June 15

Acts 1

Acts records some of the happenings of the early church in the first century. This book is also known as “The Acts of the Apostles,” and some of the apostles are mentioned, such as Peter, Phillip, and Paul. Others are not mentioned, but according to history, they had impactful ministries as well. According to church tradition, Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke, is also the author of Acts. He writes to Theophilus, also mentioned in Luke 3. Luke uses the reference “the former account I made,” referring to his Gospel book.

Chapter 1 records Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit, His ascension, upper room prayer, and the selection of Matthias to replace Judas as the twelfth apostle. These things are what took place shortly after Jesus’ resurrection. For forty days, Jesus continued to walk Earth as a man risen from the dead, giving unmistakable proof that He had been resurrected. Jesus’ purpose at this point was to launch His kingdom from Jerusalem, knowing it would spread around the world before His return. Acts gives us a partial record of the very start of this kingdom in the hearts of men and women.

Jesus told the disciples to stay in Jerusalem. The city was filled with Jews who gathered there for the Feast of Pentecost. Attending this feast was required by Mosaic Law for years, and this is the reason why – for this Pentecost would be the outpouring of the Spirit of God into the hearts of men and women.
“Pente” means “fifty.” Pentecost was 50 days after Passover. Fifty was also the number of years of a Jubilee, the number following 7×7 years. The number 7 means full or complete. To multiple the number is an emphasis on that meaning. A Jubilee was a time when debts were forgiven, possessions were restored, and servants were freed from their financial commitments.
The new covenant brought a freedom – not liberty to sin, but liberty from the bondage to sin. The price is paid and we are free from sin! Under the new covenant, men and women who surrender to Christ are made righteous in the sight of God. Under this new covenant, the penalty of sin is removed, and the consciousness of sin (guilt, shame, and fear) is changed.
As a seal of this new covenant, the Holy Spirit was given by Christ after He ascended. For the Christian, the spirit (the heart) is recreated, preparing a place for the Spirit of God to come inside. How marvelous!
Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit coming not only to indwell, but to baptize. Jesus spoke of John’s water baptism which was a physically and spiritual event. When someone was baptized, as that person willingly went under the water, he or she was surrendering to God and joining His movement. Submersion was also a sign of washing away of sin, a cleansing.
Jesus spoke of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which was a spiritual event. John the Baptist called it a baptism of fire. Thankfully we don’t have to be submerged in fire to receive this baptism; however, the idea of cleansing and surrender are implied.
The Holy Spirit can come within. He also can come upon us. The Holy Spirit also was within Jesus (Luke 2:52) and came upon Him (Luke 3:22, 4:18).
The disciples asked Jesus if it would be at this time when He would restore the kingdom to Israel. They still expected a Messiah to rise politically, and to rule over Israel as an independent nation. They anticipated Jesus would gather an army and defeat Rome, reigning over the nations from Jerusalem. They did not understand that His return would come after the evangelization of the world.
Jesus told the disciples that it was not for them to know the times and seasons God had placed in His authority. It was not for the twelve to know about His return. In other Scripture, it tells us we should be able to discern the times we are living in. Jesus would not be returning in their lifetime. However, for those who are living closer to His return, it could be for them to have some understanding.
Jesus told them that when the Holy Spirit would be given in this new way to His followers, they would receive power. The Holy Spirit is said to be the Anointing (1 John 2:20, 27). Throughout the Word of God the Holy Spirit is the power that we see at work. It was the Spirit who helped create the world. It was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. He was the power Jesus received to carry out His earthly ministry. It is this same power that was given to the Christian.
He said, “You shall be witnesses.” A witness is someone who has an experience. A witness is someone who testifies to known truth. A witness for Christ is someone who has had an encounter with Him and shares it.
The Greek word for witness is “martus.” The word martyr is someone who is murdered for their testimony of faith in Christ.
As He said these things to them, Jesus was taken up in a cloud toward heaven. Next to Christ were two men (angels), told them that He would return one day in a similar manner. They gave them hope.
The cloud is seen in other Scripture, a radiant, shining cloud of God’s glory, the Shekinah (Matthew 17:5).
The disciples were on the Mount of Olives. We know Jesus will return on the Mount of Olives, in glory and splendor (separate from the rapture).
The disciples then walked into Jerusalem. It was a Sabbath’s day’s journey, which was about ¾ of a mile. On a Sabbath day of rest, the Jews were not allowed to walk more than ¾ of a mile.
The disciples gathered in an upper room of a house. There they prayed in one accord, in unity and harmony.
The disciples focused on prayer.
Also in the room was Jesus’ mother, His brothers, and women who followed His ministry.
Also in the room were about 120 people.
Peter talks about Judas, a guide to Jesus’ arrest, and quotes Psalm 109:8 that says, “Let another take his office.” The word for “office” in the Greek is episkopen, and it means “position of an overseer.”
Two men were suggested to take Judas’ place. They had to have been witness to Jesus’ resurrection and men that accompanied or followed Jesus’ ministry since John the Baptist. Those two proposals were Matthias and Barsabas (Joseph Justus).
They prayed God would show them which of the two qualified men were God’s choice to take Judas’ office and “take” part in that ministry. The Greek word for “take” means “to carry.” It was a responsibility.
They cast lots, similar to rolling dice only with God’s help to show the correct outcome (Leviticus 16:8). We don’t do this today because we look to the Holy Spirit to show us what we need to know. We no longer go by “signs” like casting lots.
Matthias was chosen. Tradition tells us that Matthias took the Gospel to Cappadocia and to the coasts of the Caspian Sea. He died by stoning in Jerusalem and then was beheaded. He gave His life for the cause of Christ.
We also should be willing to accept the risks of sharing the Gospel. Those risks could be martyrdom for some, but persecution has many forms. For some imprisonment, torture, beatings, and the like. For others, it could be a mocking, a loss of popularity, unfair treatment in business, etc. Are we willing to endure hardship for sharing our faith? Let’s challenge ourselves and make sure we are being that witness for the One who died in our place.

Ezra 9-10

In these last two chapters, we read Ezra’s reform for Judah. He speaks of marriage and faith, knowing that marrying a pagan often led to idol worship attached to that culture. God isn’t racist. God created us all, and after Christ, we see the Gospel message of grace that has gone around the world. In the Old Testament, God had a purpose in bringing the Mosaic Law into a covenant with the Jews, leading them and all of humanity into understanding grace through faith. Thank God for salvation!

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