It must have been thrilling for the disciples to speak with their resurrected master and to listen to His familiar voice, discussing the “things concerning the kingdom.” Apart from the incident recorded in the Gospels, the only fragment of teaching during the transitional period of Jesus’ forty days after His resurrection is found in Acts 1:1-8. The instructions recorded here are a greatly condensed summary of the principles given to the men to whom the Lord was entrusting the evangelization of the world and the establishment of His kingdom on earth.
Jesus Sends Witnesses with the Holy Spirit
Speaking in tongues is not in itself a phenomenon peculiar to Christianity or even to God, but rather it actually has been practiced by pagans with most likely no exposure to Christianity. There has been evidence of many different people groups and faith traditions having outbursts as the result of either hypnosis or hysterics directly from Satan. This observation helps us see that tongues’ speaking has existed in the past and present apart from the God of the Bible. Therefore, we can conclude that the mere fact of speaking in tongues proves nothing as to its source and origin, and that non-biblical tongues’ speaking has its source in man or Satan. However, biblical tongues’ speaking was from God. Let us look at the use of tongues in the Bible and what we know of it.
Tongues in the Bible
The writer is undoubtedly Luke. He also wrote Luke’s Gospel. Compare Acts 1:1 with Luke 1:1-4. He was known as “the beloved physician” (see Colossians 4:14).
The Title of the Book
To many, the present title is quite inadequate because the content of the book deals chiefly with the work of only two apostles, namely Peter and Paul. The title, “The Acts of the Holy Spirit” seems more appropriate. In the twenty-eight chapters, the Holy Spirit is mentioned seventy times. The Holy Spirit’s coming, filling, empowering, and guiding are all enumerated in this book.
Explain the phrase, “the kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom of heaven as illustrated in the seven parables of Matthew 13 is the sphere of Christian profession during this age. This particular parable illustrates what has taken place and is still taking place during the period between Pentecost and the Second Coming. This “mustard seed” was sown at Pentecost. From this small beginning it became a great tree, and the birds came and sheltered in its branches. This illustration is borrowed from the Old Testament (see Daniel 4).
[Show the growth of the “mustard seed,” which represents the Church, and the wheat and the tares:
Acts 1:15 (A.D. 58) - The number of names together was about one hundred and twenty.
Mathew 1-2, Luke 1-2, and Acts 1:14
Mary, the Lord’s mother, is the most honored woman in the world. The first mention of her is found in Matt. 1:16, which says, “Mary, of whom was born Jesus.” [Note: it is no longer the word “begot” that is used, but it is “of whom.” This is in the feminine singular.] The meaning of Mary is trouble and sorrow - “Mara.” True to her name, Mary had many bitter experiences.
Webster’s definition of fellowship is, “Companionship…a neutral sharing.” He also designated a “fellowship” as “a group of people sharing the same interests; a brotherhood.” In the Scripture, fellowship is described as, “Communion…a mutual sharing…a partnership…having common interests.” In Christian fellowship we are “bound together” in Christ. We have a “reciprocal love” for one another. We also have “common interests.” We are in “harmony” and “agreement” with each other relative to our ideals in Christ.
In some instances in Scripture, fellowship carries with it the thought of “social activity.” One of the great blessings of Christianity is the “fellowship of saints.” In Judaism no provision was made for the gathering together of the people, except on special occasions as at the annual feasts. Right at the beginning of the Christian era provision was made for the “fellowship of saints.”
In Acts 2:42 we see the fourfold purpose for the coming together of the early church:
- They met together in fellowship for the preaching and teaching of the apostles’ doctrine, especially the doctrine of the resurrection.
- They also came together “to fellowship.”
- While they were together in fellowship they broke bread (see 1 Corinthians 10:16).
- They also made use of this opportunity to engage in prayers.
“He was seen by them for forty days.”
He showed Himself at frequent intervals.
“Why are you troubled? And why do you question in your hearts?”
“Behold my hands and my feet, see it is I, myself; handle me and see; for a spirit does not have flesh and bones like Me.”
The number “forty” in the scripture speaks of testing.
Israel in the wilderness—describe the manward side, Israel a failure—the Godward, despite the frequent and sinful provocations, He never failed.
The ark—it rained forty days and forty nights. The ark was safe. God was faithful as promised.
The temptation “Forty days tested by the devil.”
“Stone into bread”—“The kingdoms of the world in a moment of time”—The pinnacle of the temple.
Two things at least He did during the forty days:
1. He gave infallible proofs of His physical resurrection.
2. He spoke of things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
He spoke of things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God is in the world today.
God rules in His kingdom—you become a citizen by being “born again” into the kingdom.
The “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” in most references are interchangeable terms.
From man’s viewpoint the professing Christian Church is the kingdom of Heaven.
Lesson 221: The Ascension Of Christ
God sometimes has to act through disagreeable circumstances in order to compel His saints to work in accordance with His plan for them. We have seen, in studying this book of Acts, that at the very beginning the Lord Jesus Christ laid out a program for the evangelization of the entire world. He said, “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Up to the present then we have found the gospel going out in the city of Jerusalem and throughout Judea, but the disciples were very, very slow in fulfilling the rest of the program. God, however, waited in wondrous grace for them to fulfill His mandate. He desired that any in Israel who were prepared to bow their hearts in repentance should receive the message first and then it was to go out into the rest of the world. So He permitted what we call the transitional period, before the work was carried to the nations generally.
I remind you that when I use the words transitional period I am referring to a period that must be understood as in the mind of man— not in the mind of God. The moment the work of the cross was finished and the Holy Spirit came to empower believers to preach the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth, God’s mind was toward all men everywhere, but it took His servants some time to understand His viewpoint. He was very patient with them.
Persecution Increases (Acts 8:1-4)
The apostles had been preaching for a number of years in Jerusalem and Judea, and many Jews had been brought to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. But so far no one had carried the message beyond the confines of Israel.
Every conversion is a miracle, and nobody becomes a Christian apart from conversion. Our Lord Jesus said, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Little children receive the testimony in the simplicity of faith, and we are called on to do the same. It is remarkable to see, as we look back over the history of the church, how many enemies of the cross have been subdued by the sight of the Lord Jesus Christ who gav...