Reading the Acts of the Apostles one is gripped by its unfolding drama.
The way Luke starts it off is enough to make you sit up and take notice – “in the first book (Luke’s Gospel) Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit….”
Implication, it’s not finished, I going to tell you some more! And my, does he!
But hang on, where is Jesus? In heaven – hallelujah!
So how can it be about his continuing ministry? Jesus said he would not leave us on our own but send One just like himself, who would be poured out on all flesh, and enable that flesh, those people, to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth and do greater works than he – not just words, as important as they are, but demonstrations.
Yes, Jesus was certainly physically present in heaven, but he had received from the Father the Gift of the Spirit, and he had come to the church in order to release that ministry on a worldwide scale through the church – a people saved and incorporated into Christ, and known as His Body, of which Paul says, he, Christ, is the Head.
Acts vibrates with such a people and church that knew the presence of God, and where God is things happen! As the story unfolds we encounter the continuing ministry of Jesus in the proclamation of His word and works, his saving, healing and delivering power, his guiding and providing influence.
From the outset Luke for the benefit of Theophilus and those who would hear and read down through the centuries writes an ordered and verified account.
This is not sterile religion.
This is not about being comfortable.
This is not about stained glass windows – however nice they may be.
This is not about orders of service – however useful they may be, and even the charismatic has them.
This is not about holy buildings – the people are now the Temple.
This is not about having everything packaged so that we know what’s happening next.
This is not about programs, though they may be useful.
This is about knowing God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Not words on a page about God, but God himself. It’s about the life of God in the soul of man, and in the ‘soul’ of the church without which there can be no continuing ministry of Jesus.
Over the intervening centuries, that life has ebbed and flowed as different generations come and go. There are those who’ve grown up in churches or renewal/restoration movements but not had the same encounter with God their parents or grandparents had, and doctrine and practice is modified to account for it, and very soon structure and order become the norm. Then some desperate souls realise something is missing and get back to seeking and finding God again and encounter him afresh and so the tide comes in.
Where God is there is life, and ministry flows as the heart of God is revealed – it’s not tidy, nor is it static, but it pulsates with life, a life that challenges and changes, trumps and transforms our small lives and ministries.
O God grant us more of it!