stipulation of cities of refuge (Numbers 35) (vs. 41-43). And lastly, Moses is not dispensing new laws, giving reviews of the laws in the land east of the Jordan (vs. 44-49).
Regarding application…Passing It On. Vs. 9, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” The very idea of having church and congregating together is to remember this very exhortation. We cannot allow the knowledge of God’s word to slip from our hearts! Brothers and sisters, we were reminded from our last New Testament book of the Gospel of Matthew to remember the Great Commission. And in those words from Jesus, He tells us to, “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” – Matthew 28:19. We are to pass God’s word on to each other, to our church, to our children and to a world that needs to know Jesus!
Vs. 10, “Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Yesterday, I shared a message on the women visiting the tomb. The first part of Matthew, we are reminded of the Resurrection (vs. 1-10). Jesus’ birth on earth was a miracle and now His resurrection closes His tenure as fully man. Jesus not only appears to the women, but over a forty day period He would make numerous visits. While there were many testifying of Jesus’ resurrection, there were others (Chief priests & elders) conspiring to ensure that the truth stays hidden (vs. 11-15). The whole premise of the story is not very believable given the fact that there were guards hired to guard the tomb. The guards knew what truly happened with their fear and the earthquake (vs. 2-4). Matthew then closes his gospel with the Great Commission (vs. 16-20). Question: Why did the eleven doubt (vs. 17)? There are differing views on this, but some scholars point out that the doubt here was in the context of the eleven being unsure of the future.
Regarding application…Make Disciples. Vs. 19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Question: What is our purpose in life? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Jesus gives us a mandate and purpose to our lives. The Gospel isn’t just for the Jews, but it is to be spread to all nations. Question: What does that look like for us? Does that mean that we all must be international missionaries? The application to this is quite varied. Not all of us are going to be missionaries, but all of us can support making disciples; financial support, material support, prayer support, etc. Someone shared the gospel with you at some point in your life. They were making disciples. And now we must help in support not just a church emphasis, but the very exhortation of Jesus!
Vs. 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.” After the resurrection, Jesus spent forty more days with His disciples instructing them (vs. 2). He was reminding them that the thirds person of the Trinity will be coming. The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit for many Christians is the most difficult to understand. While there are differences in understand the baptism of the Holy Spirit (vs. 5), we as Christians have the confidence that we have the Holy Spirit in us. The Holy Spirit helps us to be holy and sanctified for God. The Holy Spirit guides us and helps us to do the will of the Father in Christ Jesus. In this chapter, we see the disciples obey Jesus and wait for the coming of the Spirit (vs. 9-26). I love how we see the dependence shown in fervent prayer (vs. 14). We also see the adding of Matthias as Judas Iscariots replacement among the twelve (vs. 20-26)
Regarding application…You are Witnesses. Vs. 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.” How can I not highlight this verse for our application today? This was Jesus’ last command before He ascended to Heaven. This fulfills the importance of what we call the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20). Though we have not physically seen Jesus, we still have the important job of witnessing because we have experienced Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Brothers & sisters in Christ…This is our purpose. So often we ask ourselves, “What is God’s will for me?” We are to be witnesses of Christ in all that we do. A witness in a trial bears testimony for what they saw and believe. We do the same thing. That is why we devote time to reading the Bible, because the more we know, the more effective our witness becomes!