Seasons come and go; change is part of life; as in the natural so in the spiritual.
We see it in scripture, the story is not static, the purposes of God take on new dimensions as time goes by.
When we come to the gospels there is a seismic change taking place. God manifests in human flesh. Messiah has come. Jesus is temple, prophet, priest and sacrifice. Everything that the Old Testament was pointing to was suddenly being fulfilled before their eyes.
But there was more to come. As the gospels transition into the Acts another seismic shift takes place, one which because of our familiarity with the story very often passes under the radar.
Luke in continuing his account for Theophilus which he had first started in his gospel regarding the life and ministry of Jesus makes a startling statement right at the beginning of part two, the book of Acts, ‘that which Jesus began to do and teach until he was taken up into heaven…’ inference, there’s more, and I’m now going to tell you. Yes, He is in heaven, but he’s also here on earth, and still at work!
Known as Acts, or the Acts of the Apostles, it is in reality the acts of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:1,2) done in the power of the Holy Spirit through the people of God. Jesus was and is ALIVE and is building his church.
In part two there is a parallel with part one – as the Spirit came upon Mary resulting in the conception and birth of Jesus followed by his life and ministry at a particular place and time, so in Acts the Spirit comes upon the church with the resulting revelation of Christ in and through the church to the world. As Jesus took on human flesh, so again he takes on flesh, Christ in them, they were now the body of Christ, Christ to the world! This was staggering as things took on yet another dimension.
There was a move from tabernacle and temple as the place of God’s dwelling, to Jesus as the temple (destroy this temple and I will raise it in three days) to the people of God themselves as the place of God’s dwelling. It’s a move away from the forms that they have known and loved and cherished as the fresh wind of the Spirit begins to blow mightily among them….
There were new experiences (tongues, wind, fire, accusations of drunkenness, the Spirit falling on, buildings shaken, visions, trance/revelation, prophecies, angelic intervention, signs and wonders etc.), new ministries (men and women – the Old Testament focuses largely on men, Jewish men would even thank God they were not born a woman; old and young – there would be no age discrimination; servants – it wouldn’t be a matter of rank or human qualification), new community (a new way of doing life together), new locations (from temple and synagogue to homes), to new styles of meeting (no longer following old forms and rituals but alive with the very Presence of God by the Spirit bringing forth spiritual songs, tongues and interpretation, prophecies, teaching, healings…).
Acts is all about how the people of God engage with and respond to Holy Spirit in this new season – Jesus was no longer with them physically but the Spirit was, it was a big learning curve.
God Shakes the Settlers!
Early on we find the danger of this new transformed Jewish community settling in Jerusalem (1-7) – so God shakes them up, suffering/persecution enter the arena, and suddenly they are dispersed into Judea/Samaria/Galilee/ Phoenicia/Cyprus and Antioch (Acts 11:19-22).
Opening of New Centres of Apostolic Activity
As time goes by Antioch would become the new centre, then on to Rome.
In Acts 13 we get commissioning of Barnabas and Saul (Paul) to MISSION which would bring about a real thrust of the Gospel into the nations – to the Jew first, then to the Gentiles. Later as a result of severe disagreement over whether John Mark should join them on a mission, God being bigger than the personalities and prejudices of men, gets two teams out on the mission field.
Questions Would Arise (as they will):
- how do we manage the needs arising as a result of growth(6)?
- how much of the Old Testament has been replaced? (7)
- who could be in the Kingdom? (10; 11)
- what’s required of the Gentile Christians?
The early church had to seek God and find the mind of the Spirit.
What does it all mean for us…..
- We are Christ to the world
- The essential need of the Spirit’s Presence
- The need to live in relationship with the God and listen to His voice.
- He doesn’t always turn up like you expected
- The need for fluidity/flexibility/change
- The need to step out in faith and take risks.
- Learn how to engage and relate the Gospel in/to new cultures
Not about being a nice church or a comfortable church, with nice buildings and nice services, but a Spirit empowered and led church, listening to and responding to him and that is dangerous!