Prepared to Witness to the Ends of the Earth
Recently, I was talking with Ryan and a couple others about those DNA tests that you can take. Perhaps you've taken them. I’m guessing you know about them. You send it off, and they send you this huge packet of information about your origins, your blood lines, and all of these percentages that make up your history. The popularity of these tests, though, prove that we are wired to be curious about beginnings. We love to know how things started, “who am I”, what my origins are.
Well, now, Table Rock has a history. We have been meeting on Sundays for more than a year. We have a year's worth of Sunday histories. But our history, doesn't go back to the first Sunday. It doesn’t go back to the first Life Group meeting or even back to when the leaders first met to pray about Table Rock, before it even had that name.
Our history goes much farther back, back to the days of Christ and the Apostles. We are now going to start our series on the book of Acts. So welcome to the book of Acts, the story of our roots, of the gospel going global.
The gospel didn't start in the Treasure Valley in Boise, Idaho. But it got here. So how did it get here? Where did this start? As we study the book of Acts, we will see.
Our tour guide is an evangelist and a historian whose name was Luke. He wrote two books, the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, to a man named Theopolis. We might think of Acts as volume two of the Gospel of Luke.
Look at verse one.
“In the first book, O Theophilus,”—Acts 1:1
What we saw in volume one of his book, the Gospel of Luke, is that Jesus was the son of God who came in power and authority to empower his people through the cross.
Now, we're going to volume two of Luke's work. And what are we going to see? Before I tell you, I need to be honest. This is a spoiler alert. You’ve been warned. I’m about to reveal what we are going to talk about for the next few months while we're in the book of Acts. We are going to see that the Holy Spirit empowers his people to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, to all people with all boldness and without hindrance.
Let me repeat that. The book of Acts is about the Holy Spirit empowering his people to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people with all boldness and without hindrance. This morning, we're going to look at the first 11 verses of the book of Acts. and I think you're going to see this sentence come to life already in the first 11 verses.
Very specifically, we're going to see
The proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ
The Holy Spirit empowering his people to proclaim the gospel
The gospel goes out to all people with all boldness and without hindrance.
Let's first look at the fact that the apostle proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ. Look with me at the first three verses:
“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have 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 to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.”—Acts 1:1–3
So in the first book, Luke says he “dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach.” Implication — this book is now going to deal with what Jesus did after that. And what we will see is that Jesus continues his work by his Holy Spirit through his people.
Now, if the main character in the gospel of Luke is Jesus, you might be able to argue that the main character in the gospel of Acts is the Holy Spirit. But the apostles do not go around preaching the gospel of the Holy Spirit. They go around and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
They don’t leave behind what Jesus began to do and teach. In fact, what Jesus did and taught during his earthly ministry is the very content of their message:
“Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.”—Acts 8:35
“As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all)”—Acts 10:36
“Because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.”—Acts 17:18
The church and its mission are rooted in the acts of Christ. Jesus commissioned his people to take what he did and teach and spread that to the nations.
So the content of the gospel, what they are to take, is what Jesus did and taught. We proclaimed that the forgiveness of sins comes not from earning a right standing with God, but from trusting in Jesus as our savior. If you haven’t trusted in Jesus, if you haven’t accepted this gospel, I pray that you would this morning.
That's the good news, the good news centers on a person. Chris is the bedrock, the bottom foundation. If you took the DNA test of the church, it would show that it begins with Christ.
Now, back to our sentence for the book of Acts: the Holy Spirit empowers his people to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people with all boldness and without hindrance. It's the gospel of Jesus Christ that we are going to see proclaimed over and over and over.
After acknowledging where he left off in the last book and hinting at where he is going, Luke summarizes again some of the details we see at the end of the Gospel of Luke. To everyone’s surprise, the hero of Luke’s gospel, Jesus, dies. But that wasn’t the end of the story. Luke clarified in verse 3, “He presented himself alive to them after His sufferings.” Now risen from the dead, Jesus goes around proving that He is alive and teaching His disciples during the forty days between the Resurrection and the Ascension.
Now let’s sit with the disciples and be apart of one of these conversations. Look at with me verses four through five as we see the Holy Spirit that empowers the spread the gospel.
“And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”—Acts 1:4–5
So here are the apostles. They know what Jesus did and what he taught. They lived with him during his earthly ministry. Not to mention, he just spent the last forty days teaching them, filling in any gaps they might have had.
But Jesus says, “don't go out to share this news yet.” They're missing something. What are they missing? Jesus calls them to wait for “the promise of the Father”, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
And the reason he wants them to wait is not because they need to study more so they can answer everyone’s questions. Verse 8 says the Holy Spirit brings power not a bunch of new information. They needed the Holy Spirit before they went out.
The apostles, the early church, needed help. They had this good news, but it lacked the Holy Spirit. They lacked the power to move this gospel into the nations because the power was not in them. It came in this Holy Spirit, who had to be with them.
I think we can all remember sometimes as a kid overestimating the power we had. So imagine this with me. Dad comes in and says, “Hey son, we need to move this couch into the other room. I’ll be right back and then we can move it. Wait for me.” Well, me thinking I’m big stuff just figured I’ll take care of this before my dad even gets back. Well one lamp casualty later and the couch is no closer to the other room, and I’m shown that I should have waited for the helper. The helper who was going to bring the power to actually make this mission effective.
The disciples are supposed to wait — as the text says, they are to wait for “the promise of the Father”—the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is about ready to ascend into heaven. But he is not going to leave them alone. So how are they going to get help? He says, “wait for the promise of the Father.”
Oh, he's going to be there in the presence of the Holy Spirit. A real person, a person who's going to help them like Jesus would help them when he was with them. Here’s what I mean. This is from John 14:16—
“And I [that is, Jesus] will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,”—John 14:16
Here's Jesus saying, “I'm sending him, the Holy Spirit, and he's going to help you.” This morning, take a glimpse at our origins. This wouldn't have happened if this helper would not have come.
They might have known the content. Peter might've been able to say the same words that he's going to preach in this next chapter. But if the help had not been there, it would have fallen flat.
They needed help. Now, back to our sentence, the Holy Spirit empowers his people to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people, all boldness and without hindrance.
And this morning, we need help. You need help from the Holy Spirit. You cannot do this on your own. But the promise is that help is actually there. You actually have help.
All the uncomfortableness you feel when it comes to sharing your faith, all the fear you have, all the shyness you feel for taking this gospel global, which might just mean to your next door neighbor, you have a helper to help you with that.
You might get insulted. It might not go well. But you have a helper.
Let me be very clear. I know sharing your faith can be challenging, can be scary. You don't know how it's going to go. My point is not to say that's not real, but to say you have real help, so stop using that as an excuse.
You have help, and the helper is there to help you proclaim with boldness and without hindrance. But maybe this morning you're sitting here and you're saying, “It's great that you're talking about a helper. I don't feel like he's helping me. I don't feel like I have helper.”
So what do you do? That is a big question, and I’m sure we will come back to it during our series. But let me give you one help this morning, and it comes from John Piper. So you’re thinking about evangelism or whatever else in your life and you know you have a helper, but you don’t feel his help. This is an acronym that has helped me countless times. In fact, I use it every time I preach. The acronym is A.P.T.A.T. I know it doesn’t make any sense. But somehow it sticks in my head: A.P.T.A.T.
It stands for admit, pray, trust, act, thank.
First, we admit that we need help. This comes directly from our text. Jesus calls his disciples to wait because they need help. We have to admit that we need help. You may never get to this point if you never put yourself in a position where you need help. So look for those moments to be bold with the gospel, moments where you will need help.
Second, pray for help. Ask the father to do what he has promised, which is for the helper to help you in this moment.
Third, trust. This is the one so few people practice, trust. This means call to mind a specific promise from the word of God that you can lean on. Here’s what I mean. You could call to mind Isaiah 41:10—
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”—Isaiah 41:10
If you’re thinking about evangelism, you could maybe even take verse 8 from our text as your promise,
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”—Acts 1:8
Fourth, having now admitted your need for help, praying for help, and trusting a specific promise for help. Act. Act expecting the help to come.
Finally, when you are done, thank God for what he did.
Admit you can do nothing without God.
Pray for help.
Trust a specific promise.
Thank God for his provision and goodness.
If you are scared when it comes to sharing your faith, you feel like you don’t have a helper, try this. Try it and see what happens.
Okay. So we've seen now that the proclaimed gospel is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit empowers his people to proclaim this gospel. Now we're going to see the gospel going to all people with boldness and without hindrance. Look with me at verses six through eleven as we get a front row seat to hear Jesus’s last words on earth.
“So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”—Acts 1:6–11
So the disciples in response to this promised Holy Spirit ask a question: “Are you going to now restore the Kingdom of Israel?”
It's not a weird question. They’ve been longing for this restoration for a long time. They wanted to talk about it. But Jesus responds by saying, “It's not your job to know the times and the seasons.” But he goes even further by saying, “You are stuck thinking about Israel, but I am thinking to the ends of the earth.
This gospel may be starting in Jerusalem, but it's going to go from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the ends of the earth. It's not simply the kingdom of Israel. The gospel’s power and authority will be realized as the nations repent.
What's the destination of the gospel? There is no spot in the world where it does not have its sights set. The gospel is going global, and that's the name of our series, the gospel going global.
These are Jesus's last words that he ever spoke on earth. Let’s read them one more time—
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”—Acts 1:8
Don't miss them. Jesus's last words are the commissioning of his people to carry this gospel everywhere while promising help. In the gospel of Luke, we start with Jesus out far away and he then moves to Samaria, Judea, and finally to Jerusalem, where he was crucified, died, rose, and ascended into heaven. Now the book of Acts will track the gospel as it goes from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the ends of the earth.
This is actually a good outline for the book of Acts.
In the first seven chapters, we see the gospel in Jerusalem and spreading to Judea. Then in chapter eight it gets to Samaria. Then from chapter nine to the end of the book, we see it going to the ends of the earth.
At the end of the book, Paul is in Rome, which is what many people considered the end of the earth. But for all of us, the message is that the gospel has started moving to the ends of the earth, and it will keep going.
Let’s see how it ends—
“He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”—Acts 28:30–31
So from beginning to end, the book of Acts is about the gospel going global. This is not only how Acts begins and ends, this is also a theme in the Bible from the beginning to the end:
“I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”—Genesis 12:3
“For you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,”—Revelation 5:9
So let’s return to our sentence one more time: The Holy Spirit empowers his people to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people with all boldness and without hindrance.
The gospel is going to all people, everywhere, from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the ends of the earth. And because of the Holy Spirit, the messengers carry this gospel with all boldness and without hindrance.
After we hear Jesus’s call to his disciples to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, we then have an account of the ascension. Jesus was taken out of sight by a cloud and two men in robes said he will return just as he went.
We have the habit of side-noting the ascension. But without the ascension the story of Christ is incomplete. No ascension, no sitting at the Father’s right hand. No ascension, and Jesus would have been stuck with a crown of thrones. But most importantly, no ascension, no Holy Spirit, no helper:
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”—John 16:7
So as we conclude. Let me say this. I hope that some of you, as we look at the book of Acts, may say, I've got to go to the ends of the earth. I know that's not going to be many of you, but I pray that it may be some of you. The gospel deserves the kind of spreading that goes to all the ends of the earth.
For most of you, you'll be here in the Treasure Valley, and I hope that you see that it is just as important for your neighbor to hear the gospel as it is for the gospel to go to the ends of the earth. Your work is just as important, and you are promised the same help. Jesus has promised that this gospel will go forth.
I hope that as we see the gospel proclaimed over and over in the early church, that we would be encouraged that it does spread. So many of us assume our gospel proclamation will not be effective. But we have every reason to believe that it will be effective sometimes. Yes, persecution and suffering will come. We will see much of that in the book of Acts. But we will also see some of the vilest sinners, the worst of the worst, the ones that the world assumed were too far gone, come to know the Lord.
So as we start this series, let me challenge you to choose one person in your life that you want to pray for and pursue with the gospel during this series. Take a minute to think of that name. Write it down or do whatever you need to do to remember to pray for them and to pursue them with the gospel. And here is the direct tie-in from today: ask God for help.