But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (verse 8)
Vv. 1-3 make it obvious that this book was also written by Luke. In the Gospel According to Luke, he wrote about Jesus – His life, teachings and actions. Now in his second book, Luke writes about how the Holy Spirit was given to the followers and how the followers turned into the church that continues today.
Vv. 4-5 tells of how after His death on the cross, the resurrected Jesus appeared to His followers, proving to them that He was dead, but now He is alive. He stayed with them for forty days, teaching about how the OT prophesies about the Messiah had been fulfilled by Jesus and teaching them about the kingdom of God. Although many of them were probably excited to go tell others of what they had learned, Jesus ordered them to not leave Jerusalem, since they needed to wait for the Holy Spirit, who was promised by God the Father.
In vv. 6-9, the followers ask Jesus when the kingdom of Israel will be restored, meaning when would Jesus drive out the Romans and sit on the throne? Jesus basically tells them that it will happen when the Father makes it happen and they should stop focusing on that. Instead, they need to focus on being witnesses for Him once they have received the Holy Spirit.
Then in the last two verses Jesus is lifted into heaven, and while the followers were gazing up into the sky, two angels appear and inform them that Jesus will return from heaven one day.
In vv. 12-14, we are told that the followers did what they were told – they returned to Jerusalem and waited. While they waited for the Holy Spirit to come and give them power, they constantly devoted themselves to prayer.
In many ways, Acts is a different type of book than the other books of the New Testament. It writes about what happened for the church to begin and what the apostles did as they followed the command of Jesus to be His witnesses. It is not necessarily a book that will give us theology that we should follow, since it depicts many firsts. What the people experienced were first time events, which will not happen again. We may experience similar things, but not exactly the same things. However, there is probably plenty that we can learn from the how the apostles acted, when we encounter analogous situations.
The Holy Spirit will come in the second chapter of Acts and the followers will receive power. In the meantime, the apostles had to wait for this, and they prayed constantly while they waited. Today, since the Holy Spirit had already come some 2000 years ago, followers of Jesus do not have to wait for the Holy Spirit – He comes to dwell in us as soon as we accept Jesus Christ as lord and savior.
Jesus made it clear to the apostles that the reason the Holy Spirit was going to come and give them power was so that they will become Jesus’ witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Throughout the book of Acts, we will see examples of how the Holy Spirit’s power enabled the apostles to be witnesses for Christ.
Just like how the apostles were in constant prayer waiting for the Holy Spirit, there will be times for us that we need to be in constant prayer, waiting for the Holy Spirit to reveal to us how to be witnesses for Jesus in our situation. We can be confident that the Holy Spirit will empower us and help us to accomplish being witnesses for Christ.
We must be careful not to be presumptive about this. The Holy Spirit is not here to help us to do whatever we think we should do. He is here to help us to accomplish what we have been commanded to do. Often, we need to wait while praying, until what the Lord wants us to do is revealed to us. Frequently, it is not necessarily what we think are logical things to be doing.
If I put myself in the shoes of the apostles, I would be thinking about all the messiness of the situation at hand. Jesus, my leader had returned to heaven, with the command to be His witnesses until He returns. The Jewish religious leaders and the Roman government remain formidable obstacles in spreading the gospel. What would I do and say to convince family, friends and strangers, of what I believed about Jesus? I probably would be wishing and hoping for the Lord to return quickly.
We probably face many of these concerns today. That is why praying and waiting for the Holy Spirit to reveal the Lord’s plan for us and to provide us with the power and love sufficient to accomplish them is vital.
There is great fear in this world today, due to things like the pandemic, civil unrest, and political unrest. The danger of violence right around the corner is also an unnerving thought. Because of this, there are also great opportunities for us to be witnesses for the Lord. It will not be easy and not possible if we rely on our own wisdom, power and love. But the promise of Jesus is still with us – that the Holy Spirit will give us the power sufficient to be witnesses for Jesus.
(the above is a summary of the message shared with us by Shun Takano during our zoom worship session on January 10, 2021.)