Acts 1:1-3

1 The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach,
2 until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.
3 To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. NASU

Theophilus

According to Luke 1:3, Luke addressed his gospel to "most excellent" Theophilus, which means "lover of God." Like the gospel, Acts is addressed to Theophilus. Even in this verse, it is clear that Acts is the sequel to the gospel and continues the work there begun by Luke. There has been much speculation about the identity of Theolophilus. No doubt he was one of Luke's personal friends who would positively influence the distribution of the book.

Jesus and the Spirit

In his gospel Luke wrote about the things that "Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven." Keep in mind that Luke closed his gospel (Luke 24:50-53) with a description of Jesus ascending from the vicinity of Bethany. Luke said that Jesus "was taken up into heaven." Usually, though not always, Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:9-11 are said to describe the same event. Until Jesus publicly ascended, He continued His ministry on earth. Now, while He is in heaven, His work and teachings continue in and through the church.

Then, Luke writes, "after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen." When did Jesus give the orders to His apostles? The word "after" does not appear in the Greek text. Although He had given orders throughout His ministry, the sense here is that these were recent orders. Between His resurrection and His public ascension, Jesus had given orders to the apostles.

It is important to note that Jesus gave His orders by the Holy Spirit. During His entire earthly ministry, Jesus was empowered by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit came upon Him at His baptism and continued to rest upon throughout His ministry. Now, Luke assures us that during the days between His resurrection and His ascension, He ministered in the power of the Spirit.

As far as Luke's writings are concerned, we find the orders given by Christ in Luke 24:45-. The disciples of Jesus are witnesses. They will preach repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. Moreover, they were commanded to stay in Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on High. The Holy Spirit would enable them to witness powerfully throughout the world. Thus, the ministry of Christ continues by the power of the Spirit working through the church.

The Kingdom of God

During the time between His resurrection and His public ascension, Jesus talked about "the kingdom of God." This was not a new topic. At the very outset of His ministry (Luke 4:43), Jesus declared, "I must preach the kingdom of God." Moreover, He (Luke 8:1) "began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God." NASU Then, He sent His disciples (Luke 9:2) "out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing." NASU

The "kingdom of God" is a broad term. It is broad enough to include believing Israel as the chosen people of God. The kingdom of God also includes the Gentiles who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly, the kingdom of God includes the church. All the prophecies about the restoration and future of Israel, as well as future of the church, will be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.

All the elements of time concerning the kingdom's existence-past, present, and future-are included. The kingdom of God existed in the past, it came into existence in some new sense in the ministry of Christ, and will be consummated in the future.

The Holy Spirit and the Kingdom

As we study the Book of Acts, it becomes clear that the Holy Spirit provides the "bridge" between the present and the future of the kingdom of God. The power of the future Kingdom breaks in upon us through the Spirit. As a result, even now we witness and feel the powerful presence of the future.

George M. Flattery

Sources

Arrington, French L. The Acts of the Apostles. Peabody: Hendrikson Publishers, 1988.
Beasley-Murray, G. R. Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986.
Bruce, F. F. The Book of Acts. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1975.
Horton, Stanley M. The Book of Acts. Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 1981.
Ladd, George Eldon. A Theology of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974.
Lenski, R. C. H. St. Luke's Gospel. Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1946.
Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke. Exeter, The Paternoster Press, 1978.
Osborne, Grant R. The Resurrection Narratives. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984.
Pretlove, John L. "Baptism En Pneumati: A Comparison of the Theologies of Luke and Paul" Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1980.
Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vols. 1-6. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930.
Swete, Henry Barclay. The Holy Spirit in the New Testament. London: Macmillan and Company, 1910.

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